Digging through the creative block: for entrepreneurs, too

I am just putting the finishing touches on my part of the task of filing corporate taxes for last year. Thank all the gods everywhere for accountants: this would be so much worse without mine.

Closing out 2007 finances has been a more complicated task than usual: part of the reason for this is the fact that Wynette is leaving Be Mused. By far the bigger part is that, as the business side of my and our creative life grew increasingly undefined, I grew very resistant to keeping up with the financial tracking, which has always been part of my share of the work. Oh, sure, I paid the bills on time and all that stuff — but the filing, the logging, even much of the decision-making for the next year wound up stalled in big piles on my desk in the office. That’s not typical behavior for me: I don’t really *enjoy* that work, but I generally don’t mind it, and I am reassured when I can account for all the mundane stuff.

It wasn’t until last night, when I discovered areas of my desk I haven’t seen in weeks, that I finally began to think about what was up with that. For most entrepreneurs, business life is their creative life. A business about which you care so passionately that you pour yourself into it: that is a creative effort at least as heartfelt as most novels. When a novelist develops resistance to moving forward in her work, we call it being blocked. But as far as I know, there are no such labels to describe the procrastination, anxiety, and avoidance behaviors that manifest in business people when something has gone wrong with their creativity.

But there was no question in my mind, once I looked at my situation in the office with my coach-eyes on: I have been creatively blocked in my business life. Something was wrong, and I was resisting moving forward. In my writing life, I’ve learned to recognize that a block is often a gift from my subconscious: unless there is something external going on, when I begin throwing up roadblocks on a novel, it’s because the muse has spotted something wrong.

I’ve been peripherally aware that something had gone wrong in the business part of my creative life, for months. After all, Wynette and I had individually and collectively informed the universe, as fall began, that we did not want any new clients just then. (The universe complied, of course.) As the year drew to a close, we began shedding pieces of our business strategy that we could see weren’t in line with our as-yet-hazy direction. But it wasn’t until Wynette decided to make the final break with the business that I was able to step back, look at the business as a whole, and begin to figure out why I wasn’t having fun anymore. At the time, of course, I didn’t think that was what I was trying to figure out: I was just trying to figure out how to structure an author services business that didn’t offer graphic services.

But why I wasn’t having fun anymore was actually the more important question. I have been figuring out the answer, lately; Be Mused had represented things Wynette and I are really good at, aid we could give independent writers and publishers in support of an ideal in which we both believe. But those services we offered were not things we love in and of themselves; we do them passionately in pursuit of our own publishing efforts — but that passion arises from our commitment to the novels we publish, not the tasks of editing and typeset and cover design. The part of aiding independent writers and publishers that I do love, the part I kept sneaking in around the edges of other work even when I wasn’t charging for it, is the coaching and creativity work I’ve been doing with writers, entrepreneurs, and other visionaries for lo these many years.

If there is a First Rule of Creativity, it goes something like this:

If you’re not passionate about the work you’re doing, and the job is a creative one, you are wasting your time.

This rule also covers the running of a business. It’s true because work done without passion is inherently not our best work: the person who is passionate will give that extra something that makes whatever they do shine.

I may be a very fine copyeditor, and an even better text editor — but those are not tasks that, in and of themselves, arouse my creative passion. So I will be taking Be Mused in the direction of the things I love: creativity work and development coaching. I’m better at those things, anyway, and they don’t make me want to let things pile up on my desk. And now that I’ve cleaned all the stuff I couldn’t seem to face off my desk, I’m ready to dig in and begin the site redesign that will reflect Be Mused’s new direction. I’ll let you know when it’s up.

If you find yourself letting things pile up, finding excuses not to do tasks you believe you should be doing, I suggest this is likely to be a message from your subconscious. Figuring out exactly what that message means may require some uncomfortable explorations in the territory inside your own head. But figuring it out may mean the difference between spending your days in joyous pursuit of your dreams — and dragging yourself through the motions, wondering who said this business thing was supposed to be fun.

Go have some fun. Be Mused. 🙂

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