Sarah May Bates
Updated May 07, 2015
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If you prefer to listen, here’s the podcast version of this post. What is a slashie? A person who knows that their day job isn’t their real job: a busboy/actor; waitress/screenwriter/photographer; singer/production designer/legal secretary. Your slash is your professional makeup. In other words, most of us – if we are honest with ourselves. Because a creative thinker is many things, today if you are a slashie you are forging a new path in a wide open sea of opportunity, but you likely haven’t solved for that single, money-making passion just yet. But that’s a good thing – unlike how it might feel to a slashie – this stage is part of the process. Slashies are a growing percentage of the workforce because careers nowadays don’t have “work experience.” A creator can build a new app/community/business overnight and because of that, new job definitions are being invented every day. Thanks to equal opportunity of the internet, it’s like a claim-jumper era for creatives with a desire to build something new.

It can be hard to choose a new career or even entertain the idea because if you are an adult, you want to be stable and have security. Because, hey – when you’re a grownup, that’s what you are supposed to do. Thankfully nowadays there are all sorts of new avenues for creative thinkers to pursue professional careers based on their particular aesthetic and passions. So that’s what this is about. Five ways to better pursue your creative passions and figure out what can take your slashes to a more convenient or purpose-driven definition – for you as a creative voice with one lifetime on this earth.

  1. Let go of the struggle.

Often for creative individuals, the biggest suck to productivity and focus is the pain and frustration caused by being a slashie at all. If you’re a painter, you likely hate that you are also a banker. If you’re a writer, you might feel like a failed writer if you have to serve people burgers. But that is absolutely not the case and you have to start by changing that mindset. Know that it’s an essential part of the process and as a way to protect yourself from this suffering, start by dividing your jobs by their distinct value, in your own mind.

Yes, one of the literal downsides to this split time is being unable to focus on your passion. So in order to make true progress, you have got to stop lamenting that fact – as it is often the truest time-suck. Treat this stage of life like an objective equation – separate your mental time and focus just as you separate your literal time. In the book, You are a Circle the author describes a great equation for creative evolution:

  • Your first job is to live: it pays the bills. For creatives – often that’s taking a job that you can rely on in the in between hours – something like Task Rabbit or Lyft that allows you to work when you decide to.
  • The second job is your professional experiment. It’s a job based on your creative slashes, something that you hope will bring in some money – that furthers your creative path.
  • The third job is simply to play and grow. It doesn’t pay you anything but it grows your capacity as a thinker. It keeps you open and changing. For this job, try something totally new that allows you to grow.

The goal is to juggle all three of these jobs at all times – and ensure you are addressing each one throughout your week. Whatever the ratio, if you can handle that – you are in fact moving closer to your dream job.

The most important part of all of this process, is forgiving yourself the exact place you are right now and knowing that this part of it is necessary to expand and experiment. It’s okay to play with new mediums and try and fail and learn a ton from those failures. You need this time to solve what you will eventually master. If you’re innovating your own new job description, you won’t stumble upon it on a set path. Which is the great part about being a creative entrepreneur.

  1. Invest in your joy.

If it brings you joy, keep doing it. Commit to its value in your life and take it seriously. In other words, don’t take it lightly or discount its value as the “irrational” or “casual” slash– just because it’s not your money-making slash now doesn’t mean it won’t be in three years from now. But it’s up to you to take it seriously and say you mean it. Those gusts of joy are truly the clues that lead you to a passion-based career that you will be great at and find success within. That includes all the love-filled hobbies that you might think are trivial, like taking photos of your ramen on Instagram.

The real path to success comes from making an investment: of literal time, serious intention, and committing to the long haul. Finding success as a creative who is forging your own path comes from evolving and growing yourself bravely. That means quite a bit of trial and error and sticking with it for longer than feels right or fun.

For example, there is a growing percentage of creatives who have as a byproduct of their social posts – have now become official “influencers” and now get paid by sponsors to create custom posts. Why is this good? Because they’re getting paid to be themselves – “Assignment: just keep being you and create another super awesome post to your existing audience – and here, take some money from our perfectly aligned product!”

  1. Don’t just share, build a community.

Just like the saying goes, “It’s who you know.” So much of forging your own success will come from investing in the community of like-minded creative individuals. It can feel like the internet is cold and anonymous but it becomes like a series of small towns once you begin making connections to the right creative communities that align with your voice. And it’s through community that you will find others to help you better build your personal brand. You will “network” without having to feel gross and dirty and even say that word aloud.

The important part of growing your slashes is finding the environments that foster and promote those parts of you – that expand your horizons and enlighten you as a creative professional. Be brave in how you build your own creative entrepreneurial community – treat it like an extended group of friends who are excited for you and think you are cool. For example, Ilovecreatives is an online community for just that: creative individuals who are slashies trying to connect to others just like them. Whether it’s for a drink-mixer, a lecture, or an individual creative promotion.

  1. Treat your creative self like a potential profession.

Basically, invest in expanding upon those passions and grow your open roads as a professional. There might not be job experience for the creative skill you will eventually perfect, and the best way to forge that path is learn any and all skills in related areas! Thanks to the interwebs there are tons of new budding creative communities to help you invest in the facets of your creative self and grow your ability to self-employ.

  • General Assembly hosts lectures spanning mobile app design to public speaking. It’s like a working-professional-based college for anyone who’s making ish happen for their personal or professional empowerment.
  • Jennifer Puno (of this previous interview) hosts webinars teaching individuals how to grow their Instagram following, as an individual or an individual trying to enhance their personal brand or business.
  • Marie Forleo has B-school – an online training program for creative entrepreneurs of all kinds. No matter what kind of passion you have, you can convert it into your number one job, if you approach it that way.
  1. Force openness to newness.

The brain by nature, hates what is unknown. Chemically, we are adverse to change – we are addicted to what is familiar, even when that makes us unhappy. So often when it comes to newness you will have to force yourself to stay open and embrace new change. It never helps to close yourself off to things or decide you know what they mean. Even on a small scale – as a natural stance, assume “openness.” Each new online platform gives you an opportunity to thrive and reach a new community, so before you say you “hate Twitter” or you don’t like sharing, try it out. Commit to not knowing anything for sure, until you try it —and that being a good thing.

You are on a road that leads to happiness that translates into all areas of your life. You are growing who you are – and that is extremely valuable no matter the destination, because it improves your personal expanse, right now. So keep on keeping on and don’t get distracted by staring at your feet. Keep looking ahead to what’s next and keep smiling – because this voice of creativity is in you for a reason. It cannot be squelched and if you ignore it, it will stay under your skin for the rest of your life – itching to be expressed. I don’t say that to scare you but to push you in the same direction with a high-ten and a “whoo!” Because being a slashie isn’t optional, it’s necessary – you are being true to who you are, and right now it’s time for you to discover more about who you are and what you are meant to bring into this vast and limitless world. Everyone has an audience of like-minded individuals. It’s your job to keep pursuing your own answers as a creative so you can find them.

Smile lovely friends! And go for it. xo Sarah-May B.

Featured image via Flickr