How I Love Knowing my Weaknesses as Strengths

I read this Copyblogger post that discussed “The 7 Bad Habits of Insanely Productive People,” and I longed to believe it fit me.

In many ways, it does, as I believe these habits are found in most creative people, and you are creative if you are an entrepreneur of any description, and if you are an artist in any medium–from gardening, quilting, and woodworking to painting, photography, and writing, and if you simply are a person who has managed to piece together a more than comfortable living from doing only the sorts of things you love.

Over-sensitivity, Flakiness, Selfishness, and Greed… Distractibility, Self-doubt, and Arrogance. How can I have every one of these “flaws?” Aren’t some of them contradictory? How can selfishness and greed be strengths? Please read the link first. Here I am going to talk about, well, ME. Yup. Me, me, me.

I particularly loved greed because, somehow or other, we think that if we are giving, if we believe in social justice and humanistic causes, greed does not fit.  This is the first time in my life where it has finally occurred to me that just because I would like to have a comfortable income and that I would like to be able to sell my paintings for something that approaches what I truly DO believe they are worth, does not mean I am a money-grubbing establishment capitalistic pig. I do not think successful business entrepreneurs who make more than $150,000 a year, or ten times that are awful people. So why the problem with being open with myself that I really would be happier if I were not poor… on the road to poor, having just survived three years of the real deal? (I sold my house, so I have money for a couple of years, while I try to learn to produce despite a pretty significant disability.) It made me smile just a bit, to think of Michael Douglas saying “Greed is good,” and accepting that, in myself, yeah. It’s there.

It motivates me to do more of what I love.

Selfishness is something many women struggle with. We think it is bad. We are brought up, often, to believe that putting ourselves first if we have families is wrong. Always. Oh, I am not talking about those ancient “Calgon®, take me away” commercials, where we are selfishly taking a bubble bath. I mean deciding to spend our time producing what we want to produce, rather than giving our all to the kids and our husbands.  When I was married and raising the kids, I was on disability for half of that time, just as I am on disability now.

I thought I had no right to use the disability income for clothes for myself, to go to the hairdresser, to even go out with my friends. I thought, because I was the kids’ main parent of the three of the parents, and was not earning money, that everything should be banked for them. I used my disability money for necessities, but not frivolities. I banked every dime of my stepkids’ disability for their schooling. It was my job not to be selfish. I did not write. I did not paint. I would not buy myself books, even.

Gee. What a surprise, I was not creative at all. I was half-dead inside. I do not think I am alone in this, where moms and wives are concerned. I think that the boomer generation and older were brought up to believe this was how we should be, all the while we grew up with feminism from our teen years on. HORRIBLE, wasteful, useless conflict.

Sefishness is necessary to productivity. Sometimes you need to block out all others’ needs to do your best, most fruitful work. I learned this as a freelancer, a bit before my marriage was blown up. Before that, the resentment of enforced selflessness erupted in the most destructive ways possible for my marriage. Oh, sure, my husband blew us up, but I was no prize as a wife. Period. The point is that a good hunk of selfishness allows us to work, and no one else suffers for that.

This backs up to self-doubt and arrogance. Most artists, I think, express the self-doubt, thinking that the arrogance and pride in our work is unjustified. It’s just art, after all. It’s not like it is valuable. My mom used to say, when I was proud of something I had done, “You’re not such a much.” It wasn’t truly that she felt what I had done was less than wonderful; it was that she did not want me to get full of myself and conceited. Inside, though, once again, I DID feel that I wrote more powerfully than lots of kids I knew. And I DID feel I sang well and had talent in visual arts. What I lived by for too long, though, was the thought that, really, who was I to always feel I should work for ME, not for a company?

Once I got rid of that after my divorce, I DID get off of disability. I turned on a computer for the first time in the Fall of 1992. In 1994 I had an “apprenticeship” in computer graphics with my graphics teacher, at her firm. I designed, did layout, and I taught computer graphics. By 1996 I was was the computer graphics layout person, a designer, a copywriter, and pen and ink illustrator for a small, successful Ad agency in PA. When I came back in 1998, I had my own business, working freelance for the Sunday newspaper magazine (It had a national reputation), doing marketing copy and design for two multi-million dollar nonprofits, and was writing copy for Northeastern University in Boston. And by 2001, I was the primary copywriter from my home, for the Stanford Center for Professional Development–part of the Graduate School of Engineering for Stanford University in California. It did not get better than that for me.

Distractibility helped me there. I am eclectic– curious and love science, human services causes, education, zoology, all sorts of things. It was the fact that I had a multidisciplinary background that Stanford wanted me. I am a butterfly, flitting from one subject to another to another, learning enough to satiate my curiosity, and then I move on.

I think it’s a must for artists. We bring our passions to our work, which is why one painting is different from another, from artist to artist. Why one writer’s voice differs from another. We apply our curiosity to our businesses.  So we live with a certain stasis: the need to move on lives alongside tremendous focus to finish a piece of art.

And if we do not have a dose of arrogance, how on earth can we expect to market ourselves to anyone?

I had never thought about these qualities in the same terms as the Copyblogger article. I think it was freeing for me, in a way. One day I will worry about pushing this blog. For now, it’s fun just to write about today. To write about why I did start from scratch and succeed.

It shows me that, having done it once, who is to say that even now, the sixty-year-old phoenix cannot rise to giddy limits again? Stanford was the height I shot for in the career I had. Living on the proceeds from my paintings and my personal writing is one height I shoot for now. And inside? Living EXTREMELY comfortably on them is a dream I rarely confess. Oops. The mail just came and I want to read my copy of SUN. Unless, of course,  I get distracted by a flower or something on my way to the mailbox…

And when I come back inside, a daydream or twelve may be in order.  Thank you, Copyblogger!

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About jlwriter25

I have been through major life upheavals over the last seven years and, much to my surprise, I find myself following my dreams as I head into my sixtieth year. I am brand new in some ways, though I live inside packaging that is less than stellar to most people. Still, it's my packaging and I've made my peace with the imperfections. The phoenix is my symbol for my life. I hope to read and write the stories of other phoenix boomers as well as my own, or link to other blogs that inspire people to realize that sixty is not done! After fifteen years of working on other people's deadlines to do promotional writings for two major universities, my disability has freed me to fly on my own time now. I have found my voice in words and in paint. I write about my own life and vision, and I paint from nature. I paint from fantasies and dreams in my head. I paint simply for the joy of painting. While I will continue to maintain a highly personal blog elsewhere, I want to inspire and be inspired by life now in this one.
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