The creative urge is a blessing and a curse.
No one needs to tell you that. If you’re reading this blog, it means you want to write for a living, and that in turn means you’ve already experienced the soul-mangling feeling of loving the craft and hating the craft in equal measure.
I have a friend with whom I often discuss my creative endeavors, and she and I routinely complain that we sometimes wish we didn’t have the creative urge. We like our day jobs; we like our free time; we like life.
Why does the burning desire to make have to come along and muck everything up? Why can’t we just be satisfied with what is and stop striving for what could be?
I’m betting at this point you’re nodding and “amen”-ing and generally agreeing your face off. Because let’s be honest: Sometimes the creative urge is just an effing drag.
When I start to get in that mood, things can go downhill fast. Everything starts to feel like a why-even-bother, and the worst part is, that feeling can leak over into my perfectly awesome non-creative life as well.
I, however, have learned to put the kibosh on these feelings. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. The result: considerably higher levels of serenity.
Here’s how I do it.
This seems like pat advice, but it isn’t.
It’s normal to get frustrated when you miss a self-imposed deadline or your vision doesn’t emerge the way you hoped it would. It’s also normal to gnash your teeth when trying to choose between a nice evening spent reading or grabbing tapas with friends, and a few hours to work on the new novel. (No? Just me?)
When this happens, it’s good to remember why you create.
You don’t do it to become rich and famous. If that’s what you wanted, you should have gone to business school or become a defense attorney. You’re smart enough. You could have.
You didn’t. Because you’re called to create instead for the love of it. While your daydreams of aplomb are again perfectly normal, that doesn’t explain why you choose to write or paint or embroider in your free time. You do that because you love it.
So do it. Love it. Leave it at that.
The word prioritize is often understood to mean assigning something top priority, but that’s not actually the case. If you look it up, you’ll see that definition one is “to arrange or do in order of priority,” while the third definition is “to organize or deal with something according to its priority.” The second definition does match the widely held perception of the word, but it’s neither in the majority nor in the first place.
When I say prioritize, then, what I mean is to assign your creative urge its proper place. It’s an outlet, not a job. It’s the thing that fuels you, not the thing that owns you. It’s the thing that makes you happy, not the thing that makes you money.
This is especially important if you are self-employed. When you work for someone else, you can certainly sneak in a blog post while you’re supposed to be filling out TPS reports. (Honestly, I don’t even know what those are.) But when you work alone? You’re in charge of keeping you on track, and if you let the creative urge lock horns with the day job, things can get bad.
Priorities. The creative urge is what you do when everything else is done. Capisce?
This is somewhat related to the first point.
Like I said, you don’t create because you want to be rich and famous. Sure, that’s part of it, but that’s not all of it.
Yet the moment we exhibit mild talent for anything, we immediately start dreaming about what could be. Killing it on Etsy. Quitting the day job. Paying off All the Student Loans yesterday. Then, when our creative urge doesn’t generate such massive payoffs, we feel let down by the dream.
Screw the dream, our brain says. The dream is a big fat liar.
Don’t do that to yourself. The thing is, you’re unlikely to lose the creative urge anyway. At most, you’ll lose the will to pursue it, which will just eat at you from the inside until you pick it back up weeks, months or years down the road.
A better way? Just remove your expectations. Build slowly, and choose not to care about the fact that growth is slow. That’s cool, man. You’re living your creative dream just by doing it, so let that be good enough.
Yes, I said that. Because it’s true.
If it ain’t fun, it ain’t worth doing. I’m not saying every grueling moment of editing your novel will be fun; it won’t. I am saying you better enjoy at least some of it, or what’s the point?
So the next time the creative urge tries to drag you down, just remind yourself that it doesn’t own you. You own it, and it’s up to you to show it who’s boss!
Also, if your particular brand of creativity happens to be in the writing sphere, I REALLY think you’re going to like the Free Resource Library. Check ‘er out by clicking that pretty image below.
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