What is a multipassionate?
Let’s start with getting clear on what a multipassionate actually is.
Other words to describe this phenomenon: Multipotentialite, Polymath, Renaissance Man (or Woman or whatever you identify as), Scanner, or the more derogatory Jack of All Trades, Master of None.
Emilie Wapnik is my hero in this field, so I’m going to use her most excellent definition which applies to all of these terms:
“A multipotentialite is a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life.
Multipotentialites have no “one true calling” the way specialists do. Being a multipotentialite is our destiny. We have many paths and we pursue all of them, either sequentially or simultaneously (or both).”
I am a hardcore multipotentialite – or multipassionate – whatever you want to call it – I’ve always been into a LOT of things. As a kid, after I decided I wanted to be a Coca Cola Van Driver, a Ballerina, and an Archeologist (I loved dinosaurs and was heavily influenced by Jurassic Park) I finally settled on Artist. But even then, when I had my #1 passion, I was always dabbling in other interests.
Instead of having a collection of stamps or rocks, I had a collection of COLLECTIONS. Yep. This included plastic baggies – the kind you find buttons or drugs in – keyrings, stickers, erasers, used credit cards…
May be I was just into hoarding junk. But being INTO multiple things has followed me to this day. If you don’t know, I don’t just do the Creative Introvert. I’ve been designing websites since I graduated uni nearly a decade ago, I help clients with marketing strategy, I have another podcast (the Seeker and the Skeptic, in case you’re interested), I have an Etsy shop for my mandala art, I am learning to become a yoga teacher for crying out loud. Yeah. I have a few interests.
I always caveat this with the fact I have no children, hence the time thing.
But in any case, no matter what my number 1 focus is, I always have a few other things on the go – just to keep myself entertained.
It’s becoming more and more common. Us millennials are increasingly switching jobs – the median tenure for workers age 25 to 34 is 3.2 years. Laptop lifestyles are also becoming more common than they were 10 years ago – with more and more ways to make a living online than ever before.
If you consider yourself creative, it’s quite likely you also fit the bill of multipassionate too.
Are you a multipassionate?
* You’re always coming up with new ideas, whether it’s in the shower, taking a walk, drifting off to sleep
* You keep a notebook at hand at all times to capture the latest greatest idea
* You feel pretty low and mopey when you aren’t buzzing with new ideas – something must be off
* You feel like there’ll never be enough time to get round to all your ideas – which can be annoying
* You sometimes struggle to finish the ideas you start
* Or you struggle to get ideas off the ground because – whoosh! There comes another idea right around the corner
As you can see, there are some highs and some lows when it comes to being a multipassionate.
One of the lows you might have experienced is, Multipassionate Guilt. It’s the guilt that comes when we’re reminded by some book or podcast that tells us that ALL successful people must focus on ONE thing and ONE THING ONLY! That we must put 10,000 hours into our ONE THING in order to be acceptable humans.
Can’t we put one hour into 10,000 things and still live a good life??
Then there’s Multipassionate Shame. Juggling multiple careers or hobbies or ideas can lead you to feel like you still don’t have things figured out. It makes the classic networking question “So, what do you do?” a nightmare. If you’re a teacher but also a freelance copywriter who dabbles in social media consulting on nights and weekends, what do you do, really? How do you wrap up your complex personal brand into a 30-second elevator pitch?
Oh and Multipassionate insomnia. This comes from having 20 different projects on the go or floating around in your head can feel plain overwhelming. Try sleeping at night when you’re juggling that.
We can’t forget Multipassionate Despair. This is the frustration that comes with feeling the urge to burn everything you’ve built down to the ground, just to have a clean slate and start again… is quite stressful.
But the worst, in my experience, is… Multipassionate Boredom.
It’s feeling like whatever awesome – or previously awesome – stuff you had going on is now about as interesting as a pair of old socks.
It’s like gum that you’ve chewed all the flavour out of. We’re left waiting for that next idea to come to us, something – anything – to help us feel that spark of enthusiasm again.
Before we get too down on our multipassionate luck, I want to shine a light on the – many – advantages of being interested in so many things.
1. It makes for a pretty impressive resume. Having a mixture of subject matter on your resume gives you much more to talk about than your competitors applying for the same role. In an increasingly competitive job market, bringing diverse skills to the table is only a good thing.
