Forgiving myself for not giving my 100%

The other day, I caught myself writing an extremely ordinary line for a social media post. When someone pointed it out, I felt extremely guilty for not trying my best, for not pursuing excellence in everything I write. After all, I chose this career because I love creativity! However, there are many things at play here. My colleague works from 9 30 AM to 12 30 AM (during movie promotions) and the clients still feel that she is not committed! Anyone who has worked in entertainment (or even advertising) will know that the sheer volume of work can overwhelm your brain. People don’t give a damn about your mental or physical health. When you work in such a culture, it is obvious that you will write ordinary stuff once in a while. As long as it doesn’t become a habit, it is okay! At the end of the day, you cannot be creative if you are not healthy, mentally (All the mental illness-creativity connections sound romantic but somehow, I’m not convinced!). I will keep pursuing excellence but I refuse to feel guilty for not giving my best sometimes. I forgive myself for not giving my 100 percent all the time. I will also try not judge my favorite artists for not putting in effort, once in a while.

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Introversion and brainstorming

I’m an introvert and I work at a place where there are regular brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming is a wonderful concept but it is a nightmare for introverts (I have a feeling that brainstorming was invented by an extrovert). Introverts derive energy and ideas from solitude. When they are in groups, they are often overwhelmed by the stimulus. The introvert spends his/her energy in dealing with this stimulus and hence, there is not enough energy for ideas. So what is the solution? Should we scrap the brainstorming sessions? IMHO, the answer is no. A better way to brainstorm is letting people work alone for a while and then getting together to brainstorm. This way, introverts get the time to come up with creative ideas and the organization can get the best out of the introverted employees.

I have mental health issues and I see a therapist

Yes, you read that right! I suffer from social anxiety disorder but that’s not the focus of this post (I will write about it in detail in future). The whole point of this post is: Why are we ashamed of talking about mental health? We don’t feel this kind of shame when it comes to physical health but there is something about mental health which makes us talk in hushed tones. I hope someone reads this post and decides to talk about his/her mental health issues.

So here’s the thing: I’m an adult and I have mental health issues. I have started visiting a therapist and I’m NOT ashamed of talking about this. Dr. Brene Brown says that shame thrives in secrecy. So if you have mental health issues. please seek help. Don’t be afraid of feeling vulnerable. If you are an Indian then you will find it really difficult to afford and find good mental health care providers but don’t lose hope. If you are an Indian then you will be discouraged from visiting a therapist but I urge you to trust your instincts. Don’t compare your life with your parents and brush off your issues. You live in a different world and your issues are different. They lived in simpler times but you don’t. Don’t let the older generation gaslight you. Try to challenge their views on psychology/psychiatry/psychotherapy. Stop using words like “mental” and “pagal” in a demeaning way because it creates a culture of shame. Accompany a friend to a therapist/psychiatrist/psychologist because it’s tough to find support when you are facing mental health issues. Last but not the least: Love yourself. It’s a cliche but don’t ever underestimate the power of self-love. Society has conditioned you to hate yourself. Rise above the conditioning. Use your intellect and do what’s best for you.

Genius and Mental Illness

There is so much talk about the connection between genius and mental illness. The arguments are valid because a genius thinks differently and that makes him/her vulnerable to depression, loneliness, etc. However, we often glamorize the mental illness when it comes to geniuses. This gives out two wrong messages:
1. That you have to be messed up in your head to be a genius
2. Your mental illness will only get attention if you are a genius.
Unfortunately, what is ignored is the role of discipline. No matter how talented someone is, he/she needs to be disciplined enough to learn, experiment and create. We also don’t talk about the joy that a genius derives from the process of creating and the patience that he/she needs to have to excel at his/her craft.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s 4-Question Test

I came across Elizabeth Gilbert’s four question test (click) on Oprah Winfrey’s official website and it’s thought provoking. Liz, like most of us, wanted feedback about her work and valued honesty. She was ready to listen to brutally honest feedback but she realized that there is a thin line between honest opinions and abuse. So, Liz designed a way to filter critics:
I came up with four questions to help me decide who got to read my work when it was in its most vulnerable stages: 
Do I trust this person’s taste and judgment?
Does this person understand what I’m trying to create here?
Does this person genuinely want me to succeed?
Is this person capable of delivering the truth to me in a sensitive and compassionate manner?
If I could not answer yes to all four questions, then I would not let that person read my stories. And the fourth question was the most important—because here is what I learned (the hard way) about readers and editors who offered me a “brutally honest” critique of my writing: They were always more brutal than honest.

