Maybe you’re not meant to be a specialist

Published by Nela Dunato on in ADHD, Mindset, Personal, Tips for creatives

Maybe you're not meant to be a specialist

We’ve been called unfocused, irresponsible, flaky, Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none and a gazzillion other things, mostly negative.

Occasionally someone might call us a Renaissance person or multi-talented (usually people who are themselves multi-passionate, so they see the benefit), but in general we have a really bad rep in the world of specialization.

And the specializations are becoming ever more detailed as the technology is progressing. For example, what used to be called a “web designer” is now at least 4 different job titles: visual designer, interaction designer, UI/UX expert, and a front-end developer. None of these job titles fit me. Just imagining myself in one of these roles makes me want to puke.

In fact, I don’t even want to be a “designer”.

Or a “visual creative”.

There’s no label that can cover all the things I do, no box that I can fit into. Which is great, except we’re living in a world where people expect you to fit into a box.

Being multi-passionate makes having a regular job challenging.

The main reason why I wanted to switch to freelancing was to have more room to grow.

I wanted to build a life for myself where I feel like I’m a unified, well-rounded person, instead of being chopped up into pieces and only able to show one of them in a professional environment, and keep my “hobbies” to myself.

To be honest, this freelancing stuff ain’t easy, either.

A few days ago I felt particularly frustrated by “there’s not enough hours in the day” and I sketched a little graphic where I noted the major things that demanded my energy and attention.

Art journal page - multiple interests fighting for attention

I looked at this drawing and felt powerless. There’s no way I could do this. There’s no way I could pull off everything without dropping a few balls.

Then I just got the urge to draw flower petals around all the areas.

Art journal page - multiple interests turned into flower petals

I thought: “Well, that was weird, as if making a pretty flower is going to change anything…”—but lo and behold, it actually did.

I realized when I finished painting the flower and added the yellow middle, that I’m not being pulled apart, I’m actually growing the petals.

I needed to write this down. (And yes, even though English is not my primary language, I do often think and journal in English.)

I'm not being pulled apart, I'm radiating into all areas of my life.

This felt really empowering.

Sure, I do need to organize my time better and keep my energy levels high enough to be able to do good work consistently. But it’s far easier to do this when I’m looking forward to doing things, then if I force myself to focus on one particular area and stash away everything else “for later”.

On a few occasions I said to myself “Now you’re going to focus on work, and after a couple of weeks of this you’ll get back to painting again”.
What actually happened was that client work dragged on for much longer than I expected, and I was feeling miserable because work that I deeply cared about was being neglected. This resulted in worse quality of my work, which did not benefit me or my client.

Only when I allow myself to have time for everything I’m excited about, is when I’m in the zone and create my best work.

This might sound counter-intuitive, but in reality when I’m happy, rested, and buzzing with creative energy that’s overflowing from my personal creative projects, client work takes much less time because my performance is better.

(I charge a per-project fee, so I’m actually getting paid more per hour if I work this way. Isn’t that awesome?)

I’m not saying I have it all figured out. Time management is always a challenge, whether you’re a specialist or a multi-passionate person.

But what would change for you if you started looking at your areas of focus as something you’re growing out of yourself, and not as something external that’s demanding your attention and pulling you apart?
What would this mean for your life, your planning and your to-do list?

P.S. Want more on this topic? Read my post Job titles are overrated: My life as a Jane-of-all-trades



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19 responses to “Maybe you’re not meant to be a specialist”

  1. I found you through the ceative live Seminar…and I felt like I was reading myself in your content on this post. I like you hou turned the negative feeling (being pulled apart) into a positive mental image of “radiating”….So much is about how we view things in our lives that can define how we feel about our lives on a daily basis. I appreciated your post very much. Encouraged this multi passionate person!

  2. Love this, Nela! Mindset is SO everything. I can definitely relate to being overwhelmed by a long to do list… but I also try to remember that these are goals I set for myself, and if it seems TOO impossible then I also have the power to adjust them so they are more within my reach. We always need a good balance of things that both challenge us & things that feel do-able.

  3. Welcome, Tanya!
    Thank you very much, I’m so glad this post resonated with you. I hoped this would be helpful to other multi-passionate creatives.

    Natalie, thank you!
    Yes I agree about the mindset definitely, so much so I intend to write a series of posts about mindset alone because I haven’t done it yet, yet it plays such a big role in my life and creative work.
    Yes, I often have the problem of trying to do too much at once, and I may be just a little too hard on myself.
    But you’re right, we have the power to adjust our goals so they feel more doable. I need to write that down so I don’t forget it :)

  4. Loved this post! As a multipassionate creative I find I feel guilty when I want to stop doing client work to, say, sew myself some new clothes (which I desperately need). I also just think “well I’ll finish the work first, then get to it” but either the projects drag on, or I procrastinate mindlessly instead of proactively on the days when I actually DO have time to do something else. This is really just what I needed to hear, so thank you!

