THE GIGS YOU DON'T ENJOY

Dirty dishes have to get done. They're just part of life. They happen. Just as sure as a sink full of dishes always follows a great dinner you cook for friends, you're going to get a gig now and again that makes your shoulders slump.

Should you say "No"? Should you try and sidestep it, deflect it, get along without it, look elsewhere?

Not if you're serious about your craft.

The thing about being creative, no matter what your business, is that you can't always choose how and when to bring the lightning. Sometimes the dishes simply need to get done. Sometimes you simply have to take a job because someone likes what you have to offer, even if you don't particularly like what they're asking for. Plus, there's always the feast-or-famine reality of life in the creative world. Sometimes you'll wish you'd taken the job you didn't particularly enjoy because it sure beats no job at all!

But in my mind these are actually mediocre reasons to take uninspiring gigs. They're real, to be sure, and they matter. But the best reason to take a job you don't love now and again is that it keeps you sharp. It forces you to come up with solutions to keep yourself engaged. Goofy gigs often also come with requirements you might not ordinarily have selected if left to your own devices. Brushing off rusty ways of thinking has a surprisingly powerful effect of reminding you about your own values, your own best abilities, your own power. You remember your own power, right? The enterprises you were going to pursue, the adventures you were going to travel, the castles you were going to build? When something annoying takes you away from the goal that fired your soul, you can either complain uselessly, or your can re-commit yourself to chasing that spark as soon as you get the job done.

Here's the biggie: the world isn't smooth. There are no ideal realities anywhere. As they say, there are only perfect lives in the movies, and if you're the person making the movie rather than living inside the movie, you're going to be traveling the bumpy roads of reality. That's why embracing periodic potholes rather than completely avoiding them can make you a better driver overall. You learn how to navigate and compensate; you learn how to innovate and rise above. You don't get thrown.

The trap into which too many people fall is that dull gigs can quickly become stock in trade; they can become ordinary, the rule rather than the exception. The gigs you handle out of grumpy necessity can drain your energy from the work you really want to pursue. Take too many, and you stop doing the thing that matters.

And then life gets away from you. You get older, but not better. Life runs out.

But once in a while? Don't fret. If you're paying attention to the most authentic forces driving your creative spirit, you'll come to see the occasional gig you didn't enjoy as an opportunity to grow in ways you might not have expected could use the practice.

And you know what? Feel free to cheer when they wrap.

--MS

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