top of page
  • Writer's pictureMike Dineen

Side Hustle Author | Beware The Siren Call of the Tortured Artist

There's a Tortured Artist Living Inside You

As creatives, we watch, observe, think about, and absorb the world around us—then create art that reflects that world back to others. This role in society is both a gift and burden, and I'm here to tell you that there's nothing to be gained from living life as the tortured creative who suffers for his art.

Doing so will get in the way of what you're put here to do: write.

As a creative person, I went through decades of being burdened and controlled by my feelings. I identified who I was from inside of my feelings. I believed that the way I felt was who I was, and feared that ignoring those feelings would be ignoring my true self.

But I was wrong. The person I truly am and was put here on this world to be is a writer. I have zero doubts about this. And to be successful at that means not being seduced by the siren call of despair. This is especially true for the side hustle author. We don't have the luxury of being free to indulge in the romantic lifestyle of the tortured artist. We have to hold down our jobs—if nothing more than to pay for the rooms and the technology we use to write our masterpieces.

That doesn't mean we won't have tortured feelings sometimes and be affected by the world around us. What it means is finding a way to live beside the tortured artist in your mind, rather than embody the tortured artist.

How to Live Beside the Tortured Artist Inside Your Mind

You can never evict the tortured artist from your mind; but you can find a way to live with and beside him. There's a great scene in A Beautiful Mind where Russell Crowe is walking along, he looks to his right and sees his demons, acknowledges them, then continues on his way. This is obviously a dramatization, but it kinda gets at what I'm talking about here. You can have your tortured artist's thoughts, but you don't have to live inside them, you can let them exist beside you.

Effectively what I'm saying here is that you don't have to act on every feeling you have. You can simply let the feeling arise, observe it, then continue on your way.

This is not only key to keeping your sanity as a side hustle author, it's also a valuable skill that will help you write books. Because your mind will tell you that your book is crap. Your mind will tell you can't do this. Your mind will tell you the world is trying to make you fail. But that doesn't mean you have to listen to it.

Acknowledge those thoughts and feelings, and then get back to hammering away at those keys.

A Little Mantra You Might Find Useful

A mantra that I still recite to myself in moments when the tortured artist tries to take control of my mind is this:

"Just because I feel it doesn't mean it's real."

You can adapt this mantra to any number of scenarios, for example:

  • Just because I feel like my book is shit doesn't mean it is.

  • Just because I don't think I can write a book doesn't mean I can't.

  • Just because I feel lost doesn't mean I can't find my way.

This mantra doesn't mean that your feelings aren't valid, that you should ignore them outright, or that they aren't communicating something important to you. What it means is that the side hustle author must find a way to separate the actions he takes from the feelings he has. Simply reacting to feelings, without stepping back and separating yourself from them, makes you a slave to those feelings.

Separating your actions from your feelings also allows you to really step back and understand what a feeling means and why you're having it, which is essential material for your stories.

To Create Is to Embrace Uncertainty

I have yet to meet a creative person who doesn't have some iteration of what I call the "anxious personality." I might even go so far as to say that being a creative person and having an anxious personality are one and the same thing. The act of creation—of making something from nothing—is inherently an anxious process, because it is filled with uncertainty, and we have evolved over thousands of years to be weary of uncertainty.

Writing a book is a practice in embracing uncertainty.

This is especially true for the side hustle author, who is effectively adding a new source of anxiety to their life, alongside other sources of anxiety—work-related anxiety being the big one.

But while your life may have added anxiety in it, I am 100% certain it's worth it. One of the surest ways to live beside the uncertainty of your tortured artist is to be certain that you've found your purpose and you've committed to it. Once you do that, no amount of hectoring from the naysayers in your head can throw you off course.

Happy writing.

bottom of page