Being in the mess.
Most days, I am figuring things out as I go along. While I know what’s important to me, I don’t have a clear plan that I’m trying to execute. Rather, I try and look for avenues in my creative work that have a balance of effort and ease that feel right for me. In this way, I am able to be in the mess that is building a career as a writer.
Sorting out my finances is no different. I spent the better part of a decade trying to muscle my way out of debt. I worked hard and sought out opportunities that increased my earning potential. I compromised my creative values and pushed my body to burnout in an attempt to mine myself for every last minute of productivity that I could.
The hustle culture that I claimed to love so much almost killed me when that same burnout landed me in the hospital. What’s more, the writing that I wanted to be doing stopped being available to me. My inner creative knew better than to offer itself up to be stretched to the point of breaking as I raced towards what I thought was the next solution to my financial woes.
Not only was this approach to my work draining creatively, it was short term thinking that I couldn’t sustain. In an attempt to bring order to the inherently messy process of becoming a writer, I was suffocating the possibilities that were available to me. Even after a lifetime of working outside of the industrial model, I still clung to its inhuman demands for productivity.
Then, after having everything come crashing down around me for the millionth time—and after falling further into debt as I swung back into a period of financial famine—I knew it was time to do something different. More than that, it was time for me to show up differently. If I was ever going to have a shot as a writer, I needed to learn to be in the mess.
Being in the mess is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable because you might not always be doing; you might not always be productive in overtly measurable ways. Being in the mess means you get to rest and have time to think and otherwise get to be guided by something that isn’t simply the bottom line of what you’re creating, although that might be part of it.
Being in the mess is also illuminating. With more space to listen, you’ll hear stories and viewpoints and possibilities that you may have otherwise overlooked. It’s a place where the façade of your world gets peeled back to reveal the deeper truths that exist underneath. Being in the mess is an act of rebellion and an act of self-liberation.
When it comes to money, being in the mess means taking the time to figure out what it is you’re creating and how you can build out the support systems you need to make that work sustainable. It means focusing on what will give you greater access to financial wellbeing, even if that means you have to create something from nothing to make this possible.
As a creative, the muscles you flex when making the work that matters to you can be flexed to help you access financial wellbeing. It’s because you’re a creative that you’ll be able to create income streams and financial frameworks that help you sustain your creative practice. You of all people know how to find your way through the mess, even if that mess is your financial reality.
What helps you to be in the mess of your creative work?