When Creative Dreams Don’t Go According To Plan

The thing with messy seasons and struggling to find your purpose in life, is that sometimes it’s really hard to disguise the shit storm that’s happening inside you. I haven’t exactly been active with my blog over the past few months… and, it’s hard to explain it simply, but – I just couldn’t. Write. Be creative. All of it. Today, I’ve suddenly got a burst of creative inspiration again, so I’m rolling with it and sharing some behind-the-scenes of what’s been going on my side.

Because, it’s been FAR from pretty.

And, as I’ve discovered over the last few months, there’s a LOT more to life than what we choose to show between the highlight reel. Creative life isn’t all that. I’m getting real about a few things, things you don’t normally see from other bloggers or creative entrepreneurs. It’s time to set the record straight… but this is MY personal experience; I’m not saying it’s like that for everyone. I just want to shed a little light on a few things.

WARNING: This is a heart-to-heart life update kind of post, so it’s a little different to the kinds of things I normally write about. No tips or pretty pins or any of that today. Plus, part of me really wants to delete this, because it’s not easy admitting when things don’t work out the way you wanted them to. But I’m going to keep this here, because sometimes that’s EXACTLY what needs to happen in order for our hearts and souls to come alive again.

In other words, just embrace the shit storm and messy seasons, because they’re there for a reason. 

And they’re TEMPORARY.

Gotta remember that!

Why I Chose This “Dreamy” Creative Life

Just over a year ago, I quit my job for a few reasons…

Feeling boxed in was a huge part of it, but I’d also just lost my mom suddenly and unexpectedly. So I left to pursue freelancing again after I’d taken a month sabbatical, which I needed more than anything else at that point. Space to just breathe and deal with life the best way I knew how.

I’m so incredibly grateful for that month. (For this entire year, actually.)

After my month of figuring things out, I really got into blogging and decided that I was going to be this super successful creative entrepreneur…

Like Jenna Kutcher.
Like Melyssa Griffin.
Like Carrie Green.

Only, I was going to do in a MUCH shorter time frame. Because, I was ambitious and this was my dream and I was so damn determined to make it happen. Immediately. Or else…

And I did. Make things happen, that is. 

Goodness, I worked my butt off. Because perfectionism – and guilt (from working at home, I guess?).

I taught myself a LOT over the past year: everything from building mailing lists, opt-in pages and sales pages to creating clickable Pinterest graphics, email courses and community building  – basically, just about anything you can think of related to starting a creative online business. I watched Gary Vaynerchuk videos on repeat, I joined webinars, I took mini online courses, I created digital products and a free online resource library. I even got waaaaay out of my comfort zone and started a podcast. Me!? Introvert me, produced, edited and published 20 podcast episodes. I did it ALL.

I learned how to use Trello and Asana and Canva and Hootsuite. I was super diligent with writing and creating and connecting and marketing. I connected with so many like-minded creative individuals, it made my heart sing!

The world literally felt like my oyster.

The Big “WTF” Shift

And then, January happened.

For 3 months I’d worked on the relaunch of my blog (this included a huge digital product, content, graphics, etc.) and when I made it all live, I was so excited to feel this massive wave of pride and happiness.

But, I didn’t.

Instead, I felt something really strange and gut-wrenching – I felt disappointment.

It’s so hard to explain this feeling, because before January I was so passionate about getting everything out there. And then, just like that, it’s as if someone sucked all that passion right out of me. I felt completely deflated.

On top of that, I felt like I was doing something wrong. Because, I saw all these other bloggers and creatives hustling and seeming to really enjoy what they were doing, WHILE working full-time jobs, mind you. I didn’t get it. I was doing this full-time and I was struggling my ass off…

I felt like a huge failure.

Obsessed With The Blogging World

Before I tell you what happened from February onwards, I want to talk about something that’s not a very popular topic in the blogging world: IDENTITY.

You see, when I started Imagine You, I wanted to inspire people. I still do. But, I somehow convinced myself that EVERYTHING I did (from online status updates, to going to places and snapping pics) had to be connected to my blog.

I made blogging my top priority.

Don’t ask me how, it just gradually happened… I barely even noticed it. It’s only looking back now, that I can finally see how self involved it made me. I mean, I put it above everything... even my personal relationships, I’m ashamed to say. There were nights when I’d be promising for just “five more minutes” on the computer while supper sat on the counter getting cold. And those five minutes almost always turned into 45 minutes.

