I’ve decided to start a series all about the mechanics of a creative spiritual business. Around 50% of my clients are also online spiritual creatives, and many others aspire to eventually do creative spiritual work. Every week countless questions pour in through my client sessions, as well as emails and messages–all regarding the behind-the-scenes work running a creative spiritual business. With the global economy taking a large shift, I think this series will be an important contribution to helping people who are already or want to be walking this path.
And yes, if you are running a spiritual business it is by nature going to require creativity. I’d argue that any type of solo-preneur kind of business will require creativity to some extent. Remember that creativity is not just the making of art (although it can be artful). To use my favorite definition of creativity:
“Most people confuse ‘creative’ with ‘artistic’ and associate creativity with its end product – an accomplished painting or beautifully iced cake. But creativity does not (necessarily) equal artistic. Creativity is the basic quality inherent in nature that is responsible for making energy come into form. Plants produce flowers and fruits. Birds and insects lay eggs. Spiders weave webs. Creativity’s basic biological purpose is to reproduce and sustain life. But it seems to do so in the most dynamic, beautiful, bizarre, extravagant and elegant of ways... But creativity is not just about an end result. Creativity is a process itself: a way of thinking and problem solving ‘outside the box’, finding innovative solutions. It is the application of thought, I wonder what would happen if… onto the material world.” - Lucy Pearce
Anything that moves your craft forward is going to be creative development. And that includes the brass-tacks details of how you run your creative spiritual business on a day-to-day basis.
What makes me qualified to talk about this? I’ve been working for myself since I was a teen, having only had a handful of “normal” jobs throughout my life. For 11 years in my early adulthood I was a digital marketer and business developer. My partner has been doing all that for much longer than I have. We have worked with a wide variety of businesses from small mom-and-pop community businesses all the way up to Fortune 100 corporations.
While I don’t want that to be my life’s work anymore, I have much to share with those who struggle with running their business, because I’ve been doing it for a very long time.
My goal is to help people understand the realities of what it takes to work for themselves (it’s hard work!), and also help them avoid burnout. You decided to go down this road because you love what you do, and I want to keep that love alive. I’ve made all the mistakes, and I can help guide you to hopefully avoid those too!
If you’d like me to answer your question in this series, you can fill out the form here:
THE SECRET DAILY ROUTINE FOR ROBUST CREATIVITY
We’re all guilty of wanting to know what the daily routines of successful people are, as if somehow that will give us the magic answer to getting shit done without stressing ourselves out. It’s perhaps the number one question I receive in-sessions with clients! Naturally, I’ve been down this road. In fact, you could say I’m a little bit of an expert on the topic.
During my Saturn Return, in which I horrifically realized that I had built a career that I despised, I became obsessed with the daily routines and rituals of highly creative and successful people. I spent hundreds of hours tracking down biographies and various other books to understand the commonality of these creative geniuses we all aspire to be like.
I can save you some time. No one has the secret code to prolific output. In fact, what I've learned is that every creative hero of mine is simply finding unique ways to trick themselves into doing the work. Over time this becomes an inviolable habit from sheer persistence to play.
The only commonality of all these people has been their persistence in trying over and over again until something stuck. They became married to the process, rather than an outcome, which gave them the longevity that you may be seeking. The ones who seemed to mostly avoid the “tortured artist” trope, were those who looked at their practice with play and grace.
That being said, we’re in a unique position at this time in history. We have more free tools available to us than ever before, but there is a war for our attention that is waged mostly through purposefully inducing massive amounts of anxiety in our bodies. Not only that, but if you’re a spiritual creative business, you most likely work from home which comes with its own unique set of challenges.
I’ll use myself as an example, as one of the other typical questions I get is, “Wow the quality of you and Damien’s class meditations is so great! How do you do that? Do you go to a studio?”
Haaaa I wish we went to a studio. But we have some unique challenges here.
JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS WHILE SINGING
Both Damien and I are immunocompromised, and sadly our little Irish town has abandoned all pretense of masking or social distancing. Going to the closest studio would mean risking illness, and neither of us can really afford to take large quantities of time away from work in order to recover.
Not to mention the studio nearest to our home wants people to commit to $500 a month in rent to access the damn thing–and they don’t have a formal way to schedule that time. Not only is that outside of our budget, but why would I pay to go to a studio that does not formally make a schedule which can lead to conflict and wasted time?
Instead, we record everything in our home.
