The Best Way To Handle Creative & Entrepreneurial Ruts

There is this cycle I go through over and over again as an entrepreneur and creator, one that happens so often & with such similar symptoms but that still manages to catch me off guard every time it comes around.

I guess it’s like how every year you know eventually it’s going to be Christmas, yet every time Christmas comes it knocks the wind out of you and you’re like, “WHAT! How did this happen?!”

This is what it looks like for me in my creative world:

I work and I work and I work, I make and I make and I make, I create and I write and I formulate and I present and then it’s all shit when I step back and look at it.

It’s all work I’m not proud of because I haven’t truly been there during the creation. I’ve done it as a means of checking it off the list and not as a creative connection.

One of the many mistakes I make in this “Shit Cycle” (as we’ll call it) is drawing the conclusion that if I keep working and creating and writing and painting — if I continue to physically do the work I know must be done — then I will end the cycle. I will be able to step back in relief and say, “Ah, now that’s something I’m proud to put my name on.”

I cling to the belief that if I work hard enough long enough, I can break the cycle.

The reality is quite the opposite. The reality is, the only way to end the Shit Cycle, the creative & entrepreneurial rut all of us makers and inventors are doomed to fall into after a certain amount of time, is simply to stop.

To quit (temporarily.)

To abandon the pursuit.

The “solution” to ending the Shit Cycle — or at least the most effective way I’ve found to deal with this influx of less-than-loveable work — is simply to back off; to rest; to do something else (anything else!) and distance myself from the thing I’ve evidently gotten much too close to.

But this is hard.

It is hard to abandon a project, even if temporarily, and especially when the “hustle” and “grind” mentality is so strongly reinforced these days.

It is hard to let inspiration and motivation rule, when they’re also such fleeting & flakey friends.

But so it is with creative work, with work that demands the heart’s presence, work that only lives when the soul breathes life into it. This is the fallacy of my conclusion that if only I remained physically present and met the physical demands of my work, the cycle would end, because the thing is: creative work, passionate entrepreneurial work, only happens when your soul is present.

And maybe sometimes your soul needs a rest, just like your body does at the end of every day.

Here’s a conclusion I can stand by:

Knowing how to rest is just as much of a skill as knowing how to work.

Knowing when to step back and understanding what recharges your batteries and what will revive the dormant genius inside of you — that is the work of entrepreneurship no one ever highlights. That is the work that’s just as hard as launching a new idea, and is so very necessary.

“Self-care,” they call it— but do you understand it? Do you know what it means for you? Do you do it when you need it or only when you “have time” for it?

It’s not always face masks and bubble baths. It’s not just something strong on the rocks while you silence your phone and put up your OOO auto-reply.

It’s relinquishing a white-knuckled grip on something that will come to life much more beautifully without your selfish, fearful grasp, and investing real love and time into a more deserving place.

That’s self-care. Knowing when and how to stop. And in a society thriving on “the hustle”, promoting “the grind,” rapping about “I don’t get tired” and hashtagging “NoDaysOff”… knowing how to stop and actually letting yourself do it is easier said than done.

But it needs to be done.

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