The Type A Creative: Finding Active Rest
My name is Jenni, and I am a Type A Creative. What exactly is a Type A Creative? It’s a term that I’ve recently started using to describe the highly driven, go-getters among us. I’m a firm believer that bosses come in all shape and sizes, but us Type A Creatives are the ones that often get asked if we have batteries built into our backs. We have run our own businesses and have a side project big enough to be some people’s full-time jobs. We go for a jog, get ourselves worked up, and come home to sign up for a half-marathon. We look at a mountain and say, “Let’s climb it.” We get asked to do projects that are outside of our wheelhouse and say, “Yes!” simply for the joy of learning how to do it, and the thrill of nailing it.
I want to be really careful here because I’m sensitive to a certain kind of conversation happening on “the internets.” There’s a lot of noise out there that has a masochistic sort of celebration around all-work-all-the-time, #cantstopwontstop, #watchmewerk way of running a business. Just to be clear, I am not talking about that kind of workaholism. I’m talking about those of us who are so passionate about creating, they can’t help themselves, and they somehow have a super-human capacity for taking on projects.I sometimes feel that as a Type A, I gain energy and the nourishment from the work itself. Click To Tweet
This is just a theory I have (one I’m still questioning myself), but I think in the same way extroverts gain energy by spending time with other people, Type A Creatives are energized by solving problems and creating new things. I know most creatives find fulfillment through their work, but I know a least a few bosses that find nourishment in relaxation and are re-energized by their off-times. I sometimes feel that as a Type A, I gain energy and the nourishment from the work itself. And maybe in the words of Meg Keene, if hustle-begets-hustle—between being fed by the work, and being highly motivated—shifting from “peak performance” mode into downtime can feel like a hairpin left turn.
So, for my fellow Type A Creatives, I have been struggling with a huge question lately:
As someone who gains energy and has a huge passion for creating, at what point does my driving force hurt my business instead of help it?
A little bit of background here: I started my business three years ago with my awesome business partner. At that same time, I was in the starting months of a full-time master’s degree program where I was earning my MFA in writing, and as a part of that program, I was also writing a book. I was easily pouring eighty hours per week into my creative ventures. My fellow Type A Creatives will totally get it when I say that this was a HUGE amount of work to take on, but at the same time, it was joyful and fun, and I was fueled by the many pots I had boiling at once.
I graduated in December in a dramatic “firework” of finishing my book, turning in my manuscript, and walking across a stage to collect my master’s diploma. And now that I’m roughly two months post-project, I’m unsure about how I am supposed to orient my life. See, I’m aware of the fact that as a Type A Creative, my go-to-move would be to reach for a new project (a side hustle, a new book idea, a massive creative endeavor). But I’m also vastly aware that I’m really tired.
A new project at this moment in time wouldn’t be to feed my soul, it would be to feed my ego—or to silence that little monster in my mind that is always chanting, “Are you sure you shouldn’t do more?”
My friends and family have been saying things like, “You should just relax,” or “You should sleep more,” or “Don’t you want to just binge on Netflix?” and I haven’t been able to figure out why their suggestions feel terrible. In fact, they actually make me upset. I feel really vulnerable in admitting that—maybe I’m afraid that I’m the only one who doesn’t realize that I am addicted to work. But I think about some other creatives that I have met along my journey, and I know they seem to have the same sort of programming. I want to believe that I’m not the only one who feels pumped by hiking a mountain, or by building a new automation funnel in their business.
My friend Erica Kelly of Flourish Collaborative said something the other day that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind—she used the term “active rest.” We of course, were jamming out on this elusive idea of “balance,” and she said, “I know I cannot always be in peak performance mode, but what does it look like to have active rest?” Amen, Erica, Amen.
I’ve spent a ton of time thinking about this question ever since she posed it, and there are a few things that I’m looking towards to help me find clarity. I’m still completely swimming in this idea, but here are three things that I’ve been able to pull out as good things for the Type A Creative:
1. Clearly Defining Seasons
We can hustle ALL THE TIME. And left to our own devices, we will. We will because we know how. We will because it feels good. We will because it feels good even when it’s burning us out, or keeping our teams from becoming empowered contributors. We will because we want everything, all the time, even when it’s not all the right things.
I had to get really clear about my drive when I was in grad school. I was ok to push myself to 100%, but it was for a season. It had a purpose, an endpoint, and a clearly measurable goal. I was pushing hard for 3 years, while I was in school, to earn my MFA and write my book. Now that this season is over, I cannot give like that anymore. It’s super painful, but I have to figure out how to flex different muscles, and I have to learn how to downshift.
If you’re hustling at 100%, write down what it’s for. Write down the goal. Write down when you know it will be over. If you don’t know, put a deadline on it (“I will hustle for 90 days, and at the end of 90 days I will re-negotiate my workflow.”)
2. Outsource Your Downshifting
If left to my own devices, I’m not actually sure that I know how to slow down. I can feel myself looking for new projects to keep busy, but I know that what I really need is to slow down and take care of myself. So, I hired a women’s health coach to work with me.
If you’re like me at all, you’ll listen to another Boss giving clear limits. If someone says to me, “You will close your computer at 6pm and you will exercise 3 times a week,” I WILL. I just need those parameters to be outside of myself. So, if you’re a Type A Creative, get an executive coach, a life coach, a women’s wellness expert, a creative doula, a yoga teacher, and give them the authority to manage you.If you’re a Type A Creative, get a coach, and give them the authority to manage you. Click To Tweet
3. Get a Gratitude System
This practice is actually something that my business partner came up with, but it’s been hugely helpful. She calls it “Friday Wins,” and every week we close up with two things: We each tell each other one thing that we are proud of about ourselves, and then call out one thing that we are proud of about each other.
It sounds really simple, but I’m finding that as a driven person, I spend so much time focusing on where I am going, I often forget to thank myself for what I have accomplished. I forget to mark my progress, or even acknowledge how hard I am working. In terms of running a business, that kind of thinking can be very demanding on my team. Forcing myself to be grateful for even small progress keeps me humble, and hopefully keeps my driving force on the right side.
Ok, I am feeling pretty hopeful that I’m not just a giant workaholic, and some Type A Creatives out there are picking up what I’m putting down. If you have a hard time turning off, and have at least 400 ideas in your brain at all times, let me know. What do you do to find “active rest?” Do you need active rest? Have you found a way to downshift that isn’t quite so painful?
Did you like this post? Be sure to check out:
- Emily’s post on Hustling Work and Life: Working Hard for What You Want
- Our Being Boss episode with Amy Kuretsky on Fueling Your Hustle