Damien was a professional musician in his early adulthood. As a result he has a decent amount of expertise in cleaning up, editing, and mixing audio to a professional level. I went to film school and briefly worked in the industry, so I know a little bit about how to record things with cleaner outcomes and selecting equipment that makes the job easier. I was also a performer for many years of my life, so I have a few tricks for making easy-to-listen-to recordings.
The real challenge is finding time and silence to record.
Ever since last year when Damien came down with a lung infection that stretched for more than 6 months, he has not fully recovered to a point where he can easily talk out loud for long stretches of time. Which means that recording needs to be squeezed into my schedule, alongside all the consults I’m currently doing in a week.
Not to mention that over the last few months our landlord has decided to go on a quest to cosmetically upgrade our neighborhood so he can justify artificially raising the rent–so most days there is a mower, power washer, or lots of construction noise. When he’s not running around the neighborhood making lots of noise, we still have to contend with children loudly playing, neighbors driving up in loud cars and slamming doors, dogs barking, the sound of sheep and cattle in the field behind us, the extremely friendly and bossy murder of crows that hangs out on our roof, and much more. There are other variables, like weather causing our internet and power to flicker or go out during the autumn and winter… but I think you get the point. Finding silence and time with the right circumstances to record is not easy!
Yet, in true artist’s fashion… We have a vision. A vision of beautiful, customized meditations for our students and clients that aids their spiritual journey and health. And come hell or high water, we want to create them!
This becomes a lesson in making friends with Saturnian necessity and creative constraints–and remember that Saturn exalts in a Venus sign! Weirdly, our best work often comes from finding creative solutions to extenuating circumstances.
HACKS FOR MAKING BEAUTIFUL RECORDINGS
First, we invested in a very good quality microphone, wind filter, and pop screen. This was a few hundred dollars, but it makes our jobs infinitely easier. We also have a portable soundproof panel in the shape of a half-cylinder to keep noise out and only reflect our own voices.
(We use the Rhodes NT USB Microphone, if you’re wondering. The rest of it was whatever we could grab at various local electronic stores, as they came up.)
Damien became proficient in using Adobe Audition, and created various custom filters to help remove ambient noise without losing room tone (which is what makes things sound natural). This was several hours of time going through tutorials to improve his existing sound skills.
We also purchased appropriate backing tracks that can be combined and looped almost endlessly with as little effort as possible.
The best time to record in our neighborhood is in the evening after 9pm, Sunday through Thursday (except holidays, naturally). Most people are in bed, our landlord is no longer running around, the wildlife has settled in for the evening, and it’s mostly quiet.
To give us the cleanest audio possible, I set up in my bedroom on my bed with lots of blankets and pillows. My bedroom has the least amount of noise reflection in the house and doesn’t seem to pick up on outside noise from neighbors nearly as much as the rest of the house.
So, for the cost of 1 month of studio use, we created a very flexible home studio. The only ongoing cost is for the Adobe suite. The real challenge is finding the sweet spot where I have time and energy to record, and the neighborhood is mostly quiet. Some days that can feel like a needle in a haystack.
This has been a continuously amorphous situation for the last 3 years. We have to creatively respond to the circumstances in front of us. Often this may require learning new skills, trying new things, or being flexible about when things happen.
GETTING MARRIED AND MASTERING YOUR PROCESS IS THE KEY
Anyone who is a spiritual creative can relate to this. You’ve had to twist yourself like a pretzel in countless ways in order to do your work, due to whatever weird circumstances outside of your control.
This is why I do not believe in a rigid schedule for solo-preneurs who work at home. Imagine if I created a rigid schedule with everything going on above! I’d be endlessly tearing my hair out because life isn’t conforming to my expectations. This is often what leads to misery in our daily routines as creative professionals.
Instead, I have a general schedule and routine that is purposefully built for flexibility. I’ve also invested a lot of time in getting to know how my creative process works–how to trick myself into doing the work when I feel exhausted or worry that my clients won’t love the new thing I’m making. And I’ll likely continue to invest time in understanding my process until I die–because human beings are not static, and I will change over time.
Mastering and marrying my own creative process is what allows me to have grit in crazy-making situations, like what I just described above. Loving what I’m doing and being invested in how that will help others also fuels me to keep going, even when I want to throw myself into a river, like Monet, from sheer frustration.
As Robert Henri said, “The object is not to make art, but to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”
I had forgotten that over the course of last year. With failing equipment, the stress of providing and caring for family members who were sick for a prolonged period of time, wrangling with my own chronic illness, and more… I was burnt out! Of course I was!
