How do you identify yourself as an artist? Odds are, instead of a proper noun, you opt for a string of signifiers: designer-entrepreneur-lifestyle blogger or, perhaps, yoga enthusiast-illustrator-stay-at-home-mom? And, you’re not alone! Creatives have always shape-shifted to adopt the title that suits our interests and satisfies our artistic pursuits. 

To understand our complex creative identities, we sat down with the author of The Multi-Hyphen Life, Emma Gannon. Emma leaned on her personal experience, academic studies, and numerous interviews with creatives to create this manifesto for crafting work on your own terms and embracing a multi-hyphenate career. Launched just this week, Emma’s newest Skillshare Original, Unlocking Your Potential: 5 Exercises to Build Creative Confidence, takes this research one step further by outlining how to overcome self-sabotage and unlock creative potential.

Read on to discover Emma’s framework for building a multi-hyphenate career, identifying self-sabotage, and maintaining successful creative habits.

You literally wrote the book on the multi-hyphen life. For those unfamiliar with this term, how do you describe a multi-hyphenate?

A multi-hyphenate is someone who has multiple skills or professions and they don’t just have one job. Personally, my hyphens are all quite connected because I’m interested in telling stories across different platforms. I’m an author, podcaster, speaker, and teacher.

For your new Skillshare class, you wanted to break down some of the habits you had identified as holding you back from doing your best work. I’d love to know how you define self-sabotage and why you were interested in this topic?

Self-sabotage is a way to describe any behaviors that are getting in our own way. Those behaviors that stop us from reaching success, reaching our potential, or hitting our goals.

I think that in the past, the word ‘self-sabotage’ has sounded overwhelming or even quite aggressive or embarrassing. But, I think it can be a gentle word. It means that we have a really strong layer of self-protection that’s totally normal and totally human. I like to think of it as our brain and our body trying to look after us. It’s in moments that we’re scared, or unsure of ourselves, and we want to make sure that we’re not just diving off the edge of a cliff.

Click on the video below for Emma’s top three tips for overcoming self-sabotage.

I started noticing these small things that I was doing that got in my own way. So this new Skillshare class is really talking about self-sabotage in the context of creative industries and creative projects, and it’s quite a personal topic for me.

Does self-sabotage operate differently for creatives or in creative careers?

Self-sabotage really defines the relationship between creativity and fear. When we self-sabotage, it’s because we’re scared. Sometimes, we’re not just scared of failure, we’re also scared of our own success.

Speaking of success and creativity, I think it’s time to talk about your creative routine and tips for working at home. On those days you wake up and are lacking the motivation to start creative work, what do you do?

When I’m working from home and I need a bit of motivation, sometimes I put on a really good podcast and it resets my brain for creativity.

My favorite podcast right now is Long Form podcast. It’s a podcast that interviews writers in a way that gets under the skin of people’s writing processes.

Let’s dig into your creative rituals. What’s the first thing you do before you start a project?

I definitely do a lot of work that doesn’t feel like work before sitting down and starting a project. That can be anything from gathering my thoughts in a notebook to going on a really long walk to clear my head. For me, those two steps are a really important part of the creative process.

In addition to note-taking and walking, I always write down the things I want to achieve throughout the project. I use this to anchor the project and to remind myself of the purpose of the work. I feel like I can get a bit lost in the process once I’ve started and having these notes in writing helps me remember why I’m doing it in the first place. 

“Self-sabotage really defines the relationship between creativity and fear.”

Do you have any other creative rituals like a special room or item on your desk?

I’m actually not that precious about my surroundings. I wrote a book on train journeys, in restaurants, in cafes, on buses, and in random hotel rooms. I kind of fight against the whole ritual thing a little bit because it can sometimes make us superstitious when we can get stuff done wherever.

How do you think about prioritizing your time? There are only so many hours in the day, after all.

I know. So, I’m a big to-do list person. I like physically writing my tasks down and I like physically crossing them off. I love that feeling. On a Friday night before I settle into the weekend, I write a list of to-do’s for the following week and I prioritize the essential stuff at the top.

The things at the top of the list are items I know I need to achieve to feel like I’ve succeeded that week. 

A lot of our community members are multi-hypenates and are wondering how to evaluate their creative paths when modern job titles and expectations have evolved so much. This brings us to our final question: how do you define success when jobs have changed so much today? 

I think because jobs are so different now, it’s harder to just impress someone with your job title. And, actually, I really like that because it means that we have to look at ourselves and our own definitions of success outside of our Twitter bios or LinkedIn resumes. And for that reason, I think success comes down to this: being truly happy with how you feel inside and not just how glamorous you look on the outside.


Join Emma Gannon in Class

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Unlocking Your Potential: 5 Exercises to Build Creative Confidence

Dream of finally finishing that draft or launching that side-hustle? Make your next creative project your best yet!

Discovering Success: 7 Exercises to Uncover Your Purpose, Passion & Path

Ready to define success on your own terms?