Making a living from creativity

There was a time when I judged bad ideas but after working on creative jobs, I empathize with great artists who sometimes make terrible stuff. A lot of people want to leave their jobs and do something creative. But the problem with a creative job is that you are often expected to be a machine which churns out innovative ideas every day. No matter how disciplined you are, you can never eliminate the element of uncertainty that comes with creative thinking. Sometimes you are “in the zone” and you effortlessly come up with brilliant ideas. Sometimes, you are stuck and you start doubting your talent and (sometimes) your sanity. You wanted a creative job but now you have to deliver “results” before the deadline. There is a lot of anxiety and stress because you want to crack an out-of-the-box idea. But then, you have to think about the people who are waiting for that idea to pop up in your head: The people who will execute your idea and the people who will sell their product/service because of your idea. You want to tell them that you are trying your best but the problem is that you cannot prove that you are working hard! The invisible labor adds to the pressure and you might even start blaming yourself for not cracking the problem. But the truth is that you cannot always control creativity as it has a will of its own. You have to sometimes respect the mood and sometimes settle with an imperfect idea. This might sound blasphemous to idealistic freshers but this is the only way to survive. This doesn’t mean you don’t toil hard for your idea and aim for perfection…it just means that you respect other people’s needs and try to balance your vision of excellence with deadlines.

Importance of having passion projects

A passion project is something you work on (often outside of your chosen career path) that gives you satisfaction, happiness and puts you into a state of flow. It’s what you do to escape it all. It’s your tiny (or huge) contribution to the world. – Dr. Amy Shah

Some of us put in extra hours at our job if no one asked us to. Some of us are so dedicated that we go beyond our job profile to contribute something extra to the companies we believe in. This passion makes our lives more meaningful but it can also makes us feel exhausted and vulnerable. We may also lose our identity because at the end of the day, our company is owned by someone else and we can never be completely free to express ourselves through our work. There are benefits in creating for someone else. We are more disciplined, responsible and organized when we are answerable to someone. However, we get access to a different kind of passion and freedom when we work on our own pet projects/personal projects/passion projects. We don’t have any obligation to work on them nor do we have to “report” to someone. We are not getting paid for them either. Achieving results in the project may never boost our career prospects in a tangible way. And yet, passion projects bring us a joy that takes us back to our childhood when we did certain things without caring much about the results. If we have a job that we hate, passion projects give us the necessary energy and hope to get through the days, weeks, months and years. This happiness also spills over to our personal lives. Those who work on passion projects are less likely to be overtly dependent on their family or friends or their job for their happiness. Without these projects, we remain frustrated and in turn, make our friends and family miserable. They are not a “waste of time” because they have the potential to make an employee more productive. In fact, we may stumble upon an alternate career or a set of new skills. Having a passion project is like going back to our home…a place where you belong. This space gives us a form of security which is not available in even the most highest-paid jobs.

The lure of talent

When I was in my teens, I wanted to be talented at something. It didn’t matter whether I utilized that talent or not. It didn’t matter whether I messed up my life or even if I died without realizing my potential..at least I would be remembered as a “talented kid who could have accomplished so much”. I guess it’s not just me. Talent is attractive, magical. Theists say talent is a gift from God. It is this mystery and the aura around talent that makes it so seductive.

Perhaps, I wanted to be talented because I didn’t want to work too hard. But why did I assume that  talented people don’t work hard? In a way, talent makes things easier, but it also makes things difficult. Both talented and less-talented ones have to work hard. Perhaps, the talented one will have it easy in some areas but it requires commitment and discipline to manage talent. One has to make the effort to not get too carried away. Having an extraordinary ability can be a disadvantage because you start panicking once you have to learn something that doesn’t come easily to you. All human beings have to learn things that don’t come naturally to them. There are so many things involved in the process of presenting your talent to the world. You might be a talented pianist but playing the piano is only one part of your craft. You also have to build relationships with people who believe in your talent, find ways to showcase your talent etc. Perhaps, this is the reason why some insanely talented people don’t do justice to their talent…they are so used to “being talented” or “being a genius” that being an amateur or a student is terrifying for them. It is this belief that hard work is the opposite of talent, that creates pressure, both among hard-working and talented people. However, all our achievements are a combination of both. No human being is talented at everything. There are some skills that come naturally to us and then there are some that we have to build and nurture.

Ideals, work, love, etc.

Is it easier to be more dedicated towards your work than people?  “Work” doesn’t have any emotions. Your boss has emotions and expectations but the abstract concepts like “work” or “excellence” don’t have expectations. Dedicating your life to an “ideal” or a “passion” is noble, but dedicating your life to a person is dangerous…there are so many things involved including ego. If you dedicate your whole life to painting and you are poor, then people will call you a “true artist”. But dedicating your whole life to human beings makes you vulnerable. Irom Sharmila was a hero when she was fasting. But the moment she broke her fast, she is being treated as an outcast and her motives are being questioned. One can say that Sharmila’s fight is also for an “ideal”, but unfortunately for her, the ideals and human beings are entwined in her struggle. Are these ‘abstract’ concepts a way of avoiding pain? Or are they an attempt to connect with fellow human beings?