SELF-CARE SUCCESS STORY!

Geoff Barone, composer – Photo by Micah Schmidt

I love it when I get feedback on how my fellow creatives are learning to take good care of themselves.

My friend, songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Geoff Barone recently shared some thoughts with his followers after he read one of my blog posts. I was so thrilled by his progress that I asked him if I could share his success with you. I hope you find it helpful and inspiring as you implement your own routine to help you stay focused on your creations.

Here’s Geoff’s story:

My friend, Lauren Aycock Anderson recently blogged that you should “Resolve To Be Good To Yourself”. Starting by GETTING OFF OF YOUR PHONE! In her post, she says instead of rushing to your phone in the morning, go do 10 – 20 minutes of exercise.

So, earlier this month I began an experiment. I didn’t check my phone, especially Facebook, for many hours after I woke up. As the days progressed, 1 hour turned into 3, then to 6 and so on. Slowly, the urge to constantly check my phone dissappated.  I didn’t exercise tho. 😛

This “urge” has been called “FoMo”, or The Fear Of Missing Out, meaning if you’re not on, then you may missing out something important. Always on edge, waiting for that new post or new pic that you can comment on or get a shot of dopamine when someone “likes” your comment, all the while “real life” is happening around you. Real things like your daughter wanting to play toys but you’re too busy with your face buried in a screen.

I recognized that I could easily sit on the couch for 30 minutes to an hour, thumbing through my FB feed, getting increasingly annoyed & irritated. So I’d switch over to Instagram or Twitter…only to end up back on FB getting stuck in some weird loop of irritability. Where did that time go? What did I get accomplished? So, to start out my day pissed off, and cluttering my mind up with other peoples BS was not conducive to a happy day for myself, nor should it be for you! That wasted time could’ve been used for something more productive like writing a new song, cleaning the garage, working on your rock opera…or simply living in the now.

With all this being writ, social media is a necessity for anyone who wants to promote their art or wares, but I think being able to discipline yourself to set aside specific time each day to social media is a nice compromise.

Put down your phone and live your life. Be in the moment. The here. The now.  Go and DO SOMETHING.

I love Geoff’s note about the necessity of being on social media in order to market yourself, coupled with the understanding that it doesn’t require you to be on your phone all day long.

Geoff just released an 80’s inspired concept album called “Somewhere in the Near Future.” I encourage you check his stuff out – he’s a seriously incredible musician and composer.

Do you have a self-care success story you’d like to share?

I’d love to hear all about it! Share it in the comments below or send me an email. And let me know if you want me to share it with my followers.

WANNA GET PAID? SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES

Oh, gee, thank you for this change. I can buy a hot dog today!

For some reason in our culture, and others, it’s been decided that artists somehow only work for fun and that creative work is worthless unless it’s high-brow or for corporate gain. Isn’t it strange how artists are told their work is worthless and yet they’re called deadbeats for not making money?

If you’re fed up with being expected to do things for free, I’m here to say: It begins with you.

Through my experiences with my own work, and with my friends and clients in various creative settings, I’ve learned that setting your own personal boundaries can help tremendously when you’re trying to get paid.

How do you do that? Start with these four simple ways to help you get paid for your creative work.

Set your prices

This might seem like an obvious point, but many artists who complain about not getting paid for their work don’t seem to know how to value their work. So ask yourself – What does my work cost? How much is my time worth?  Think about the cost of materials and the time spent creating. Go out and look at what other people charge for similar work. Don’t undervalue your work out of fear of judgment or self-doubt. 9 times out of 10, creatives think they’re worth a lot less than people are willing to pay. Set a price that’s just a little bit too high for your comfort and stick to it. As more and more people start to pay that price, you’ll get more comfortable with it.

Create contracts

There’s no better way to ensure you won’t get paid than by doing a job without a written agreement. If your work is gig-based, you need clear guidelines regarding what your job is, what you’ll be paid, when you’ll be paid, and who owns the creative work once it’s complete. I know, it feels weird to lay out a contract, especially at the beginning because you’re usually working with people you know. But if you’re gonna get serious about getting paid for your art, you need to do all the serious things that go along with that.

There are several resources online that provide templates for service-based contracts. Check out this one from rocket-lawyer or this one that’s specifically tailored to artists. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t guarantee the legality of these contracts for you. I suggest contacting a lawyer yourself. Here in Baltimore, you can contact Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts for inexpensive legal help. They even hold $5 art law clinics about 10 times a year to help artists learn how to protect themselves legally.

