021: Your Unique PaceMar 21, 2023
Our culture tells us we need to hustle and go! Work work work, busy all the time. That’s what we’re supposed to do right? That’s what we’re supposed to be. And I don’t want to deny that there are elements of that mental framework that are helpful. If you’re a self-employed working artist, like most of the people who listen to this podcast are, then you do have a lot on your plate. Being a solopreneur creative isn’t an easy thing. But thinking that working all the time and hustling all the time is what we should be doing is a slippery slope that leads nowhere good. Your creativity has a pace to it, one that is uniquely you, and rushing that isn’t a good thing. Today, we’re going to talk about how to find and settle into and truly own the pace at which you work.
Hello, thriving artist, and welcome to episode 21 of the Starving Artist No More podcast. I’m your host, creative entrepreneur and creative entrepreneurship coach Jennifer Jill Araya, and I’m so excited you’re here with me for today’s episode. I can’t believe that we’re already at episode 21 of this little podcast! A huge thank you to you, my listeners and fellow creatives. I’ve so enjoyed connecting with all of you over the past 21 weeks, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for this community of supportive, encouraging, and thriving creatives.
Before we get to the meat of this episode, I want to let you know that, if you’ve been struggling with the “business” side of your business, I have a free guide available on my website that I think will help you out. It’s called “Say Goodbye to Feast or Famine: Three Financial Must-Haves for Creative Entrepreneurs,” and it is available for free at www.StarvingArtistNoMore.com. Just navigate there and fill out the contact form, and you’ll get this guide, absolutely for free, no strings attached. There are ideas in there that I think will help you get a handle on the finances of your business, which – let’s face it! – many creatives find to be the most difficult, most daunting part of their business. I know the ideas in this guide really helped me, and I think they can make a difference for you, too. I hope you’ll check it out.
Now let’s turn to the main topic of today’s episode: Your Unique Pace. What is your unique pace when it comes to your creative work? When I’m coaching creative entrepreneurs, this is something that we always talk about at some point. At what pace do your creative energies move? How fast do you want to grow and change and evolve within your artistic business?
A lot of creatives simply can’t answer this question, I think that is mostly because we are sucked into a hustle mentality with our work. The myth of the “starving artist” tells us that we have to constantly be working hard and pushing harder if we want to have any chance of making it with our creative endeavors. We have to hustle to get anywhere as an artist.
If you’ve listened to this podcast for any length of time, you know that I’m an audiobook narrator – that’s my primary artistic pursuit – and in my work as a narrator, I’ve learned that words matter, and the exact definitions of words matter. I recently looked up the definition for “hustle,” and I was shocked at what I found. The definitions are almost all negative in some way! Merriam-Webster says that hustling means “to crowd or push roughly,” “to sell or promote energetically and aggressively,” “to make strenuous efforts to obtain especially money or business,” “to sell something to or obtain something … by energetic and especially underhanded activity.”
I don’t know about you, but there is no part of me that wants my creative work, the artistic pursuits into which I pour my heart and soul, to be in any way described by words like “roughly,” “aggressively,” “strenuous,” or “underhanded.” This is not what I want my creative work to be. This is not who I am as an artist, and it’s not the role I want to play in the world.
In other words, hustling, by its very definition, is not the answer.
But if hustling isn’t the answer, what is? How do you build and grow a creative business if you’re not hustling? The answer is embracing your own unique artistic pace and allowing your business to grow in sync with that pace.
Think back over the times in your creative business when you felt most focused and most absorbed in your creative work. What was your working pace during those times? Were you running around like a busy bee, happy and excited, flitting quickly from project to project to project, the way bees will go from flower to flower? Or were you more like a contemplative hawk, focused and intent on one project at a time, with a long period of deep, intense work on each project, the way a hawk will glide above the earth as they patiently track their prey? Bees venture forth each day with energy and elation, completing their work quickly and getting what they need from each blossom, one right after the other. Hawks gracefully soar over the landscape until they find the exact thing they are looking for, and then they track their prey patiently and wait until the perfect moment to act, at which point they swoop down and take what is theirs.
Which of these feels more true to you, the metaphor of the bee, or the metaphor of the hawk? If neither really fits, think of this as a continuum between the busy bee and the patient hawk. Where does your creative process fall on that spectrum? If you take a moment to think about it, I’m sure you can identify which one feels more true to you and your creative process, and where your own unique creative pace falls on the spectrum between those two extremes.