MAKING ART INEVITABLE
In the course of that time, I completely stopped my vital routine that made art inevitable–that makes creative problem solving so much easier to access. It made my health problems worse, because my routine also helps to keep my stress in check.
I would say this is the biggest challenge for solo-preneurs today: they don’t invest in understanding their creative routine, marrying it, and mastering it.
But you are the vessel through which all your work must flow through! All the beautiful things you want to create come from inside of you. And if inside of you is an empty husk, it will be increasingly difficult and eventually impossible to make things happen.
Some of this requires reducing stress factors and outside influences. There’s a reason that countless artists go to work in remote places like deserts, huts in the forest, remote islands. They know that their creativity requires them to curate the input they absorb.
Necessity and creative constraints work in our favor, if we examine things really closely. Too many options and too much information actually overloads the human brain and puts us into a freeze state. This is the drive behind a lot of procrastination today.
A rule I had to institute last year so I would stop dreaming of throwing myself in a river and never returning to human life again, was to narrow what social media and news I was passively consuming. Being “informed” was not helping me create better work nor really helping anything at all, other than making me a nervous wreck. It was destroying my ability to work because it added to my already mile-high burden of stress I was carrying on my back. I already stay in touch with the causes I’m dedicated to, and give donations frequently. There is no justification for filling my head with despair on causes I do not have the capacity to help with in a tangible way. So I began to curate my feeds with more of what made me happy rather than outraged, and limited my screen time as much as I could.
I know that getting off screens and just walking in nature is basically the most vital part of my creative process. Seems that’s the truth for countless other creatives I’ve researched–walking is a typical habit of poets, painters, philosophers, scientists, and world-changing politicians. There’s a lot of science behind this–but I’ll save that for another post.
I know that getting sleep helps my brain to recover and bounce back from stressful days. I, like so many other people, have chronic sleep problems. When I’m stressed, they are even worse. Again I had to trick myself into doing the thing I needed to do. I played with various bedtime rituals and landed at a series of teas that I drink, burning some fragrant hydrosols on an oil burner, turning the lights down low, writing stream-of-consciousness in a journal to get the garbage out of my head, and reading or listening to low-key books that help me calm my brain down. On really bad nights, I take a very brief cold shower, because lower body temperatures help you go to sleep.
I’m notoriously bad at remembering to eat, or even move, when I’m focused on something (which is most of the time, most days). Since this has been a thing for me since I was a child, I decided to outsource this specific challenge. My wonderful Cancer rising girlfriend is tasked with making sure I am fed, watered, and stretched every few hours. Turns out that keeping your blood sugar steady really helps with reducing feelings of doom, and keeping your brain functioning for creative tasks. Who knew? (Everyone but me, apparently.)
I’ve discovered much more than this for my own creative routine, but I think it’s important to highlight the absolute essentials. Movement, fresh air, curating input, getting enough rest, and keeping blood sugar steady will do wonders to improve your life and your creativity, I kid you not.
SATURN AND REALISTIC ROUTINES
These things don’t seem related to business, do they? But they are if you want to succeed. Understanding that when you select specific limits in your life you are opening other doors (as my dear friend Diana Rose Harper teaches ), is a part of being a healthy spiritual creative.
Notice how I’m not prescribing these things at specific times? This will never be a rigid Forbes-style schedule that feeds into hustle culture. Most of us are not built for that, and it hurts our health over the long term.
Saturn is not looking for a perfect daily schedule you never deviate from. Saturn wants you to understand YOUR OWN limits, needs, and process so that you can make REALISTIC commitments.
I know if I stop being rigid about WHEN I do these things, that I’m more likely to do them when it feels natural to me. This is much more realistic with the constantly moving circumstances of living and working in a rather loud community, living in a beautiful but remote area, and being a chronically ill individual who needs to support a family.
There is no better time to sort this out for yourself, than now. Mars will retrograde in Gemini while trine Saturn. It's a good time to try on a lot of different hats in your daily creative routine and find what works for you. This trine is supportive in finding the daily actions that give you grit and agility in your creative life, and divesting from structures that do not serve and feed your creative genius.
If you’ve built rigid structures in your life, prepare for them to be challenged into more fluidity. As I’ve told countless clients with heavily mutable charts: in the age of the Anthropocene it is vital to be agile and multi-skilled. Saturn moving into Pisces this coming March is about to show us just how true that is over a 2.5 year time period.
My advice? Become way more interested in the process of what will make the doing of your craft inevitable. Where it feels like play, where creative answers can emerge in the moment and innovation thrives. This may take some time, but spending that time is what can determine your ability to make this work in your life!