So, going all the way back to issue #3 of this newsletter that I’m now on issue #89 of, I’d like to reflect a bit on on that bit about building rhythm and how it ties to creativity.
See, learning a musical instrument is a great thing to do, and it makes you a generally more creative person, but at some point, you can find yourself really hurting from all of that fancy fretwork.
I started playing guitar more than two decades ago, and was quite good at it after a while, though I was mostly doing so to write my own songs in a very lo-fi Elliott Smith vein. (Here’s my SoundCloud, if you must insist, but I warn you that these songs are from my 20s and my microphone was an iBook G4.) But I would find that after hours of playing, I would inevitably run into this problem with my fingers where they would start to get sore from all the playing. Sure, I had gotten through all the work to callus up my fingers, to gain all that muscle memory, and after all that, my left hand is screaming at me to give it a break.
The challenge that I think people who have found a rhythm struggle with is how much to keep their pedal on the gas. They have a lot of ideas they want to pursue, a lot of directions they’re willing to go, but there’s only so much time in the day.
(George Pagan III/Unsplash)
If you see someone really famous creating at a high level—think Mr. Beast level, but also think any popular TV show host—you’ll notice they always have a massive team around them. And that’s because, at some point, they have to choose what to focus on to make it manageable. So they have to hire. (This video by Patreon founder Jack Conte highlighting how Rhett & Link lean on a massive team it is a great way to get an idea of what I’m getting at.)
But lower down the creative food chain, you’re going to still see a lot of solo acts. And trying to fill out all these creative ideas as a solo act can be incredibly stressful not just on the physical elements but also the brain. You find yourself stretching to see if you can continue to create and make room for all of these ideas, and the truth is, stuff has to go.
I largely gave up playing guitar when I first started writing ShortFormBlog 12 years ago. I needed the mental room to take on that work, and the guitar, much as I love it, it was first to go. (I still pull it out sometimes.)
In a lot of ways, just as my fingers got sore from all of that chord creation, my brain gets sore sometimes from having to juggle a lot of good ideas that I may not always have the time to complete. It can be a lot, and our current creator economy doesn’t really offer an offramp to deal with stuff like this.
In the case of the work I do on this specific newsletter and with Tedium, I have figured out ways to manage it all: This newsletter has a time limit so I don’t overextend myself on it, and with Tedium, I intentionally pull an old piece out of the archive to update and refresh it once a month, partly as a way to build in the occasional lighter load on a newsletter with a very regular clip.
But doing more can get a lot sometimes, and I think that as creators we need to be honest about the impact it can have being on the treadmill.
I think in the solo creator space we’re going to see a lot of good people start to hit the mental health wall after a while, as the extra junk that comes with being a public-facing creator gets in the way one too many times.
So my feeling on all of this, if you’re building a newsletter or creative project like I am: Find ways to create a lighter lift every once in a while, so when the signs of mental RSI kick in, you don’t just keep running into a brick wall.
And if your favorite creator seems to be looking or feeling a little stressed, don’t be afraid to check in. You never know how much that show of support can help.
Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes
Time left on clock ⏲: 9 minutes, 18 seconds