And what for?

To schedule the 30+ pins we’re told we “have” to schedule each day?
To spend 1-3 hours engaging with people on Instagram so that we aren’t forgotten?
Or, to treat a blog like a full-time business when it’s not making a single penny?

I can’t tell you the number of times I see people tweeting about their blog as if it’s a matter of life or death. They lost xyz followers, OMG the world is going to end!!!! They’re losing engagement, keep an eye out for their new posts – and a gazillion reminders leading up to it. Okay, you wrote a blog post – that’s nice. One reminder is plenty, thanks… no one needs a reminder every single day.

I’m not trying to be rude, just honest. I was like that too not so long ago and it’s easy to fall into that self-involved bubble. I guess what I’m trying to get at here, is that for me… over the last few months, I’ve come to realise that blogging isn’t ALL of me and that there’s a LOT more to life than blogging.

Honestly, some things I see online these days feel more superficial and narcissistic to me, than genuinely helpful and authentic. I miss authentic. I want to see more of that.

I HOPE to bring more of that here.

The Moment I Knew I Needed a REAL Job

At the end of February, it became really clear that this creative life just wasn’t working out the way I’d imagined in my head. It wasn’t a nice feeling… especially when I’d invested so much time, energy and money into building up a blog platform. But back last year, I thought freelancing was the way to go – that it would help support this creative dream.

And then after my last freelance writing gig in December, I realised it actually wasn’t.

I realised that this creative business I’d dreamed up, wasn’t actually a business at all.
It was a hobby; an expensive passion project.

I felt so LOST.

I honestly didn’t know what my purpose was anymore, because I’d created this identity of myself through my blog.

So there I was, trying to motivate myself to create content (when a big part of me wasn’t sure what the hell I wanted to do or write about), applying for jobs, and trying not to tear my husband’s head off every day.

Suddenly, this creative journey I’d built for myself, didn’t seem so dreamy after all.

I Want To Talk About Depression

So along with this lost feeling, came some depression.

I’m pretty open about mental health and I’m a huge advocate for it on Twitter. There is such a horrible stigma attached to it, so that’s why I’m talking about it here. Because I haven’t been. And, maybe you see all the positive things I share and think my life is perfect. (Which I promise you, it’s not!)

Or maybe you’re wondering how someone like me, whose really positive by nature, can get depressed. 

Let me tell you something, depression doesn’t care if you’re an optimistic person or not.
Depression happens when you feel lost…

It happens when you lack purpose, or community and connection.

That’s where I was.

It came in waves. One day I’d feel ALL the feels and not want to get out of bed. The next day, I’d feel happy and determined again. It was frustrating and heart-breaking all at the same time. I didn’t recognise the person in the mirror… I used to be so full of life, and there I was, a shadow of the Melanie I used to be.

On the good days, I applied for jobs and wrote a little content here and there.
On the not-so-good days, I thanked my lucky stars for Netflix.

I think it’s so important to talk about mental health like this. It’s real and so many people feel ashamed about it. I get that. I know it’s hard to be vulnerable and show life between the highlights, because truth? Not everyone can handle that. People I thought would be there to support me through anything, suddenly disappeared.

And people I didn’t think would reach out, did.

It’s funny how certain life-changing situations bring out people’s true colours.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over this past year, it’s that life isn’t about pretending. It’s not about portraying this picture-perfect life, because that doesn’t exist.

And hard truth? It does WAY more harm than good.
(Just go read about the link between Instagram and depression).

We’re human.

We’re allowed to be imperfect.
We’re allowed to have bad days.
And most importantly? We’re allowed to ask for help.

WHAT REALLY HELPED ME ON THE NOT-SO-GOOD DAYS

TALKING about it. I’m grateful to have a husband who supports me through thick and thin and makes an effort to understand what’s going on. I think that’s important. Just being open to talking about these things, instead of pretending that they doesn’t exist makes a HUGE difference.

Another thing that helped me a lot, was having WhatsApp chats and leaving long voice messages to two really close friends over the last few months. Again, it’s so amazing to see the friends that stick around when the going gets tough and who pull you back into the light when you need it most. Again, communicating about the not-so-pretty stuff to trusted people helps!

