As of late, I am what you call a “Freelance” worker. Emphasis on the free. Free from the chains of corporate trenches, sure. Free from all monetary comforts, a 401-K, and healthcare benefits? Yeah, I’m free of those too.
I used to have a capital D, Day job. But that quickly became a Night job and a Weekend job and even a Shit How Long Can I Keep My Fucking Eyes Open To Enter This Last Grade job.
In many ways I loved my j-o-b as a high school teacher. I loved the kids and the weird pubescent shit they’d say all the time. I loved being in all their Snapchats and also looking like a certifiable badass when I successfully laid down the law (which I probably only accomplished like one time).
But then I did this silly thing.
I exited that licensed and seemingly “safe” job for no job. I sprinted toward the unknown which for me meant packing two bags and moving to New York City to live my creative dreams and leaving behind me a wake of panic and also all my belongings in my parent’s storage unit that I insist they can’t throw away in the event that all this falls to shit and I need to crawl back home and file for bankruptcy.
What has become of those creative dreams? Shit, y’all already know I’m ranked #1,373,092 on Amazon today! I’m sure you’re aware that my podcast got 35 downloads in the past two months! Haven’t you seen me taking 2nd place in like every contest I submit to these days!?!?
I’m being funny. I do actually think these things are cool. But you get it.
Being creative is not exactly among the ranks of highest paying or most prestigious jobs these days. And honestly, I get it. That’s exactly why I didn’t want to be a creative the second I stepped foot in New York City in 2015 for a week-long improv class.
“Those aren’t like, real jobs,” I’d scoff when somebody said I should pursue writing or comedy as I started to moonlight haphazardly whenever I happened to not be telling a 16-year-old to quit ripping my posters off the walls.
This is literally what’s wrong with society.
My rejection of “artist” as a legitimate job description is exactly why it’s so important for me to continue teaching. Y’all. We are a bunch of creative idiots. And I say that in the nicest way. But really, what the actual hell.
If you, like I, have been or currently are of the mindset that to create is to be financially and morally reckless then please have a seat and let me educate you. Please keep your hands where I can see them at all times, place your cellphone in this bio-hazard bin, and shut the hell up for the duration of my lesson.
And no. You cannot use the bathroom.
Lesson 1) Artists do make money. Literally. They create it.
The biggest worry surrounding my trip to The Holy Land has always been money; if I have enough, how I’m going to go about getting it, and ultimately what to do when someone inevitably steals it all from my back pockets.
Other people have worried about this for me to such great excess that it began to consume me as well. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.
But then something crazy happened. I made some. I, Mimi Hayes the “starving artist” was suddenly not starving because I got some money to buy some slices of pizza.
How did I achieve such a miraculous feat?
I made it.
I mean OK, I didn’t like counterfeit it, OK, I’m just saying I made it meaning like something ̶
I made lots of things. I made childcare and I made blog posts about donuts and I made instructional guides on how to winterize your pipes and I made emails and I made writing classes and I made lighting cues and I made podcasts and I made entire books and I made speeches and I made comedy.
My income might not come in the form of one single paycheck every month, but I definitely made shit and got paid for it. I even have the pay stubs to prove it.
It is not your job (nor is it mine) to determine my worth based on what that dollar amount is so sit the f**k down and let’s get back to work.
Lesson 2) Being creative is fun. But not as much fun as not having daily existential crises.
Some of you in the crowd might see what I do as playtime; an endless buffet of hip comedy and author events that I go to and from without ever having to change into sensible shoes as I sip effortless on a craft-brewed latte.
If only you knew (you soon will by the end of this sentence) that most of my day is re-positioning my ass-pillow so as to not incur crampage while I fight against every distraction in my home to get a single email done.
Other days it looks different. Other days I find my “office” is actually a sweaty subway car where a homeless man is screaming and demanding I hand over my Cheetos and homeboy next to me is lighting up a blunt and all I want is five minutes of peace to construct a cohesive lesson plan for my writing class while I am running late to teach that very same writing class.
And still more, there are some days when I am tucked cozy into a sound booth, hitting buttons (seemingly at random) to make an off-Broadway show run smoothly while also planning a to-do list 37 items deep in my head for the following day.
It can be fun, what I’m doing. But it also isn’t fun. And it isn’t easy.
Which is why some people don’t do this shit.
What I show you on social media; sprinting around the city like a doofus, drinking bougie things, occasionally rubbing elbows with famous people (for the record, Bill Nye thinks I’m a redhead and we shared a plate of prosciutto that I didn’t pay for)…that’s just the highlight reel, what I choose to show people.
What you’re not seeing are all the times I’m not doing those things; all the times I am utterly hopeless and crying while eating Vegan tacos in my kitchen…oh wait, I guess I did show you that.
But really, there’s a whole inner world of fear, doubt, and creative self-sabotage that surrounds me like an ominous cloud just about every waking moment of my life. And if I’m lucky, in my dreams too.
Don’t fucking kid yourself. Being creative is uncomfortable. The only thing I can think of that is more uncomfortable than being creative is the suspected hemorrhoid I’ve been nursing for the better part of a year and a half because I don’t have health insurance. *winces, readjusts pillow*
Lesson 2.5) If you have solutions to said last paragraph please see me after class.
Lesson 3) Success is scarier than failure.
It’s a big ol’ lie. It’s not failure that we’re afraid of, OK? It never has been.
