How To Maintain Creative Output Amidst Life Problems
Staying consistent as a creative in spite of personal life turmoil
Life has a way of happening; the universe is still expanding. I don’t mean death, irreversible events, or even major health problems. I’m talking about the swathe of non-extreme occurrences thrown at us that pulls the balance mat from our feet.
A disagreement online (or offline) puts me in a spiral where I keep thinking of what I could have said better. Even when I leave the room, I carry the emotions with me and can’t seem to handle it. I’ve lost hours, days and sometimes weeks to this inability to, like Taylor Swift, shake it off.
When I look back, I found a few things I could do to make sure this time out didn’t last longer than necessary. I am building my life work as a creative and my personal rule is that I show up on a daily basis, no matter what. Each day is a step forward in my decade long journey. I can’t afford to let life blow me away.
What can you do about it? How can you create consistently when things don’t work out in life?
Here are 4 ideas you can use to get back on track.
1. Take Time Off
Almost every content creator buys the idea that you have to be a content machine. You can’t slack off, you can’t lay low and take a hit. Create at all costs or go irrelevant. That is not true. I started my YouTube with excitement; I had watched many tutorials and clarified what I wanted to do. I wasn’t ready for the onslaught of life changes: snow in the U.S.A, homesickness, a new marriage, missing all my friends, etc.
I took a hiatus — I couldn’t create.
About Those First Few Months As An Immigrant
If you don’t understand how it is, it’s just because you can’t. And that’s okay too.
Back then, I felt bad for letting people down. I didn’t realize that if I focused on what everyone else would say (which they probably didn’t), I would be letting myself down.
Rest is part of this journey.
When things go South, give yourself permission to take time off. Remember that all these platforms will still be here. And even if they aren’t, others will replace them. But your health and life and irreplaceable.
One way you can do this with more ease is…
2. Prepare for the storm
Daily creation is a great practice for creatives. But it is hard. Almost all daily vloggers give up at some point. Even Casey Neistat had to slow down and he’s been creating for decades.
Prepare for it before it comes. Because it will.
Collect all ideas that come to you. Batch your productions. Build templates. Repurpose your content.
Collect your ideas:
I use Evernote on all my devices and I make sure that whenever anything comes to mind, I take it down and tag.
Creating many pieces of content on the go to send out at different times lets you take a break when you need to.
The more you create, the more you may notice that you tend to use some ‘skeleton’ in your process. Having templates saves a tonne of time and allows outsourcing which is a great way to scale if you ever choose to.
Repurpose your content:
It’s hard to create for each platform when you’re a one-man team like me. And it’s also not advised to copy and paste from one platform to the other. The way you can manage this when you start is to use “Pillar content” and then create micro-content from it. Gary Vaynerchuk and Sunny Lenaduzzi have expanded on this. You don’t have to be on all platforms — true. To grow your audience without stretching thin, repurposing could be the way to go.
When you set fail-safes in place before the storm hits, you can surf that wave. And even when you prepare, you may be in that sour state for longer than you’d like.
Which is why you should…
3. Focus on What You Can Do
Even when you take time off and schedule posts, you may still be “in your feelings”. As I write this, I am not done with mine: I’ve been parsing possible scenarios and trying to get to the root of the issue.
One thing I noticed with me was that sometimes, I’d blame myself for things I had no control over.
But once I accepted, or at least considered that I may not be the cause ( or main cause) of an issue, I’d feel lighter. What happens when we transfer emotions to our work is that the audience feels it. When we work with others, we can spread this bad vibe and end-up feeling even worse.
It helps to take a breath and notice the emotions.
Anger? Envy? Sadness? Disappointment? Shame? What is going on? Where is it coming from?
We are feeling beings. Bottling emotions won’t help, neither would transferring them to others. We have to process them, feel them and take action. With turmoil, you can still tap into the emotions and make great work. Not as a way to run from it, but by processing it.
It’s made even better when you can…
4. Remember Why You Create:
I started reading Ray Dalio’s Principles. I noticed the logic expressed in having a way to live one’s life could apply to everything.
Imagine a formula of sorts, a way of life to use anywhere, anytime (or a group of such universal laws). Wouldn’t that be a less stressful way to live?
Imagine a money principle like this one: if it doesn’t add value, I won’t buy. This is random, but, now, you get to decide what “value” is. Value could make your partner happy. It could be “saves you time”.
Having principles around your life and work can provide a compass for when things suck. Mr. Dalio recommends writing it down.
The reason I was able to write what you’re reading though things aren’t that great is: this is my life’s work. I want to create for a living. I don’t want to be the guy who had potential. I also don’t want a full-time job. If I complain about life, or I don’t do what I say I’m going to do, or feel bad that people don’t get it, I’m the one who suffers.
I remember I am writing, podcasting, doing Youtube because it’s the career I chose.
Why do you write? For money? For fame? For stress relief? For love?
There is no bad reason. Don’t let anyone ld convince you that your reason for creating is bad. You must resolve to follow the agreement you made with yourself no matter what life throws at you.
How can you handle life problems that could jeopardize your creative pursuits?
1. Take time off: rest is as necessary — if not more important — than work.
2. Prepare for the storm: when things are going well, create for your content bank for future use.
3. Focus on what you can do: When you take on what is within your control, many things fall in place.
4. Remember why you create: have principles and even routines to fall back on. Things to jolt you back into creator mode.
How do you handle your every day stress when you need to create?
Kamga Tchassa is a writer, Podcaster and Youtuber from Cameroon who now lives with his wife in the US. He creates content on creativity, immigration, and relationships with self and others. You can support his work through Patreon.