The Journey of Being Creative

I was feeling a little bit down today.  This hasn’t happened like this in a while.  Maybe I can blame the clear blue Colorado skies, the thunderstorms in the distance at night, the hum of the cicadas outside my window.

I can blame the day job, which is more or less a lesson in redundancy and a monumental waste of time.  Work comes in.  I do the work.  A few days later another request comes in to change the whole damned thing back to how it was.  There’s a lot of entitlement in the Academy.  If a prof wants a four day weekend, they will move their times to Tuesdays and Thursdays, at a respectable hour, and I have to figure out just where the hell they can teach when there are hundreds of others doing the exact same thing.

There’s a lot of blame going around, but like Jimmy Buffet says, it could be my fault.

Today I hit the realization that I haven’t been writing for myself much.  I’ve been working and catching up on paid blogs.  The fascinating work of tree removal, boats, and HVAC companies.  The work has slowed down a little bit with the writing gigs, which isn’t good.  I rely on that income to make sure I can do things like pay the light bill or buy gasoline for the week.

It has been over a week since I’ve written something for myself, whether it is the travel blog or here on my personal blog.  This morning I chatted with a friend of mine, the only woman who has inflicted more pain upon me than my ex-wife; and we are still friends.  She’s my dental hygienist, and she is also a creative.  Not only does she do a mean scaling and root planing, but she also paints amazing watercolors.  When we visit, we almost always talk about the Work.  Not scheduling or cleaning people’s teeth, but the work of being a Creative.  It usually gets me fired up to write something, which is great.  Today, that sorta fell flat for me.  With two posts to write about boat epoxy and dinghies, I didn’t feel creative.  I felt overwhelmed with deadlines and suddenly wondered why she had concerns about my teeth grinding.

Another friend of mine was venting on Facebook today.  She is an award winning horror writer, and today hit her hard too.  She was feeling rough and though it felt good to try to lift up a friend, I thought the struggle is very real when you are trying to make a name for yourself in writing.  There are a lot of truly talented people out there who are your competition, but also a lot of jackasses who phone it in and seem to be doing much better than you.  Why even bother?  As a creative, the production of writing, art, and just about anything else always seems to be along the lines of entertaining for others, but “don’t quit your day job.”

Of the three creatives I encountered today, the last is my lovely and talented girlfriend.  She is a self-taught graphic artist and writer.  She is also one of my biggest fans, and I cannot begin to explain how much enthusiasm and encouragement she gives me everyday.  I am blessed to know her.  Today, we were talking about places we want to travel together.  Also we discussed Comic Cons and getting inspiration from other writers and artists and creatives.  It dawned on me why I was in a funk.

How many creatives I know do the work as a side gig?  How many never get a dime for doing something they love?  At the end of the day doing and redoing and redoing work you are just beat to hell and really all you want to do is sit back and watch the sky go from blue to pink to deep blue and throw wishes out at shooting stars. Only you have learned to stop wishing because they rarely ever come true.

Sometimes it is hard to keep going, to keep motivated when life happens and things get in the way like bills and kids and back to school and child support and Cub Scout meetings and sometimes it seems like everyone has a piece of your day.

Time is the only non-renewable resource, and unfortunately we all think there is plenty of it.  Days like today, a whole week passed me by without engaging my brain and doing the Work and I could feel it, like withdrawals.  My London trip occupied so much of my creativity, and with the final post done last week, I felt an emptiness.

With a few days left to go on the deadlines for boat blogs, I decided I needed to dust off the creative part of my brain and get these words down.  For me.  For my readers. For anyone who is feeling a little lost on a hot summer day and they are watching their days slip past them, marching towards the inevitable.

Sometimes our muses remind us who were are.  I might not be in a place where I can write full-time just yet, but I do have a goal in my head.  I want to travel and write, I want to dream up new worlds and write, and I want to fall asleep every night knowing that I didn’t waste a minute of my day fussing with someone else’s bullshit, so they could sleep in and have four day weekends. And still make three times what I do each year.

At some point, you get tired of working for someone else, when there is real Work to be done.  So, for now, I keep punching the clock.  I keep my heading and my course as true as I can make it in spite of the waves and wind.  I have a good crew with me and hopefully I show enough gratitude for them.  But the important part is continuing on with this voyage until I reach my destination.

Steady on.

