Why the culture of ‘Action’ is harmful to Creative Entrepreneurs

“Just get into action”. 

As a business owner, and especially as a creative entrepreneur, you hear that all the time. Right? 

Just do the thing.

Or it sometimes sounds like ‘take imperfect action”.

You hear business strategists, marketing coaches and all sorts of experts say, “it’s time to get off of your duff and into action; that is how you create change in your business”. 

And I’m not disagreeing with that. In fact, I’m somewhat proud of the fact that every action I take is imperfect. I am a fallible human being, after all. 

However, lately I am observing how this mantra of ‘imperfect action’ and the ‘just do it’ approach to business is causing grief for creatives, like you and me. 

It’s creating a cage of ‘shoulds’; energetic stop signs. 

It’s shrouding brilliance. 

It’s putting us in a glass cage of emotions. (Cue Will Farrell stuck in a phone booth). 

And here’s why. 

Because creative entrepreneurs are by very definition – creators. 

We LOVE to create things.

Give us a reason to build, write, speak, draw, sculpt, map, discuss, ideate, journal, insert-creative-process-here – and we WILL DO IT until we sometimes forget to eat lunch or our eyes bug out of our heads. 

You’ve heard the term ‘starving artist?’ 

It’s not that artists are incapable of making money. 

It’s that artists don’t often prioritize or strategize HOW to turn their creative craft into a liveable wage.

Creatives tend to put the craft above the cash when it comes to decision making. 

If you’ve caught yourself saying something like 

“I’d do this for free” or 

“I just love that this is what I get to do, I don’t charge much” or 

“I know I’m working for pennies, but I just get so much joy out of this!” 

I mean – take the Joy… but also, take the money. (Because spoiler, money is an energetic form of joy).

Back to the whole ‘action’ culture being problematic…

Because creative entrepreneurs are LED by their craft, telling them to ‘just do it’ is like a license to jump in head first to something without thinking it all the way through. 

It’s like giving Van Gogh a paint brush, palette and a vase of flowers and saying ‘just do your thing’ and don’t worry about who will buy your painting. 

Van Gogh died penniless. 

*Mic drop*.

Creativity is the beating heart of your business – I have no doubt. 

But the building of your business itself cannot only be a creative endeavour. 

The building of the business requires strategy.

Ultimately, what is happening with most creative entrepreneurs is we are failing to distinguish the nuance between being in action (as in creating) and making a strategic decision

When I think of most of my clients who have come up against blocks, it’s not that they didn’t want to take action to reach their goals or objectives. (Recall: creatives love taking action. They just can’t always figure out the best strategic action to take).

It’s that they were having trouble seeing and understanding how their content flow or their strategic plan was guiding them to a decision point.

If you’re a listener of my podcast, Permission to Leap, then you might have caught Season 2, Episode 1 where I talk about the importance of building pivot points into your business

Practically speaking, a pivot point is where you create an opening to make a strategic decision.

It’s the kind of decision that requires an equal balance of choice and action. 

And too often the common narrative, at least if you follow the armchair gurus and self-professed business experts, extols only the virtues of action above all else. 

Which, if you are picking up what I’m putting down – actually creates the reverse result for most creatives. 

Action above all else will result in business stagnation rather than business growth if you are too focused on creating and not on decisions.

Back to the Van Gogh example. The pivot point he had was as he was being called to put paint on the canvas. 

He had a choice to make. 

  • He could have decided to paint for sake of his heart and soul and nothing else (my guess is, this was his choice).
  • He could have stopped and questioned if he had a buyer for his painting already. 
  • He could have consulted with his community, advisors and so forth to determine other possible scenarios to sell his art. 

Okay, I’m being absurd and obtuse by using a hypothetical example about an acclaimed dead artist – but you see my point. 

You get to choose. 

And when you don’t choose, when you just take the action, you will end up with a body of work and no defined direction. 

You will end up with a business and no flow. 

You will end up with a vault of content that no one sees or reads and that doesn’t serve as an asset for your business. 

Consider what would happen if you were constantly in a cycle of taking action, but not making clear decisions. 

  • Painting portraits no one wanted to buy. 
  • Building programs no one expressed interest in purchasing. 
  • Designing buildings that will never be built. 
  • Crafting web copy for websites that no one can find. 
  • Tweaking social media graphics to put on a channel that you don’t even like.

You’d be so caught up in the ‘taking action’ part; in the DOING; that you’d fail to see that you’re on a Titanic-like path towards business burnout.

Erin Trafford

CEO, Erin Trafford | Story & Strategy, Co-Founder Story Studio Network

Erin works with creative entrepreneurs to help them unlock their Stories and find a path to strategic alignment with their content. She blogs and podcasts about content strategy and business on this site and on Permission to Leap.

Reach out with inquiries or collaboration requests to team@erintrafford.com

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