It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re pursuing a creative goal. Life in general is hard enough—getting to work on time, feeding the kids, paying the bills. That alone can exhaust you and leave little time and energy for other loftier goals.
I suppose I’m one of the ‘lucky ones’ because to a degree I’m living my dream. I make my living as a freelance writer and when I’m not doing that I work on my mystery series. So I’m living the charmed life, right? Not so much. I still have to pay rent, pay bills, pay for taxes, healthcare – the same costs you have. And when unexpected costs arise those have to be covered too.
And then life happened – again
For example, a couple of weeks ago my car started leaking oil. Was it is just a minor irritation that was easy and inexpensive to fix? Nope. It was a seal or two or maybe three. And apparently that’s a big deal because they need to drop the engine and do major surgery. So…the money I’d carefully set aside for piddly things like editing and cover design got reassigned. Sigh. Back to the drawing board and time to get more work in the door. And so it goes.
In an earlier time I might’ve just stuck my head in the oven and wailed. I might’ve thrown up my hands and proclaimed it was just too hard. That no matter what I did, it was always one step forward and two steps back. Then given up. Because, you know – I’m one of those temperamental and over-dramatizing creatives.
This time I decided to forego that particular dramatization and just shrug, pull the money together and keep focusing on the goal. And interestingly enough I only felt bad for a few hours, instead of the usual two weeks of woe and worry. And that felt kind of great in a way. I didn’t let life victimize me. I just gave it a, ‘Meh,’ and kept going.
If you focus it will come
A little over a year ago, I came up with an idea for a mystery series and decided to go for it. Initially I was only going to write the first book, publish it, and take it from there. But somewhere during the process I decided I might as well write all the books in the series and publish them in rapid succession. I knew exactly what the next two books were about, so why wait? If readers liked the first book they’d want to read the second and the third, why not have them ready and available. Granted it was a lot to bite off and chew and there have been times when I’ve called myself names for going this route. But something kind of magical happened during the process (and continues to happen because the process is still ongoing) I became fully committed to the project. I simply decided that my priority was the series and that everything else would have to support it, rather than the other way around. No matter what, I was going for it and wouldn’t let anything stop me.
Kind of amazing what a decision like that can bring about. Instead of making things more difficult, suddenly things just sort of happened. Work appeared out of nowhere. A little networking enabled me to line up a cover designer and proofreader. Doors opened in the weirdest most unexpected ways. Go figure. All because I finally decided that this writing thing was my priority. Duh, took long enough, eh?
But it’s not a piece of cake
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not easy. Given my particular goal I have little time to socialize and generally sit at my computer 14-16 hours a day, every day, every week. I often forget to eat and sometimes don’t manage to get out of my pajamas. My friends have sent out search parties looking for me. But I’m happy. I’m doing what I was meant to do. I’m being who I am. Sounds simple but you’d be amazed at how hard those two little things can be to accomplish. And in this crazy journey I’ve learned a few things:
- You must analyze what went right as well as what went wrong. Otherwise you’ll never get anywhere.
- Will your heart always be in it? Hello no. But do it anyway.
- Sometimes the dark places are where we find our best work.
- Giving up is not an option.
- Life is a bully – it can beat you down. It won’t stop just because you surrendered. On the contrary, now it knows you’re a willing victim and it will really let loose.
- Creating anything beautiful in this world is hard as hell and downright dangerous.
- Having an original thought and uttering it is also dangerous.
- Everybody’s a critic – accept that and move on.
- Some people will love your work, others will hate it. Accept it and move on.
- Baby steps.
Art is hard but what else do you have to do?
Speaking your mind and saying (or painting, or drawing, or singing, or dancing) what you really think? Blasphemy. But do it anyway. Because you’re an artist. Because you’re an innovator. Because you’re an entrepreneur. Unlike most ordinary humans, you create stuff. Usually out of thin air. That’s your superpower, so use it baby. Revel in that. Understand that. Be that.
Stay committed and the rest will follow.
What discourages you about being a creative? How have you handled it? Share your thoughts and experiences with the rest of us.