2. You have a plan B… and C… You don’t have all your eggs in one basket when you have lots of projects on the go!
3. You’re more interesting. You know those people at a dinner party or networking event that have the most fascinating stories or seem to know a lot about a huge range of topics? Following your weird and wonderful interests only makes you a more interesting person to talk to. Plus, it means you can move beyond that bloody small talk much faster.
And in case you need some heroes to look at, just remember all the multipassionates who have gone before you:
Leonardo da Vinci
There is NO point in letting other people tell you what you should or shouldn’t be into. Firstly, any advice anyone gives you, is coloured dramatically by their own experience. Hence why I have so much to say on this topic.
But honestly, only YOU know what’s best. If you can’t stop thinking about tap dancing or writing a screenplay, fuck it! DO IT. Ride the wave of passion and see where it takes you. You’re way, way, way more likely to regret the things you didn’t do, than the things you did do.
The Creative Introvert is the result of my own multiple passions colliding in a totally unexpected way, and thank god I followed my nose because having the guts (or stupidity) to follow through on this idea to support my fellow Creative Innies has been a total life changer.
Had I just stuck to ‘Cat Rose Design’ I can’t imagine I’d have been able to do half the fun and somewhat absurd things I’ve done over the last few years.
Ask yourself where you can combine interests? What twist can one passion bring to another? Think about the skill stack – which of your skills can help others?
Just because you have a dozen interests doesn’t mean they are all created equal. My number one is the Creative Introvert, and that alone would keep me busy enough. Everything else is on a sliding scale of priority and therefore time commitments. For example, my other podcast only takes a few hours a month. Client work is done on a couple of days during the week. My multiple interests all have their time and place in my schedule.
I also check in with myself regularly to make sure one isn’t taking over my life in a way that isn’t helping me. If something is becoming a drag, I park it. I parked my health and wellness blog, Cat Food is Good For You, a couple of years ago, and we parted company. I had no regrets, because I learned a lot from that blog, I made friends and found out how much I love to write online.
The important thing is to give ample time to one or two main interests, and let the others fill in the gaps, and keep things interesting.
Following on from that, my advice to most of you (less so the anti-planners) is to get a really nice schedule going. I use the app Asana, but you might prefer Trello. Either way, these kind of visual project managing tools are invaluable when it comes to making sense of multiple passions.
I colour code all my core projects, and have tasks nested within them. I can then play around with time slots on my calendar a week in advance, and rest peacefully knowing that all my madcap ideas are accounted for.
One of the downsides to having lots on the go at once means that things CAN progress a bit slower. It’s a trade off for us multipassionates. But as long as you’re prepared for that, you get to benefit from having less pressure for any one thing to succeed.
I play the long game in pretty much everything I do – which isn’t always easy for my impatient nature – but it really is a relief to know not everything has to be bringing in the cash from the launch date. I like to nurture my side gigs, and often keep them very low key to stop well-meaning friends and family from asking me when I’m going to be a millionaire from my latest hairbrained scheme.
So nurture your little seeds, watch ‘em grow.
I should note that not EVERYTHING needs to rake in cash – I’m not just talking about entrepreneurial ventures here. I don’t plan to make money from my yoga teacher training, I just want to spend more time away from my laptop, if I’m honest, and geek out on the only physically challenging activity I’ve ever loved.
It’s actually really healthy for creatives to have hobbies that aren’t work – I realised this early on with illustration. I’m not cut out for career illustration, as much as I love the art. But I know plenty of people who rock the business end of it, and have other hobbies in their spare time.
So don’t make everything a business. Even if you can.
Another pattern you may have noticed in your own passion-history, is that different interests have different life spans. Heck, if mine didn’t I might be a Truck driving ballerina today. The important thing to remember is to not feel guilty about losing interest in something!
And there might be people in your life who will say shit like ‘What happened to this hobby?’ or ‘What came of that business’ and honestly the only thing you can do is to backslap them and walk away.
Or you know, politely tell them you’ve moved onto different and better creative pursuits, thank you very much.
In short, ROCK your multipassionate creativity you!
It isn’t always easy, but it’s damn exciting and I’d much rather that than being stuck in a boring pigeonhole. No offence pigeons.
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