Side Hustle Blues
This week’s post goes out to my dear friends who have a creative practice on the side; finishing up a degree; working odd jobs in addition to their full-time grind; and have entrepreneurial ventures they’re working on on the low. I’m just out here trying to drop some golden nuggets of hope to encourage you all to stay positive.
You are the only person that can legitimize your practice.
I frequently say things like, “I’m barely even a real writer,” or “I’m just writing this silly little thing.” I’m low key/high key fishing for compliments, and at the end of the day, I’m terrified that my work simply isn't good enough. (Can you tell I’m a Leo?”) Since I’m formally trained in design, when someone criticizes my design work, I can still fall back on a formal education to feel legitimate. Writing and poetry are more vulnerable mediums for me because I can’t fall back on a formal writing education.
But who the fuck cares? I’m still out here taking every opportunity to perform, perfect my craft and fine-tune my voice. I’m making progress everyday and the urge to keep creating is so strong.
I also thank y’all who keep reading my posts and give such positive feedback. Seriously, when you respond to me with comments/discussion, I start kicking myself for being afraid of putting work out in the first place.
When you (reader, consumer, audience) respond to the work in any way, I start to feel legitimate. I want to challenge you to hype up your fellow hustlers and give them real, positive, constructive feedback. Legitimize their work by being a good hype man.
“Goodness” and “legitimacy” are achieved by spending time, investing financial resources, and gaining access to public platforms to share your work. The availability of these things are different for every person, so doesn’t it follow that what makes work “good” and “legitimate” is also different for each person?
My real First Lady Michelle Obama said a few weeks ago, “I wish that girls could fail as bad as men do and be ok… Because let me tell you, watching men fail up — it’s frustrating.” A liar, cheater and abuser manifest-destinied his way into the most powerful seat in America. He has unlimited resources to achieve success and his legacy (at least to my liberal ass) will forever be trash. And I can’t even call myself a real writer?! I have to give myself more credit.
Think daily about how far you’ve come with the cards you’ve been dealt. Then applaud yourself, buy yourself a fucking funfetti cake, pop bottles… Because you’re making. shit. happen, bitch! Look at you!
“The only resource I need is the will to make it happen.”
My dear friend Isaiah Sanabria is writing, directing, acting, producing, all-around finessing his own autobiographical video series based on being a beautiful queer Latinx gawd (<<prime example of hyping your friends up.) Once, I asked him if he feels confident that he had the resources to keep making this work and he said, “The only resource I need is the will to make it happen.”
Are y’all taking notes!??! If . you have the drive to make it happen, you’re 80% there. I learned to stop letting my anxiety become the center of my creative projects, and just do the damn work.
“Professionalism is a colonized concept.”
I recently went to a screening of Mercy Mistress, and one of the cast members talked about cultivating a professional environment that encouraged each team member to come as a whole person. You never know how everyone’s different experiences can strengthen your team’s morale. Actress Poppy Liu said, “Professionalism is a colonized concept. The idea that you have to be stoic and have a separate work persona is a white-washed, colonized concept.”
This had me shookity shook shook shook.
I recognize how privileged and lucky I am to work in such a lax, casual start-up environment, and I know that this is not everyone’s reality. I cherish my coworkers for giving me the space to fully be myself even if it doesn’t contribute to productivity. I have a love-hate relationship with my bosses, but they really did give me many opportunities for career and personal growth, and I don’t take that for granted.
There are systems in place that don’t allow us to show passion, fault, humanity in our work. The definition of being “professional” depends on separating messiness of pregnancy, childbirth, natural disaster, family turmoil, mental health, sexual assault from a person’s output, and this definition at its core is dehumanizing. If you are in an environment where you don’t feel like you can fully flourish as a whole creative person, I encourage you to take all possible moves to leave. Even if you’re not a creative person, and you just don’t feel like your work environment where you don’t feel like your work environment is a safe space to express yourself and explore the passion you have for your trade, just get the fuck out! Your mental health and the pulse of your long-term goals depend on it.
Turn your competitors into your collaborators.
As a double Leo, competition is basically my lifeblood. When I was in a dark, deeply unhappy place, it was really difficult for me to be happy for other people who (in my eyes) were doing better than I was. This is definitely cheesy, but clouds truly parted for me when I realized that the only person I need to be competing with is myself.
If I’m the only person I’m in competition with, it then follows that the people I surround myself with are not competitors, but collaborators. I became less protective of my ideas and my process, and let other creative minds add richness to my work. I used to be so anxious to share work with anyone, but there are a select number of people who have truly helped me reach out for support, and I appreciate you.
Don’t stop talking about all the things you’re working on — whether it’s an idea, some shit in the works, issues outside of your expertise, topics you’re curious about. Put it all out there because you never know who can connect you to the resources you’re looking for to make your shit come to life.