March has been the scene of a major existential crisis at Productive Happiness headquarters. You might have noticed that I’ve been missing in action last week, and this absence was the result of this whole I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-my-life crisis that’s been going on for the whole past month. Be prepared for a very honest and vulnerable post.
I’ve been blogging here at Productive Happiness for the past 2 years, except for a medical leave that lasted a few months in late 2016 and early 2017. Following that medical leave, I quit my day job and gave a shot at earning a living from the blog. I tried several things, incorporated affiliate links and even launched my own coaching program, which was a total and absolute fail. In early January, I came to the conclusion that I needed to supplement my small income with a part-time job, which I did not really enjoy.
I started reading more and more business books, marketing tactics and sales books to help crack the code of money-making with a blog. Each time I would force myself to read one of these books, I could feel myself dying a bit. I loathed these reading sessions, but I felt like I had to up my marketing game if I ever wanted to earn a full living online. But it felt awful.
I started surveying my readers, trying to find the perfect product I could sell to finally break even and be able to pay the bills. People seemed to be most interested in productivity tips and tricks, so I started orienting my weekly blog posts on the topic of time management and productivity tools, putting aside personal development in the process. But I felt disconnected gradually from the essence of the blog, the very reason that made me pick up writing in the first place : inspiring my readers to take charge of their happiness.
The more I felt disconnected from the essence of the blog, the more I dreaded writing, the very thing that has been my passion to start with. I found myself rushing articles, spending very little time researching and writing, and more and more time “grinding” to promote the blog and my coaching services. Marketing and selling has never been a passion of mine, and now most of my time was devoted to this aspect of the business, killing my drive, and quite frankly, my happiness.
In March, I realized that my part-time job was barely covering my expenses, and my website’s hosting renewal was closing in. I did not have enough money to cover the cost. My precarious financial situation was stressing me out to the point that I could not fall asleep, and I spent my days worrying about how I would cover the upcoming bills. Stressing over money made me less interested in creating meaningful content and I could really feel a huge disconnect with the whole blogging process.
I wrote at length in my journal about the whole situation, my dreading blogging, marketing and coaching, my worries about money and how unhappy and miserable this whole thing was making me feel. And something hit me.
Last year, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, a book about the creative process, twice. One of the lessons from the book did resonate with me a lot when I read it, but I did not quite grasp it until this very moment, writing in my journal.
“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert,
In her book, Gilbert advocates for us to keep ourselves responsible for earning money, not our creativity, for we could get frustrated, despaired, and angry at our craft for not being able to provide for us, and eventually lose touch with the magic of creating. And that’s exactly how I feel now, after a year of trying to make a living out of my passion for writing. I’ve become defeated, scared, and frustrated at the whole thing.
As far as I can remember, even being a young kid sitting under a tree with a notebook and a pen, writing has been something I’d do because I love it, because it’s an extension of my being. And now that I’ve been putting all that pressure on my craft to pay the bills, I’ve come to resent it. My hobby has become a chore. Something I loathe. This is not where I want to be.
Reflecting on this conundrum, thinking about what Elizabeth Gilbert shares in my Big Magic, how she’s been bartending and waiting table, allowing her writing to be a passion and not a burden, I took a huge decision. After a whole year writing full time, I decided to go back to work a corporate job full time, so that my day job would allow me to write for fun, as the very passion that I used to love. That’s where I’ve been last week. Easing into my new position.
Allowing myself to earn a living working a 9 to 5 job releases me from earning money from the blog, which means that I don’t have to create content I should be creating, and instead going back to creating content I love creating. From now on, no more listening to surveys to choose my next blog post. I want to write about the stuff that sets my soul on fire. I want to write about happiness and how to take charge of our own. I want to write more personal posts like this one, sharing failures and decisions that can change your life. I want to bring my soul back into my words, and I hope that you’ll stick around to see what it’s all about.
The moment I decided to go back to work and refocus my content on the stuff that really lights me up, I felt a huge release in tension. I felt alive and all the drudgery was gone. I took a step back from the blog and social media this week, to acclimate to my new work schedule and to reflect on what I wanted to do with the blog from now on.
You can expect a lot more of personal development topics in the coming months. The Bullet journal is here to stay, and I want to be writing a bit more about personal growth and how happiness plays a part in my personal life. I’ve been refraining from sharing book reviews last year because it seemed to be a less popular topic among my readers, but I’m a real bookworm, and talking about amazing books do light me up. So there’ll be a lot more of that too.
I might lose some readers in the coming weeks. That is one of the dangers of reorienting a blog with a following. But I trust that I will attract my tribe easily if I share content coming from the heart, authentic stuff that really resonates with me will resonate with my real tribe. I have to trust in the process. Page views is just a number, enjoying what I write is much more important than hitting my numbers.
So there you have it. I certainly hope that, if you’ve read this entry till the end, you’ve come here for the same reason that I’ve been writing this blog from the start, to take charge of your own happiness. And I hope that you’ll stick around. I truly appreciate you.
Now let me know, have you ever put pressure on your creativity in a way that turned it into a chore? If so, how have you reacted, and have you been able to go back to your bliss? I can’t wait to read you in the comments below.
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