Obviously, these analogies are not perfect, but I hope the comparison between the bee and the hawk helps you to start to see your unique pace of work. Every artist has a speed – a busyness or lack thereof – that suits their individual creative energy. Only when you work at that speed, and you build a business that allows you to work at that speed, can your business truly support you holistically: personally, creatively, and financially.
When you own your unique pace, you will be able to do your best work. If you’re a busy bee and your creative flow is stimulated and enhanced by rapid-fire movement between creative endeavors, then owning that trait about yourself is how you will be able to be your very best creative self. You will do your best work when you’re able to work at a lightning-fast speed. If you’re a patient hawk and need time for introspection and deep thought to do your best creative work, then you will only be able to excel when you give yourself the freedom to take your time and act patiently and precisely.
On that continuum from busy bee to patient hawk, there is no right answer. Busy bee creatives aren’t somehow better or worse than patient hawk creatives. Your pace is your pace, not anyone else’s. What matters is that you allow yourself to work at the pace that is right for you.
When you start comparing yourself and your journey as a creative entrepreneur to others, you distort your view of your own artistic pace. If you’re happiest and able to do your best work by sinking slowly and deeply into each project, one at a time, you can’t compare yourself to a colleague who is most creative and innovative when bouncing from project to project in rapid succession. That colleague’s pace is not yours, and comparing yourself to them won’t do you any good.
That old saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” is so very true. When you’re looking at your colleague’s output in terms of the number of projects or the type of projects or the quality of projects, or any other metric you can come up with, it might look “greener” to you than your own journey. But so much has gone into your colleague’s career that you have no way of knowing about. It’s entirely possible that what lights up their creative energies and the speed at which they work is completely opposite to yours. From the outside looking in, you can’t tell that their “greener” grass comes because they have an entirely different type of grass than you do! Their pace is not your pace, and so their results are different.
When we allow ourselves to be sucked into comparisonitis, or when we are deep within the mental turmoil of imposter syndrome, the temptation is to start to hustle. It’s easy to find ourselves saying, “That artist over there is getting all this recognition and all these accolades by doing X and working at Y pace, so that must be the secret to success in my creative industry. I have to do exactly what that artist is doing and work as quickly (or slowly) as they’re working.” It’s so tempting to allow imposter syndrome to tell us that our process is wrong, and we really need to do X, Y, and Z.
The problem with this is that working outside of your natural creative rhythms will harm the quality of your work. If I force a patient hawk artist to speed up and practice the same kind of “project agility” that a busy bee exhibits naturally, the patient hawk’s work won’t be anywhere near the quality it would have been had they had time to really go over it and sink deeply into it. It will feel rushed to the artist/hawk, and so the work will feel rushed to the audience.
Conversely, if I tell a busy bee that they have to dive deep and stay with one project – and only one project – for an extended period, they’ll be fine for a while, but then the over-thinking and the self-doubt and the indecision will take over. For these fast-paced creatives, too much time is a source of stress and overwhelm. It is essential for them that they trust their decision and move on to focus on other things. Otherwise, the work becomes stale and overwrought and distracted.
Anytime you compare yourself to your peers, anytime you allow yourself to wallow in the awful feeling of imposter syndrome, of feeling less-than, you allow yourself to be pulled away from your own unique pace of creativity, and your work suffers as a result.
So if working within your own pace is essential, and if building a business that allows you to work at that pace is the way to building a business that supports you holistically, how do you do it? Once you’ve identified your pace and determined where you fall on the busy bee to patient hawk spectrum of creativity, what can you do to make sure you stay within your own pace? I’ve got three ideas to help you.
First, allow your pace to dictate your schedule. If you’re a musician and you know that you will be worn out by scheduling a mid-week chamber recital on a week when you have orchestra concerts on the weekends before and after, ask the chamber music venue if a different date is possible. On the flip side, if you know that a mid-week performance will energize you for the orchestra concerts, then make sure the mid-week concert gets scheduled! If you’re a photographer and you know that you need time to process the photos from one modeling session before you have the shoot for the next session, allow yourself time to process those photos. On the flip side, if you’d rather have all your photo sessions back-to-back and then process the photos from all the sessions all together, set up your schedule accordingly.
It is a general rule in life that you get what you schedule, so the more you make sure your schedule matches your unique creative pace, the easier it will be for you to work within that pace. Set your schedule to match your unique creative speed.