Thanks, boat blogs.

Are you in a codependent relationship with your job?

Hi.  My name is Clint and I’m a codependent.

How do I know this?  An entire adulthood of crappy, dysfunctional relationships that’s how.  It’s something anyone who has been stuck in an abuse/neglect/enabler/addict relationship will have to confront at some point in their lives.  The worst part is that eventually, somehow, it will probably kill you unless you get help.

So, years of therapy, books on the subject, websites, discussions with friends and family later and I can definitely say I am aware of the signs of codependency, and hopefully ways to avoid them safely.

But do you know what is absolutely hilarious about this?  People are more than willing to step up and intervene when it comes to empowering you to end an awful relationship where you are giving everything and the other person is more than happy with taking it all.

“That’s bullshit!” they might say.  “You’ve got to get out of there!”

Lately the information I have compiled in my brain as an early warning system for potential bad relationships has been working overtime.  My alarms have been ringing like crazy.

Only this time it isn’t about trying to build my happiness from another person.  Nope. It’s the day job.

What I find ironic is how we are cautioned against codependency with a partner in a romantic relationship, but all of the elements that make that relationship unhealthy are expected in a work environment.  Hell, they are celebrated.

Ask yourself this:  If you had a spouse who made you feel inferior, told you that you weren’t good enough, and they could easily replace you with someone better who would do anything they asked them to do and more and not have to deal with your “requests” what would you think?  What would your friends think?

Or what if they brought a new person in who was younger, less experienced, and began the same process of exploitation and gaslighting they inflicted upon you, what would you think?

What if they continuously told you that you were not doing enough, or using their time, or not worth what they were giving you in return, what would you think?

What if they made you afraid to leave them?  Like you would starve to death or die or lose everything you’ve built in your life if you suddenly just walked away.  And don’t even think of going somewhere else!  Who would want you?!

And what if you walked around all day telling everyone how underappreciated you were, but did nothing about it.  What if you enabled them for a modicum of power, because for a fleeting moment your suffering gave you leverage in life?

What if you weren’t allowed to have boundaries?  Your opinion didn’t matter, even though your relationship counted as over half of your waking hours every day.

My workplace is an unhealthy relationship.

There, I said it.  If it were my girlfriend, I would run screaming from it.  But the qualities that constitute an abusive relationship are conditions most people just shrug and say, “That’s just how it is.”

The funny thing is that it is a true codependent relationship, where we give and give to enable the addiction of money for our employers.  Money is their drug of choice, along with power.  When we give them all of our power, they just want more.  And as we lose things like benefits, job security, living wages, and ways that they sugar-talked us to work for them in the first place.  They can remediate asbestos in the next room, and when we complain, they just tell us everything is fine.  The people in positions of authority over us don’t give a damn.  And we get to suffer with our other codependent friends who just say “It’s a living.”

Today I realized that after 17 years here, I can have a meeting with HR and be told the complete opposite of reality.  I can be told my perception of my work ethic is diametrically opposed to those in charge of me. People who aren’t ever in the office anyway, but cruising all over the world on trips that are paid for by the institution that hasn’t given its employees a raise in nearly 20 years (unless they were upper administration).  I hear that I’m not engaged or busy enough.

So what’s the option?  I can do more work than I was hired to do for no more pay.  I can feel like I’m not good enough for this job because reasons.  I can see that the work is getting done, just as it always has been, but someone’s opinion of me can change all of that, and I’m supposed to give more and more to make them love me.

Wow.  Sounds familiar.

Sounds like something that will probably wind up killing me if I don’t get out soon.  For now, I need to eat.  I need to pay my rent and bills.  I need to pay child support to a woman who won’t work (and takes the kids on vacations every other week).  Like my awful marriage, I will stay as long as I have to.  But once I’m gone, I won’t look back at this place, and I will eventually heal from the regret of having wasted so many years in an unhealthy relationship.

No. Life isn’t fair.  But it can be so much greater if we let it.  Why do we make interpersonal relationships the focus of just letting people treat us like shit in general?  As though relationships with other people are just the grease that keep us happy enough to deal with work?

I don’t get why we have to have a double standard.  It’s fine for a job to treat us as less than human, but not a significant other.  Seems smart if we expected more out of someplace we spent more time at than with our loved ones.

But maybe that’s just me.