Today I’ve been struggling a little bit with feeling like a fraud. This is something a lot of creatives go through, especially if they have been living in the other world of punching a clock for some time
Not counting this blog post, today was a 5,500 word day. The problem my brain is trying to cope with is though I have been writing throughout the day, from around 9am until now, I haven’t been paid for a single word of it.
A part of me is panicking a little bit, since for the last EVER many years, I have been taught to equate productivity with how much money you get from the work you do. Never mind that I spent a big part of my childhood doing volunteer work with the Boy Scouts or my school. I even worked at events when my ex wife worked for a non-profit when we lived in Wyoming. But volunteer work is usually reserved for people meting out community service requirements ordered by a judge, or rich people who don’t need to put a dollar amount on their time.
The work I’m doing isn’t either of those things. What I am doing is writing a book in hopes that one of these days someone might want to give me money for it so they can publish it and a bunch of other people will read it. Until that happens, however, I’m working on spec. Which means I could just be wasting my time.
But hey, I wasted eighteen years at a job that gave me the axe and didn’t care what happened to me next. A lot of those years were spent mindlessly, needlessly pushing papers from one side of my desk to the other. And by the time everything was digitized, I just dragged and dropped files. That was work I did for someone else. Sure, they gave me money for it, but I was hardly fulfilled.
Now I feel fulfilled, but I’m scrounging the cupboards to economize. I’m worrying about how I will pay bills. I’m beating myself up thinking how I am wasting my time.
And then I sit down and write 5,500 of some of the best stuff that I have written in my life. The shitty thing about it is we have all been taught to put a price tag on our creativity. When your bank account starts to dwindle, you start doubting yourself. Making a living on writing or art or music or anything that isn’t punching a time clock is for other people. Immensely talented people. You feel like a fraud. A schmuck. A dreamer who won’t ever do anything of note or value. Someone who needs to get a real job.
It’s no longer about getting in your own way, but overcoming a lifetime of training as what we are supposed to do and be. Anything outside of that is punished. Society is a self-cleaning oven when it comes to rewarding people who step outside of their place. They either don’t last long, or they thrive.
Maybe success should be measured in how light your heart feels at the end of the day, instead of how much money you have in your bank account.