June 18th, 2022 | Content Creator Against The World: On Creativity, Eternal Struggle, and The Painful Process of Becoming a Leader

content creator against the world on creativity eternal struggle and the painful process of becoming a leader

Time To Write

“What the hell happened to you?” — asked my tenants when they first saw me after three months of absence.

Indeed, I came back from Amsterdam with a bunch of souvenirs. My face was smashed when I slipped down to the floor during a hypnotherapy session. My elbow was burned when I fell asleep in the sauna and touched the infrared lamp by accident. My knee was smashed when I fell in the street late in the night after some party. My right palm was damaged when I fell on another day. Overall, my whole body was covered with bruises. I was wasted, and I had certainly been living to the very limits of my physical capabilities.

And yet, I was smiling. I had so much new material for my book! “Finally time for myself.” — I thought. “Time to write.”

What Is Creativity, Actually?

Obviously, content creation requires creativity — also known under the name “divergent thinking” — whatever that is. But where does creativity come from? Well, after eight years spent full time on academic brain research, I have to say that, sadly, we still don’t know much about the neural mechanisms behind this phenomenon.

What we know so far is that creativity engages the whole brain, including the subcortical reward system and the areas responsible for mood. Creative acts are associated with little explosions somewhere in noradrenergic, dopaminergic, and serotonergic pathways. But what happens in great detail and how to evoke creativity? — no one really knows.

According to studies, there is a number of activities and exercises that can boost creativity. To name just a few:

  1. Journaling, as it gives time to chill out, get introspective, and look at daily situations from many angles at a time,
  2. Juggling, as it increases synergy between hemispheres,
  3. Mindfulness, as it strengthens alpha waves and puts your mind in a mindset optimal for getting creative,
  4. Learning a new language, as it creates new connections in the brain,
  5. Breaking the routine, e.g., choosing a different jogging trail every day or dropping the Internet for a day. It breaks habits and makes your brain more flexible and more prone to considering alternative scenarios.

But what really triggers acts of creativity? Hard to say. In my case, I observe just one pattern: the most creative ideas usually come right after mental breakdowns — literally minutes to hours later. I even wrote the whole article about it, entitled “The Days of Greatness.” Perhaps, recurrent mental breakdowns are the price to pay for creativity… Do you experience the same syndrome?

Why No One Understands Us

Actually, in ancient times, as an undergrad in Psychology at the University of Warsaw, I took my own part in the research over creativity. I was writing my Master’s thesis under the supervision of Dr Michał Chruszczewski, known as the most rigid statistician in the whole faculty and feared by all his students to this day.

Dr Chruszczewski had an ambitious plan to standardize his own test for creativity. The concept was to create a simple, culturally free task that might be a divergent equivalent of the Raven’s Progressive Matrices Test test for convergent thinking also known as fluid intelligence (or, popular IQ).

He had an idea to create a panel containing 25 weird shapes and let the participants create as many different categories to characterize these shapes as possible within 10 minutes. Of course, the purpose behind the standardization of the test was to fit the Gaussian curve to the results and derive norms for the test from there.

But… there was one little problem. We didn’t get a Gaussian distribution of participants’ scores — not even close. We got a bimodal distribution instead, namely two separate Gaussians. It seemed that creative people are quite a different species than everyone else… In the end, we didn’t publish our results as they went against the consensus in psychology, according to which all interpersonal traits are Gaussian-distributed.

And yet, for some reason, I like to trust our results. I sometimes feel like creative people are a different species whom no one else understands.

Creating Content Ain’t Easy …

I always imagined being a content creator as a dream job. What can possibly be better? You are interested in some topic, so you sit down, learn something about it, process, and create content.

But then, when I started writing more and more, I realized that it’s not exactly how creating content looks. While the creative process is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, content creation is sandwiched between two scary things:

1. Experiencing life in order to gather enough material to process — which is scary.

After all, you don’t get any good insights from passively reading or watching other people’s content. You get it from interacting with the world: living real life, putting yourself out of your comfort zone, and confronting your views with people very different from you at all times.

2. Promoting what you wrote to make the rest of the world realize that you created some content in the first place — which is bloody scary too.

I was never a type of attention seeker; I would even say that I am on the shy side of the spectrum. Nevertheless, at some point, it became obvious to me that if I wish to write books in the future, I must put myself out there and start building a personal brand, whether I like it or not.

