Someone I know on Facebook who works as a “creativity coach” posted this on the platform the other day. And I sat there and stared at it trying to formulate my response, because the only thing I heard in my mind was “no!”. Those of us who write for a living understand the value in BICHOK–Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. Many of my novels were written one and two sentences at a time between tech support calls while working for a major financial institution. As writers, we learn very quickly to write whenever and whereever we can. This pampering that she speaks of? We may get that on writer’s retreats or in very rare moments. But most of us don’t have a “support staff” to cater to our every need. Most of us know it’s write or die. If we don’t write, we won’t publish. If we don’t publish, we don’t sell books.
Creativity is a funny thing. Treat it with care. Our brains have a maximum amount of bandwidth available each day. Each hour. Most of us simply can’t come up with amazing stuff when we’re worn out. To be creative and innovative, we need to be properly cared for, not worn thin after a long working day.
Yet, one of the biggest hurdles I see with clients is that they can’t think up good stuff when they have no energy left. Have you ever seen how Tony Robbins prepares for an event? Or other high-powered people who have to think on their feet? They simplify. They’re not running around before their events, trying to answer every question and check every logistical detail.By narrowing their focus, they fill up their energy and replenish their creativity. They prepare. They rest, exercise, meditate, or whatever routines they have learned to get into their “zone.” They usually even have support people helping them get in their zone — bringing them water, making sure they have privacy, protecting their energy levels. So they can prepare their brains, and worry about nothing else. By the time they take to the stage, these people are sharp. Productive. Ready to think at the top of their game. How much better would our meaningful work be if we treated our creativity with this level of care?
There’s privilege here, and it’s important and good to unpack it. When I read something like this, I immediately think two things. First, this individual lives a relatively prosperous life. They are financially well enough, so they don’t have to worry about bills and can afford that support staff. Second, that they have the level of “eliteness” that we see emulated by Goop and other “lifestyle gurus”. As if by being an Instagram-perfect picture of zen they have somehow upleveled their lives compared us mere mortals. What lies behind their statements?
“They’re not running around….”
Those of us who are caregivers, parents, full-time employees, pursuing other hobbies, just caring for our homes, etc., know what running around is like. I work a full-time job, a side gig, my writing, take care of my mom full-time, plus take care of the pets, our home, our homestead, our livestock, and my husband on any given day. Juggling schedules and getting shit done is my mantra.
Now I love every moment of it (okay not every moment, but you get the idea), but even those who go to conferences or give presentations often have to juggle it around work and family responsibilities. There’s no shame in running around and getting shit done.
“They rest, exercise, meditate or whatever routines….”
Ahh, health and time privilege. They assume that the reader doesn’t have a chronic pain condition that makes exercise difficult. They assume the person doesn’t have a chemical imbalance that interferes with meditations. They assume someone can just chop twenty minutes or even an hour out of their day for these precious routines. Some of us can do it. Some of us can’t. Either way, no shame. No shame at all.
“They usually have support people helping…bringing them water….”
Pardon me while I laugh my ass off, fall off my desk chair, roll around on the floor laughing, then get back up to type this. I’m lucky if I get a “how are you doing?” at the end of a long day of work, writing, side gig, taking care of mom, pain levels that are a 7 or an 8 on that stupid scale of the doctors, cooking dinner, doing laundry, etc. Support people to bring me water? Maybe even mop my brow as I succumb to heat exhaustion on a day hot enough to warrant a heat advisory. (That was last Wednesday, yo. But hey, puking up my guts, laying in front of the fan for fifteen minutes, and I was up and at ’em because mom needed care….) The sheer amount of wealth privilege in this statement is staggering. The sheer amount of family and social circle privilege rivals it. Sheesh.
How much better would our meaningful work be if we treated our creativity with this level of care?
How about we cut the crap of saying that creativity or work in general would be more meaningful if we wrapped it in privilege of wealth, health, and social standing? Seriously. If you’re writing for love, snatching a few words here and there — your work is meaningful as hell. If you’re writing for money, pounding out several thousand words a day — your work is meaningful as fuck. Get the picture. If you are doing anything creative, then your work is as meaningful as you want it to be.
Lest you think I’m just hating, I’m not. But I also think that it is important for those who coach or who set themselves up as “gurus” or leaders in any given industry to actually understand exactly what privilege has shaped their lives and how this may impact those they work with. We’re all in this together, but before you start to throw out absolutes, you better think about how the other half lives.
If you’re doing creative work and it’s going well for you, then do it however you want to. Just don’t tell everyone else they have to do it your way.