And, if you’re listening to all of this and thinking that this all sounds great but that you’ve never known any pace in your creative work other than the pace of complete and total hustle (underlaid with a lovely foundation of pure panic because you’ve been living in a scarcity mindset in your creative work) and so you have absolutely no idea whether or not you’re a busy bee or a patient hawk because you’ve only ever been a chicken with its head cut off, then scheduling is the perfect place for you to start. Try out some different paces, and see what works! Schedule a month of patient hawk, one-project-at-a-time, deliberateness for yourself. See how that feels. Try it on for size. Then schedule a busy bee month, full of back-to-back projects and deadlines and creative activities. Notice the differences that schedule makes to your creative process. Then try an in-between month, finding a midpoint between the busy bee and the patient hawk. How does that change your emotions and your processes around your creative work? What feels like the best fit for your unique creative self? That, my friend, is your creative pace, and you now know how to schedule your work to match that pace. You now know how to schedule your projects to do your absolute best, most creative, most innovative work.
Once you’ve got your schedule set so that the pace of your schedule matches the pace of your creativity, now it’s time to make sure that you’re filling that schedule with the types of projects that best match your creativity. Those types of projects are what I call your “Creative & Financial Sweet Spot,” and I’ve got a whole podcast episode, Episode #7, about figuring out what your sweet spot is and then determining how to get more projects that fit within that sweet spot. If you have questions about what your creative and financial sweet spot is, I highly recommend that you go back and listen to that episode.
But in short, your creative and financial sweet spot is where the projects that you find most creatively fulfilling intersect with the project that pay you your very best rates and so are financially fulfilling. These are the projects on which you are doing your very best work because you find them so incredibly rewarding from an artistic perspective, and you’ll be able to approach your work with ease and relaxation from a financial perspective because you’ll know that you’re being paid what you’re worth and that you won’t have to worry about where the money will come from to pay your personal bills. Working within your creative and financial sweet spot brings a sense of ease and joy into your work that can’t really be found any other way. Working in this space is an incredibly powerful place to be.
That might all sound great to you, but I can hear you asking me, “What does my creative and financial sweet spot have to do with embracing my own unique pace as an artist?” Your pace as an artist and your creative and financial sweet spot are intimately tied together because when you are filling your work calendar with projects within your sweet spot, and scheduling those projects in a way that matches your pace, you will be able to resist the pull of comparisonitis and imposter syndrome. You’ll be able to embrace your pace with certainty and confidence, knowing that this is the right pace for you and your business.
If you are consistently bringing in work that fits within your sweet spot, you’ll be able to focus on your gratitude for the creative work you are privileged enough to do, and you won’t be worried about what your colleagues are doing that, from your vantage point, seems like it’s the greener grass on the other side of the fence. You’ll be able to celebrate your wins and successes because you’ll be getting what you need from your work to thrive creatively and to refill your wells of creative energy, and you’ll also be getting the financial resources you need to know that your personal bills are going to be paid. You’ll know that your mortgage or rent won’t be overdue, that your kids’ school bills will be paid, you’ll have food on the table, and you’ve even got money left over to save. Celebrating your moments of creative joy and allowing yourself to experience gratitude for those moments will cement within your very being the rightness of the creative pace you have found for yourself and your business.
Finding your unique pace isn’t easy. Too many creatives have bought into the lie of the hustle culture so much that they don’t even know what their creative pace actually is! But if you take a step back and allow yourself to do the introspective work of determining where your pace lies, and then are intentional about scheduling your work at that pace, you will find the quality of your creative work can only improve. Whether you are a busy bee or a patient hawk, accepting that about your artistic self will only ever help you! And once you are able to start filling that work calendar with projects within your creative and financial sweet spot, scheduled in a way that matches the pace at which you work best and most creatively, then the sky’s the limit. You’ll be able to embrace your gratitude for the work that you do and celebrate the moments of creative joy you experience, and suddenly the grass on the other side of the fence doesn’t look so green and enticing anymore. Suddenly the grass looks pretty amazing right where you are.
Thank you so much for joining me today for this episode of the Starving Artist No More podcast. I really hope this episode helped you to think about your work and the pace at which you do it in a new and different way. If the perspectives I shared in today’s episode made you think or helped you broaden your ideas of how to work, I’d love for you to reach out and let me know. You can reach me through my website, www.StarvingArtistNoMore.com. As always, I deeply appreciate any ratings and reviews you leave for me, as that helps new creative entrepreneur listeners find me, and don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast yourself so that you know when new episodes are released. And of course, if you have an artistic friend who you think might benefit from this episode, or any episode of this podcast, please share this with them. Sharing is caring. A huge thank you also to my husband and friend, who also happens to be an audio engineer and who is the producer and editor of this podcast, Arturo Araya. I hope you take some time this week to ponder your unique creative pace and then to take steps that will allow you to work within that pace. I can’t wait to see what you create.
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