Actually, I had lots of conversations about that with my Dad, who is a chess player and spent a lifetime in competitive sports, first as a player and then as a chess trainer. I still cannot really understand how the minds of competitive sportsmen work.

I was thinking to myself: how can you consciously choose a profession that is so stressful, in two different ways? First, because one wrong move can make you lose the whole match, and second because you are constantly observed by the public. Apparently, some people have that extra component in their brain that makes them excited about all the interest that they receive. Well, I don’t. For me, external interest is a price to pay, not an asset.

Fortunately for me, building anything in the noisy (online) world of today takes time. So, even as a shy person, I got some time to accommodate the situation. After all, you don’t jump from 0 to 5,000 followers overnight. You don’t feel like you are talking to a crowd, because it is only 5-10 people more than yesterday, and only 10-15 people more than the day before… And so on.

But these are not all the issues with creating content. You also need to use both elbows and fight to find any time for writing in silence, as the rest of the world tries to persuade you that everything else is more urgent than your content.

This eternal fight against time is so excruciating that I recently started fantasizing that I perhaps should commit a minor crime and get myself closed in prison for a few months just to have time to finish my book. In the end, I didn’t… but think I will hire a personal assistant in the near future, just to somehow tackle this problem.

The Eternal Struggle

And now, let’s get down to the REAL pain, as all the aforementioned problems are just peanuts. Namely, content creation is a truly exhausting type of activity in which you don’t have any free time by design.

Namely, any single time you have a while for yourself, and you try to take your time, for instance, to go to a sauna or choose any other form of relaxation, the wheels start turning all over again in minutes. I habitually run out of the sauna at full speed to note things down. Or, I take technical breaks during my own public workshops because I cannot help writing something down every five minutes. Thoughts never stop coming to my head, even when I am stressed or trying to meditate.

Not mentioning “free days.” Och damn, those are the worst. Constant trains of thought clashing with each other drive me insane. Actually, I never have peace of mind — not even while sleeping. For some reason, I spend most of my sleeping time in the REM phase and mostly experience nightmares.

And there is only one circumstance in which I feel free from all these intrusive thoughts. Namely, when I drink. All of a sudden, peace comes to mind and I can peacefully spend a few hours free from mental pain. After literally 20 years of experimenting on myself, I must say that slowly putting myself to sleep using alcohol was the only reliable medicine that I have ever found. And I am not surprised that so many artists suffer from addictions of all kinds — how can you even manage your insubordinate mind as an artist without any painkillers?

When You Are Slowly Becoming a Leader …

I didn’t really think about my lifestyle too much until yesterday. I guess I got used to the fact that this is how things are: that I need to pay some price for what I received and that it will never change. When I turned 18, I told myself that now is the time for drinking hard because when I get pregnant, they won’t be drinking anymore. Almost twenty years later… time flies. 

Days went by, and I went through the same torture day by day, and only a bottle of wine and a few paracetamol pills could ease the pain once in a while. I accepted the situation, I felt perfectly healthy, and I didn’t see any reasons to change.

And yet, something unexpected has just happened — something that made me think about changing my habits for real. Namely, so it seems that once you are in a process of becoming a leader of sorts, anything can be used against you. For instance, if you happen to fall asleep on a couch at a party, someone can take pics of you and talk about this event behind your back. 

Then I thought to myself: isn’t it that, as a company owner, I need to protect myself from possible situations like this at all costs? Namely, stop drinking entirely and tighten my policies in terms of whom I spend time with and when I come back home at the latest. In other words, I need to choose: peace of mind or company image. Shall I give up on my last pillar of internal peace to grow as a company owner?

I still don’t know what the right answer to the question is. Peace of mind is something I deeply admire, and yet, I cannot achieve it in any of the popular ways, such as taking free time or meditation. Living sober seems way too insane, but getting vulnerable by drinking is pretty scary too. Perhaps, I will just toss a coin.

Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2022, June 18th). Content Creator Against The World: On Creativity, Eternal Struggle, and The Painful Process of Becoming a Leader. Retrieved from: https://nataliabielczyk.com/content-creator-against-the-world-on-creativity-eternal-struggle-and-the-painful-process-of-becoming-a-leader/

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If you would like to read more about careers (for PhDs and other white-collar professionals) and effective strategies to self-navigate in the job market, please also take a look at the blog of my company, Ontology of Value where I write posts dedicated to these topics.

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