Slow Poison

Creative folks paying the bills by working non-creative jobs.

Raise your hands.

How do we do our best work 9 to 5?

We don’t. We just don’t.

We do well to give ourselves a pass for this. Emotionally, I mean. Consider an emotional allowance for ourselves.

Our creative souls are well-suited for certain kinds of work and ill-suited for other kinds. This doesn’t mean we can’t still accomplish the work with basic competence, but it is worth considering this when dealing with negative feedback from our bosses. When we echo this to ourselves, compounded daily, it can be a slow poison.

It is all too easy to feel as if nothing we do is ever good enough. Friends, for us it will probably never be good enough. Creatives are unlikely to truly shine or excel in jobs which demand the opposite. So why work them? For health insurance, steady income, feed families, to meet certain financial goals or obligations, basic survival; lots of reasons.

When we struggle with performance within those jobs we often wonder how we can be so gifted and so intelligent and still perform tasks badly (as defined by the job).

We don’t solve problems the same way. We don’t prioritize precision. We aren’t wired to seek or celebrate perfection or specific outcomes (again, as defined by the job). Trying to force this can make us miserable. Trying harder usually backfires and leaves us even more frustrated. And our bosses? Ugh.

Be patient with a boss stymied by how you can be “so smart” and still do certain things wrong. She probably doesn’t get it. This may be a boss simply confounded by the fact that even among smart people their brains don’t all work the same way, and yours doesn’t work like hers. She may not be able to see how valuable your skills are because she’s trained to value other things. If it is her job to get one thing from you she isn’t likely to have any use for everything else you have to offer. She will only notice the failure to produce the one thing.

Be kind to yourself when you are given the requisite ration of shit for failing to respond like a fish when you are essentially a bird who learned how to tread water, dive a little, maybe swim a few feet. You’re still never going to do it as well as a fish. It’s a fact but not a failure. Keep this in mind when your boss demands fish-level expertise from your bird-natured brain.

All non-creative jobs will eventually feel soul-sucking until you find one which includes a way to apply or practice your natural talents. They will all end up a bad fit. They will all run a certain course of passable or manageable until someone becomes compelled to make a change. Give yourself a pass for this too, no matter how many times it happens. You’re not making the same mistake over and over. You are seasonal, cyclical, magical, and the jobs are not. How well was it really ever going to work?

We are especially bruised right now and being a tyrant in leadership is en vogue right now. Creative souls punching the clock, I see you. Trying so hard and still getting your ass chewed, I feel you. Sobbing out the daily headache/heartache/soulscream in the kitchen floor, I am holding you. I am with you. You are doing the best you can under circumstances designed for the best of others. Your best still exists. It still matters. It’s still in there. It is still critical to the existence of rest of us who are just like you.

I still want to hear it, see it, and feel it. So hold on and be good to yourself because I need you. I am you. And I’m not alone. I’m tapping out a Morse code along the collective current. I’m here. We are here. Tap. Tap. Tap tap. Don’t leave us. Maintain connection even if you are silent or sad or sorry. We still need the pulse of your energy. Your movement. Your scent. Your hum along the conduit. It’s a comfort. Just tap back. It will be enough.

— Mercy

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