And of course, something I don’t really talk about a lot, because I don’t want to offend or annoy anyone, is FAITH. I’m a born again Christian (for the last 18 months) and I can’t imagine going through hard times anymore without knowing that at any time I can talk to God, about ANYTHING – even if I’m angry. There’s something so comforting about believing in something bigger than yourself.

Because, when you’re going through depression, it doesn’t matter if you have family or friends who love you, you just feel alone. Like the world is out to get you. You feel lost. You feel worthless. But, somehow, through all of this, I felt like I had some kind of hope…. like this was all just a season, a temporary storm and that somewhere… somehow, there was a light at the end of this very dark tunnel. I just had to be patient and not give up. And I feel like that’s exactly what these last few months were teaching me… the value of faith and patience, because I’m so ambitious and impatient… I want to control it all and make things happen yesterday!

Maybe instead of telling people to reach out (who sometimes aren’t able to), we should be paying more attention to the people we love and know and BE that help. A kind word, giving our time, just listening, making people feel valued, giving someone a giant bear hug. CARING about someone else besides ourselves. Those all help. SO much, I promise.

My Creative Journey Twist

Over the last few months, between the highs and lows, I kept applying for jobs.

BUT, there were so many jobs I didn’t apply for.
Because, when you’re 35, you might not know exactly what you want, but you DO know what you DON’T want.

I didn’t want to settle or feel like a number in some shmancy agency.
And, I didn’t want to do something I knew I’d want to leave in 3-6 month’s time.

I became really picky about the jobs I applied for, which might sound silly but that’s it for me: I want to make an impact. I want to be part of something great and meaningful. It’s my INFJ personality that wants to save the world. I want to work in a company that cares about its employees.

I craved office life again. And again, it’s as if someone magically put this on my heart. A year ago, I never would have believed I’d feel this way again… I mean, I was all set for this dreamy creative entrepreneur career.

Funny how life works out sometimes, hey?

There’s a reason for EVERY season, I really believe that. Especially the messy ones.

I learned a LOT – and I learned a lot about myself this past year, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

I GOT THE JOB I REALLY WANTED

And now, as I sit here in my pajamas on a rainy Cape Town day, I’m soaking up one last week at home, preparing things – and then… I join an incredible team and company that’s ALL about changing lives. A DREAM company. Finally.

I’m joining the rat race again!

Well, no… not really, because this company is all about work-life balance and flexibility. I’m honestly so excited about going back to full-day work, it’s crazy. But you know what else I’m really excited about?

BLOGGING again.

Blogging when I want to, in my free time… IF I want to for nothing but pure enjoyment. Not because it needs to be part of this creative career and I need to do xyz posts or status updates or Instagram posts a week. No thanks.

It’s time for a new chapter, so on that note… you can expect some little changes happening here.  I want to keep things fresh and I don’t want to keep this blog in the box its been in.

Let’s Chat, I’m Here…

I’ve been a little out of the loop lately, so please comment below or drop me an email if you feel like sharing anything. Also, I know not everyone is as open about mental health as I am, so feel free to message me if you have any questions or anything like that. I’m no expert, but I definitely want to help open more of these conversations. It’s important.

To new beginnings and the end of a messy season! x 

 

 

4 Replies to “When Creative Dreams Don’t Go According To Plan”

  1. Yes yes and yes. Thank you again for sharing your story. It’s funny how similar yet different we are. I used to binge Gary Vee until I felt like he was trying to kill us all with his hustle everyday every hour mindset lol. Blogging is tough and i would never trade it for a full time job right NOW. I’m glad you figured that out early and are now working at a job you love. You can’t be too creative for a 9 to 5 if your creative 24/7 isn’t quite paying the bills yet! It’s okay to have both 🙂

  2. Hi my beautiful friend! Congratulations on the new job. I am so proud of you for going after what you want. After I read everything you have done this year, I realised how much you have learned and grown. Thanks for sharing and all the best with the new job.

  3. Ah yay, i absolutely loved this blog post. So raw and real the internet needs more reality check. And I am beyond happy for you that things are starting to take a turn Mel! ^_^

  4. Congrats on the new job! Who saw that coming, right? So sorry to hear about the rough times, but I’m glad you’re getting through it all and that things are falling into place. Looking forward to more blog posts down the road, whenever you’re ready.

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