Be clear and direct

Let people know what you do and what it costs up front. If you’re wishy-washy or unsure, it’ll show and people will take advantage of that. When you want to be paid, ask to be paid. If you choose to volunteer your time or skills, be clear about how much you are willing to give and then only give that much. Resentment often builds when you’ve given away too much. In the end, you only do what you say “yes” to. So be clear about what you’re willing and not willing to do. (Hint: outline that in your contract!) Don’t let someone else (or yourself) push you into saying, “yes” when you really want to say, “no.”

Get ok with saying, “No.”

This can be SO hard for highly empathic creatives. I get it – you want to share the love. And you’ve heard over and over again that you have to “pay your dues” in your industry. But here’s the thing – when you continually work for free, people continue to expect you to work for free. If you’ve been doing your creative work for a couples years and you’re ready to start getting paid, you need to start saying, “No.” It doesn’t require a big explanation, even if the person throws a fit over it. “No” is a perfectly ok thing to say when you really want to say it. Yeah, it’ll be scary at first, but when you put your foot down and show your worth, people will respect and know your worth.

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Bottom line: You don’t owe people free work.

You deserve to get paid for your contribution to the world And the more creatives that stand up and say, “Pay me”, the closer we’ll get to changing the culture around paying for creative work.

What do you think? 

I’d love to hear about your experiences with getting paid and not getting paid for your creative work. When you haven’t been paid, but thought you should have what could you have done to change it? Are there certain situations where it would be right for someone not to be paid for their work? How do you want to help change how creative work is valued?

SOLO ARTISTS AREN’T SO SOLO

soloWe Americans idealize independence. Even the most socialistic, progressive people I know can get down on themselves when they can’t hack it and get things done all alone. It’s a weird thing we’ve all convinced ourselves of. We know deep down in our guts that we need people. Loneliness has a purpose: it tells us that it’s time to reach out to people. But instead of reaching out when we’re feeling down or lonely, we think, “No, I’ve got to do it on my own.” Nonsense!

I KNOW this stuff. I studied couple and family therapy – all about the importance of connection and how people interact and help each other and I STILL hate on myself for not being able to get stuff done when I try to exist in a vacuum. Reprogramming your brain is hard.

I work with people all the time who think they have to do it all on their own. I think a lot of our struggle comes from this belief. I’m always asking my clients who they can reach out to. Whatever it is we’re working on, other people can help. At some point in our work, they often say, “Hey, Lauren. I just realized that when I involve someone else I’m able to really stick to my guns and get stuff done!” I congratulate them and often laugh and say, “Who knew?! Oh wait, that’s what we’re doing right now!”

But that’s the difference between knowing a thing and actually doing a thing. It only gets into your bones when you actually do it. You can say you know you need other people until you’re blue in the face, but when you’re struggling with your creative output do you beat yourself up for not being able to do it alone? Or do you tell someone about your plans and ask for advice?

Here’s how connection helps me creatively:

I haven’t made much solo music in the past year. It’s been a rough year. But being in my bands and having people ask me to compose, arrange, or perform for their events has kept me going. I am SO thankful for them because making music keeps me sane. Plus, being asked to do new and different things inspires me to think differently about my work. I try out new instruments. I write in ways I’ve never written before. It helps me EXPAND. Because believe it or not, I can be really stubborn and boxy about what I like and what I want to create. (I can hear my best friends sarcastically saying “OH REALLY?”) So, when someone asks me to try something new, I try to check in with myself. There are clear YESes and NOs… and then there are the fearful, scoffing NOs. The ones that say, “Oh, I’ve never done that before. Why are they asking ME? That’s SO not a thing I do!” I try to follow the fear and attempt the thing I scoffed at. It might not work out, but I get to do something different and new and stay fresh with my ideas.

It usually does work out, though. Maybe not in the way I expected, but it pays off somehow. With new ideas or recognition. Always with new friends or deeper connections.

So, if you find yourself stuck and saying to yourself ,“WTF, why can’t I ever get anything done on my own?!” Remind yourself that no one does it on their own. Not even writers! (Although you all probably have the least collaborative art.) Even the most hermity creators experienced life with others at some point. They read other people’s books, listened to other people’s music, saw other people’s works and were inspired to make their thing.

Remind yourself of this and then go tell someone about it – preferably another creator. Share your struggle. At the very least you’ll probably get a little commiseration around it. At the most, you’ll get an offer of help or maybe even a new idea.

So what’s your struggle? Share in the comments! Maybe someone will read it and help you out.

 

 

BALANCE IS BULLSHIT

8th-cup-of-coffee

We hear a lot about “finding balance”. The balance between work and life, parenting and couple stuff, balanced eating, drinking, exercising, thinking, BEING. Even I’ve talked about helping people find balance.

