You don’t have to monetize everything in your life
Let me say that louder for the people in the back: YOU DON’T HAVE TO MONETIZE EVERYTHING IN YOUR LIFE. Nor should you. You need a few things to enjoy without making everything about work.
I realize there’s a certain amount of privilege in actually having the time and space to do things for yourself, especially for working-class creatives, but burnout is also a very real thing, and if you don’t carve out some space in your life to just exist, you’re going to hit a wall, and that’s going to make it even harder to do the things that make you money in the first place.
And please, don’t think I’m saying don’t value your craft or don’t ask for money in exchange for work: you definitely should be doing that. A lot of us, though, have a bad habit of trying to spin everything we do into money-making ventures, whether that’s monetizing our social media, drawing/writing/photographing everything we do, or turning our latest hobby into an Etsy shop.
While that can work and be rewarding for a while, it’s also a really hard way to live, especially if you have other responsibilities (another job, a family, etc.). No one can work all the time and it’s going to catch up with your mental health eventually.
An example from my own life has to do with this very blog. When I first created my website, I had a lot of grand ideas about the things I wanted to post here. I made long lists of topics I wanted to write about: behind the scenes looks at my short stories, movie and video game reviews, posts where I tried to guess the plot of a movie I’d never seen based on its poster, lists of my favorite books, and so on.
I was actually able to write up quite a few of these (I’ve since deleted most of them, sorry), but the amount of time between posts started to get longer and I was finding it harder to drum up the motivation to actually write them.
Because suddenly I found I had nothing in my life that didn’t feel like work. While I love writing and genuinely enjoy doing it, I can’t write every day, nor do I have ideas worth writing about everything in my life. On top of that, I was starting to dread doing the things that had once been important facets of my self-care, namely reading and playing video games, because I had created an expectation for myself that I had to write about them once I was finished. Instead, I just started procrastinating like crazy.
I was also doing things past the point of my enjoying them (because I didn’t want to waste time I’d invested). When I eventually managed to shame myself into writing something, I didn’t want to be doing it, and the work I did manage to finish was never my best. Side note: The funny thing is, I wasn’t even making money from these posts, so I was running myself ragged for what amounted to exposure.
Not only was my mental health quickly deteriorating because I was overworking myself, the quality of my writing was also suffering. And while some pieces will always be better than others, ideas that should have at least been fun to write (like the movie plots) felt awkward and the final products were never as clever as I’d imagined them in my head. It’s not easy to come up with interesting and/or concise opinions on a given topic all the time, and I’d spread myself too thin.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t work outside of our comfort zones sometimes, but we shouldn’t be doing it all the time. I believe your comfort zone is where you can take the most risks once you understand the rules of your creative space. While there can be a lot learned from trying something new, the majority of our best work comes from the times when we feel comfortable and have the opportunity to mess around.
Which I was not doing by trying to write as much as I was. While I could have just posted a bunch of sub-par pieces to keep up with a schedule, I couldn’t force myself to do that. By scaling back the scope of my writing, even just a little bit, and reclaiming some of the hobbies I’d had before, caused me to start producing much more quality work.
It turns out work and relaxation are kind of like our comfort zones in that way. We are most at ease when we aren’t constantly trying to learn new things/make money, and that’s when we can be at our most relaxed/creative. Our bodies are also not machines, and a little rest, even just from the stress of our daily lives can go a long way toward making us feel better about ourselves.
So for the time being, I’ve made myself a rule: I won’t write about any entertainment media on my blog (at least not specifically). While I’m sure things I’ve watched and read will pop up in pieces about other topics from time to time (as is the nature of the beast), I don’t plan on writing any specific reviews or hot takes. All of this might change in the future, but for now, I’m taking back this one piece of my life and it’s already made the world of difference.