Because failure is actually what readjusts our lives. Failure is what shapes us and helps us overcome obstacles and reach new heights.
Shit, I wish I was trying to fail at something right now. That would be awesome.
No, it’s actually success that we’re afraid of. We’re so damn terrified of actually succeeding that we will go to great lengths to keep ourselves from doing so. We’ll scroll on social media and dating apps for hours on end, we’ll take naps when we’re not tired, we’ll drag our heels on projects that we could have finished months ago.
Because if we succeed then we actually have to change our lives. Our status quo would change entirely, shit we might change entirely. And that’s a scary prospect so we might as well watch one more episode or procrastinate for a few more swipes so that we don’t have to deal with that nonsense.
That is the biggest lie we can tell ourselves. That we’re afraid of failure.
No we are not.
Because obviously if you picked up a damn book or read any of my assignments you’d know that everyone who has ever been successful (scary) at anything (oo, empowering) has failed at it at least 10,000 times before.
Without those 10,000 failures that person wouldn’t be who they are today. They wouldn’t be as authentic or honest or humble and honestly who makes great shit their very first time that is just statistically improbable.
No I do not know the exact statistics. Put your fucking hand down.
Lesson 4) Creativity does not flow. Creativity is a skill and you better fucking learn it.
For the last god damn time NO I do not sit and write for eight hours of uninterrupted bliss and spew genius out of my hemorrhoided ̶ what do you mean ‘hemorroided’ isn’t a word SHUT UP I SAID ̶ out of my hemorrhoided asshole.
I’m lucky if I remembered to take my pills today much less do all that fanciness.
As I write this now in this fake classroom I have constructed out of my mind and a few crushed up Tylenol to numb my booty-pain, it is currently past midnight and I can think of about 12 things I should be doing now instead, the obvious one being sleep.
Nobody is holding a gun to my head (that I know of), I just thought maybe I should do this since I had one single, fleeting idea while in the shower a moment ago to write a blog about why it is that I can’t seem to get my creative shit together.
My “flow states” do occur from time to time, but they cannot be prepared for or predicted. They are often times like now, when I have forced myself into my pillow chair with no regard for what time it is or where I should be right now instead. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had water although a yellow note card next to me reveals I’ve consumed roughly four 17 ounce bottles as evidence of four little blue drops next to the word “Thursday.” It is no longer Thursday as it is past midnight now, making it Friday, a day that I still enjoy, more so than when I was a teacher when I’d spend the weekends wallowing in my own self pity and boxed wine.
See? There’s your fucking flow state. It’s right there in that paragraph.
Being captively in this state is not something I was born in. It’s not something I suddenly woke up with when I took on the title “writer.” It’s a skill. I l-e-a-r-n-e-d it. That’s what you do in my class, you fucking learn shit. Curse words and all.
And how do you learn shit? By making MISTAKES. Oh, I really don’t like writing in the morning, maybe I’ll try at night. Wow, I have a lot to say about the brain, why don’t I try writing more about that. Turns out writing a book takes a lot longer when you write like you’re a fat kid eating a cake over the kitchen sink so maybe with the next one I’ll try giving myself permission to write one full day a week without distractions or other responsibilities.
When y’all say you’re not creative I want to smack you with my yard stick.
It’s called “practice” look it up.
Lesson 5) Creative ideas are not random. They are parts of your soul screaming at you to pay attention to them.
Elizabeth Gilbert said it best with her book Big Magic and her podcast Magic Lessons does an even better job: Any time you feel the urge to make something, that is “Big Magic.” That is your unconscious self yearning to step into the world and create. And when you respect that calling, you become aligned in your creative self and as a consequence you end up making really dope shit.
For all y’all out there that are like, “Oh yeah, Mimi has recommended that book to me like four years ago…” WAKE UP PEOPLE YOU THINK I TALK TO HEAR MYSELF TALK.
It’s a free country, OK, but this is required reading and it will be on the test and that test is called fucking life so get with the program.
When I first read this book I started having dreams. Dreams that were so vivid and powerful that I awoke from them and immediately ran to get a piece of paper to write them down. This dream is a novel, I’d think to myself as I madly smudged the page with nonsensical dream logic. “ICE CAVES,” I shouted to my mother from a hotel room last summer. “SHE IS IN AN ICE CAVE AND SHE SEES HER FATHER DIE.”
This might sound like crazy hotel talk to you, but to me, I knew right away that it was Big Magic. And even if it took me years to capitalize, I was going to make something of these ideas.
Unfortunately, life is very good at fucking up our creative plans.
I’m too busy right now.
Work is crazy.
I just had a hemorrhoid removed.
I get it. Really I do.
But if not now, when? If not you, who? If not here, where? If not cat, dog? ̶ Opps, sorry, I got distracted. That is the main criticism on my Amazon reviews ̶
I really don’t care if you’re spiritual or not, OK back row.
What we do know is that our attention spans are short and so are our pathetic lives, so if you don’t capitalize on whatever that weird nonsense is ping-ponging around your skull right now then you can just show yourself the door ̶
Ah, perfect. Lunchtime. Take five.
Yes, I said five. What, you think Creatives have time to go for a leisurely brunch? There’s a vending machine down the hall. Knock yourself out.
Meet me back here with a fully outlined memoir about your experience being in this seminar.