I had lunch with some old friends yesterday. We see each other every couple of years and spend the time in between talking about how we should catch up more often. These days our lives look very different. We’ve all had good times and heartbreak at times. Three had to raise kids alone after divorce. We’ve had health battles and sleepless nights with sick kids. One even has grandkids! We never lack for things to talk about even though we all have very different lives, but the one thing we’ve all had in common over the years is hating our jobs at times.
Dear readers, you know well by now that I have had my dream job that broke my heart and I think I am one of the lucky ones who has had the (mis)fortune to have had the opportunity to experience my dream job. (Okay my real dream job would either be Head of Restoration at the Louvre or Sam Heughan’s towel-down specialist… It’s a coin toss between them really.) We talked yesterday about our various work-related disasters including bullying, being underpaid, soul-sucking cubicles and timed loo breaks…(wtf really??)
Joseph Campbell managed to confuse the hell out of a couple of generations of spiritual seekers and job hunters alike, bloody urging us to Follow Our Bliss. What were you thinking, man? One of my friends talked about how she had found a place of acceptance in her work, despite the unhealthy attention on her toilet habits. She has two teenagers to raise and bills to pay.
Acceptance is a good place to be.
Eckhart Tolle assures us that Joy is the highest we can expect from ‘work’. If we can’t find Joy we should try for Enthusiasm. This was always my sweet spot in the dream/ nightmare job. I loved the job and liked most of the people I worked with and while I might have experienced moments of Joy, usually at 4:55 on a Friday afternoon, I could usually count on my enthusiasm for the work to get me through. When I found that I could no longer accept certain aspects of the job it was time to go, but I had alternatives. Many people don’t. In such circumstances, being told to go and ‘follow your bliss’ can be infuriating.
Sometimes you have to do what you have to do and find your bliss where you can.
However, creatives need to follow their heart if they want to create the work that is trying to come through them. There is nothing wrong with doing commercial work; I did it for years, but we owe it to ourselves to spend even 10 minutes a day on something that brings us joy. When it comes to creating work you love, even enthusiasm isn’t enough. It has to bring you joy or it’s not worth doing. And don’t even get me started on acceptance in this scenario!
I’m not saying your heart work will always flow and come easily because there’s always work to do. You still have to push through the blocks, what Pressfield calls ‘the resistance’. You have to make time for playing with ideas and then follow them through to the end. Jung has been quoted by many as saying that people don’t have ideas, rather ideas have people but the ideas have to find you working. The water is in the tap, but you must open the faucet to get at it.
You don’t have to quit your day job but you do have to make time for curiosity and experimentation. Follow your heart, by all means, but make sure you take your head with you. Your heart will keep you sane but your head will keep you fed.
For writers, I can’t recommend this podcast enough. In this particular episode Joanna Penn passionately, enthusiastically, JOYFULLY tells us to do more of what we love.
And Joanna Penn on Marketing…I wrote last week about Marketing = Hell and it was a little tongue in cheek, but most creatives struggle at times with aspects of selling their work. Some hate marketing so much they’d rather accept working in a job they accept rather than face the fear of putting their work out there.
Content marketing is focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience to drive profitable customer action. I used this technique for years without knowing it had a name. A marketing expert I am NOT! I always used content marketing on Social Media and Pinterest because I had no budget for advertising but I found it very successful. I am going to follow Joanna’s lead and continue down this path because it suits my personality. Even in marketing, we need to follow our hearts.