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret…

There’s no such thing as balance.
When people say they are looking for balance, they often want it all – an immaculate house, a perfect relationship, amazing parenting skills, while kicking all-the-ass at work. I’m telling you, that kind of balance is not possible (unless you’re rich and you pay someone else to do most of this for you). This is especially true when you’re doing your big, meaningful, creative work.

But we get all these messages about how we can and should, make it all happen. When you’re a creative person who’s already viewed as “unbalanced” by the rest of the world, this belief can be really damaging. I’ve fallen prey to it myself, but all that lovely training in counseling coupled with my own therapy, and some more recent reading of Danielle Laporte’s amazing works, has helped release me from the burdens of the balance myth. 

When we throw ourselves into one project, another inevitably falls by the wayside.
I’ve been busy playing in a rock opera band all month. I didn’t have time for rehearsing with my other bands. I didn’t have a ton of time for friends. I didn’t have much time to market my business.

It’s only natural.
The scales need to tip if you want to make something big. You don’t hear about Olympians having amazing work-life balance. You hear about them getting up at 5 am to train every day for like, 15 years.

But it can get frustrating.
Did I mention my husband was also acting in the rock opera? It’s awesome that we get to do this together. But our house is a mess. We ate like crap all last week. We’ve barely had time for quiet conversation. We still haven’t tackled the laundry. There’ve been some difficult moments and lots of bitching and moaning. But we’ve come out the other side with our brains, hearts, and bodies in tact and with the sense of fulfillment that we know we helped make something AWESOME.

Here are some tips to help you finish your creative projects without going crazy:

Be aware of what is being sacrificed

If you can, get pre-aware. Create a post or send out an email to your friends and loved ones, “I’m going into a creative cocoon for the next month, so please understand when I decline or don’t respond to your invites.” Prep your partner as much as possible about the time you’ll be missing and about the varying levels of emotion they may see from you.

Stay focused

It’s really easy to start feeling guily and get distracted by all the things that aren’t getting done. Keep that laser focus on your end game, or you’ll end up surrounded by unfinished work and trust me, that WON’T feel good. If you can’t get it out of your head, make a list of the things you’d like to do when you’re done, then put that list away and GET BACK TO WORK!

Be kind to yourself

Like I said, it’s really easy to start feeling guilty about the stuff you’re neglecting. Remind yourself that this is only temporary. That you’re doing the best you can. When we’re seeking balance, what we’re really looking for is inner calm. We can’t get that by worrying about every single little thing while trying to make something huge and amazing happen. The key is to find inner peace by giving yourself a break. Try to give fewer fucks about the little things (here’s some reading by Mark Manson if you need some help on the subject). The house will get clean later. The laundry will get done. Your friend will forgive you.

The same goes for anyone working with you

We’re all working the same hustle, but we all have different challenges. Forgive the little mistake, the 5 minutes of lateness, the “how-can-we-possibly-get-this-all-done-you-people-are-driving-me-crazy!!” emotional outbursts. Be diligent and hold people accountable, but have some empathy and be respectful. Everyone feels the pressure.

Make up for it later

Throw a party for all your friends when the project is done. Plan a fun weekend with the kids. Go out to dinner with your partner. Do something to show your appreciation for the understanding and support of the people in your life.

But don’t kill yourself over it

Set aside some downtime for yourself, first, even if that means just a half hour for a hot bath or a long walk. Your brain deserves and needs rest after all that amazing stuff you just did! Give it what it needs, or that time with friends, partners, or kids will feel overwhelming and annoying.

So, where can you give yourself some space to accomplish your creative goals?

Share in the comments! I’d love to hear about your projects and how you get through the challenges you face to accomplish them.

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When life hands you lemons in the form of bureaucratic BS, get mad, then get creative (Part 2)

Let me help you find your path…
PHOTO BY OLEG GORDIENKO

When last we left off in Part 1, I told you I am now in limbo – finished with my internship, but still have to take more classes to fulfill a credit numbers requirements for Maryland. I’ve started those classes now and a couple of them are the same as other classes I’ve already taken. It’s a really good use of my time and money… Sarcasm? Nooooooo. Jokes aside, there is a class that focuses on couple therapy, which I love, so I’m happy to do more reading and research in that realm. There’s also a class that focuses on ethics and state laws, which I’m sure will prove to be useful.

ANYHOO, I have turned this annoyance into an opportunity! I now consider myself to be a life coach, relationship coach, and creativity coach, and I’m educating myself on exactly what coaches do and how that’s different from what therapists do. Here’s what I’ve learned:

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