Once the fire has started, there’s no way to extinguish it
The sadness and depression kept building around me. I poured seven years of my life into something that didn’t love me anymore. Each day I became angrier. I watched my peers achieve multiple accolades in a short period of time, while I struggled to even be noticed.
So I set it on fire and watched it burn. At the moment, it felt good; the fire warmed my creative soul for the first time in years.
I’ve never been the impulsive type; I struggle to make basic decisions, like what to eat for dinner or what pair of shoes to purchase. I have a soul akin to that of Chidi from The Good Place.
After the fire settled, and the ashes had blown into the wind, I realized the senseless mistake made by destroying seven years of my life. Everything I worked tirelessly to create, terminated with the click of a few buttons.
“I need an outlet.” That was the initial thought behind the creation of my first blog. During my final semester of college, I took a capstone course that required me to update and manage a blog for the duration of the semester.
For almost three years I used my status as the Urban Program Director of my college radio station (89.7FM WISU, may you rest in peace) to showcase music from independent hip-hop artists on campus and from the state of Indiana.
Upon graduation, I would be moving on from this role which meant I no longer had the keys to continue helping those artists. (Sidenote: I actually have the keys to the building that houses my college radio station 10 years after graduation. I was never asked to return them when I left. It’s a nice souvenir to remember those days.)
The blog, PrinceJay’s Mindframe as it would be named, started slow. I began highlighting the artists I had connections with from playing their music on the radio. Soon after, when I was only working one job after graduation, I was able to open up the submission process and discover new music on a daily basis through my Twitter account.
Each year my platform grew bigger and bigger. In 2012 a local MC hired me to host a hip-hop showcase in Indianapolis, roughly an hour from where I lived. He paid me $20, which was enough for gas to and from the event. That event legitimized my website: I could make money from this passion.
My site grew to a point where indie artists started asking me to listen to their music early and lending an ear to how they should sequence their projects. I started a side hustle where I completed marketing work for artists from the knowledge I had gained at my day job in social media marketing.
Sadly, I took this growth for granted. My expectations for the support of my site grew to astronomical levels. I became jaded and that’s when I burned it all to the ground.
Thankfully, after a couple of years, I finally learned from that moment. Below you’ll find the lessons I learned and ideas to consider when (or if) you’re feeling these same emotions about your passion.
You Can Never Go Back
No matter how hard you try, when you delete your accounts you have deleted everything you have ever built. I had grown tired of feeling disrespected and as if the people who followed me only wanted the free things I created but never wanted to hire me — all issues I had built up in my own head, nothing anyone had ever shared with me.
After seven years of hard work, I deleted my Twitter (almost 3,000 followers), my Instagram (almost 700 followers), and my Facebook (almost 200 followers) in a single day. I deleted my website and let my domain expire. Deleting these platforms undid most of the network I had built with peers and fans over the years.
Many people, myself included, live in nostalgia. We view everything through rose-colored lenses. We romanticize the past and only see the bright spots, not the pain and dread that our work brought along with it on a regular basis.
You can keep the memories about your platform and think about the good ole’ days — but you can never go back once you burn everything to the ground.
Take A Break, Don’t Destroy Your Work
Hindsight will always be 20/20. Deleting seven years of my hard work and dedication will be one of the few regrets I hold onto at this point in my life (undoing hard work seems to be an issue for me).
Instead, I should have taken some time to step away. If you’re feeling anxious, angry, upset, or depressed that your work hasn’t taken off yet, don’t destroy it. Take a break and go live life.
Delete social media apps from your phone. Binge-watch your favorite shows. Spend time with your family and friends (virtually at this point).
Do anything but delete the endeavor that has you frustrated at this very moment. Stepping away gives you clarity. It helps you understand and plan your next move. And when I say step away, I don’t mean for a couple of hours. Take as much time as you need.
Even though your passion doesn’t feel like work, you’re still working. We all need a mental break from work. Take a vacation away from your passion for a week. You’ll feel rejuvenated and you’ll come back with better ideas. You’ll appreciate it more and won’t take it for granted.
Learn What Went Wrong If You Destroy Everything
So instead of listening to the first two lessons, you find yourself here. You went and burnt it all to the ground like myself.
That’s ok. You don’t have to apologize for doing what you believe is the best decision.
Destroying your work gives you time to reflect on what went wrong. Where did it go from being fun working on this project to being a chore and actual work that you dread? Maybe you found certain components that you didn’t like and focused on those more than the overall project?
If you do happen to destroy your work, take time to figure out the underlying reasons as to why you did it. When I deleted everything, I knew I was burnt out and had been for quite some time.
After taking a year away I tried to restart my platform again; however, I still wasn’t in the right state of mind to come back just yet. I needed to take a journey in self-discovery to really understand my goals in life.
You Can Always Start Over…
When you’re building a platform or a portfolio of work, you have no rules. We have become the gatekeepers and the internet our playground. There’s beauty in the thought of coming back to something that you loved and taking the time to rebuild it.
You have no one telling you that you can’t come back to your field because you messed up and lit your passion project on fire.
You have the ability to start over. You may not find the same domain name or social media accounts this time around. That doesn’t mean you can’t rebrand and start a new platform within the same field. Starting over brings a breath of fresh air to your creativity.
…But It Won’t Be The Same
Remember all those followers and page views you used to get on your old platform? Those numbers don’t exist anymore. Coming back to your field (or starting something new) means you’re starting from zero.
You can try to find the same people who used to support you. Unless you have a list of those people, it will be difficult to tap into your memory to remember most of them.
I finally dedicated myself to rebuilding my artist education platform this year. However, I realized what went wrong during my last attempt; I was obsessed with growing the site so I could make it my day job. I applied so much pressure to myself that I eventually cracked into a million pieces.
Now I don’t feel pressure to succeed like last time. Working at a job I enjoy on a day to day basis relieves that pressure to succeed, a pressure that stemmed from not enjoying my last two jobs. It felt as if my website could be the gateway to working for myself. I wanted that success to come to me faster.
That’s not how the universe works. Now I know I can take my time and build this platform without feeling the pressure of using it for ulterior motives immediately.