    I’m also inspired to draw the different areas of my attention / life into a flower too!

  5. What a great way to see this Nela! I always feel ‘put upon’ by external responsibilities so this is a beautiful way to turn this around. Thank you!

  6. Hi Nela – thank you so much for sharing this! You ended up with an incredible affirmation. This is such a great example of how sometimes we really do just need to shift our mindset and everything feels lighter. And now you have an excellent visual metaphor for a course or book!

  7. This is so relevant to how I’ve been feeling lately. It seems like my business is taking over my life (which I kind of love), but I’ve lost the balance. Seeing my priorities as a petals of a flower puts it into a whole new perspective. Thank you!

  8. Beautiful post. I definitely think that a business is an extension of yourself—and it’s coming from the center (you) rather than imposing from the outside. The drawings are gorgeous and visual and perfect representations of this mindset. Love it!

  9. I love this so much, Nela! I am a creative grasshopper too (that’s my term for them) and one of the big things I tell my clients is that they do not need to specialize. Creative grasshoppers have some amazing benefits that come from all of their gifts (the ability to think outside the box, connect different topics together and bring in lessons from one area of their life into another, to name just a few) and I believe we can be most successful when we bring it all together and create a holistic, cohesive business that allows us to be 100% creative grasshoppers.
    I personally implemented this by focusing on creative grasshoppers/passionate entrepreneurs as my niche, and by covering most of the other things I’m interested in. In the context of my coaching business, that means running an authentic business and self-mastery as a talkaholic, crazy, creative grasshopper. In the context of the business I run with my husband, that means natural deodorants and body care products, because that’s another one of my big passions. I’m definitely going to share this with my peeps! Thanks for writing such a great post.

  10. Oh my, I hoped I’ll touch a few kindred souls, but I didn’t expect such wonderful comments! Thank you so much! :)

    @Sara: I totally feel the same with the guilt.. but I’m learning to let go of it and tell myself that it’s really the best for everyone.
    I’m so glad you’re inspired to make your own flower, that’s awesome!

    @Zita: Glad you like it! Yes don’t you love the serendipitous journeys like these? :)

    @Elizabeth: Yes, it always feels like that, but when you realize you’re the one who chose these responsibilities and you *can* say no if you want to… you suddenly realize you actually do want them, and will make the time for them :)

    @Nikki: Thank you! Oh that’s a great idea, I haven’t thought about using this one in a book, but I just might :)

    @Paige: Oh that’s totally what I feel like sometimes too.. Glad the visual helped you! :)

    @Andrew: Thank you, I’m glad you like the drawings! :)

    @Anna: I’m so honored that you think so! And after getting such wonderful feedback I definitely plan to keep up with this! :)

  11. @Laura, we were posting at the same time :)
    I love your term, it really does describe us well! :D
    I agree with you 100% – whenever I tried to keep my life segmented, I ended up feeling miserable, and unifying my passions is the only way I can truly thrive.

    I think you’re doing it really well, and I’m so inspired by your work! :)
    Thank you so much for your kind comment and for sharing!

  12. What an awesome post Nela.
    It’s so hard to feel frustrated when you have business – or non-business – ideas that deserve to be developed but you give up on them because it might sound crazy or you don’t have time and energy to do that and instead you’re doing routine job day after day.
    It’s empowering to read your post and all the answers. I’m felling less lunatic and almost ready to start living my on dream.
    Really thanks

  13. Christovam, I’m so glad you found this post helpful :)
    It is heard to keep the motivation and energy when you’re trying to do many things at once… but when something is calling you over and over again, then go and pursue that dream.

    You say you’re “almost ready” to start living your dream. What would it take for you to be totally ready? :)

  14. Great to see there are so many like-minded peeps out there! You’re post certainly hits home with me as well. When I do just one thing I feel like I’ve gone on a starvation diet. We need balanced nutrition to stay healthy :)

  15. Looks like we’re both in very good company, Cherry! :)
    I feel the same way.
    I can go a bit crazy obsessed with one particular thing for a while (but that’s beyond my conscious control), but even then, after I’m done I don’t want to touch that same thing for a really long time.
    Some people might say focus is key for success, but for me variety is key to remaining focused :)

  16. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Jay!
    Your work is beautiful, and I’m so glad you’re embracing all your creative sides :)

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