What if Your Creative Calling Doesn’t Back Down
**Previously published on The Mission, Medium.com**
Every moment of your life is an act of creativity.
It’s a blend of actions and reactions shaping what your next point in time looks like.
Do you take this step or that? Do you write one paragraph or two? Do you sing the high note or the low note? Do you act on this idea or that one? All are a series of choices drawn from ideas that come from using your creative mind.
“I like to think of myself as an artist, and my life is my greatest work of art.” –Shatki Gawain, Creative Visualization.
Do you have ideas that flutter around you like a butterfly? It gets your momentary attention, but then drifts away with a wisp of wind, and you forget about it.
But what if you didn’t ignore it. What if you acted on it?
“Your job isn’t to find Ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” Stephen King, author
Creativity saved my life. As you continue reading, I’ll share the life-changing story of how creativity lifted me up when nothing else would.
First, I want to share the story with my friend, Ruth. She, too, was plagued with the recurrence of butterfly thoughts. She was the mother of two young daughters and a chiropractor with a successful medical practice. Her job once fulfilled her, but her family was a priority she couldn’t ignore. She also felt a deep creative artistic desire.
She loved art, she loved fabrics, and she loved sewing. She started by making window coverings for her own home. Her friends and family were her biggest fans. They hired her to create designs for their homes.
And thus began her side business. She set up her garage with giant tables, an industrial sewing machine, and yards and yards of fabrics.
It was slow at first but soon it brought enough income that she could reduce the hours of her medical practice and be at home when her daughters returned from school.
She was on fire! She had more than enough business and even hired a part-time helper. But, in order to fully support her family, she had to come up with additional streams of income to make it a work.
She decided to add another component to her drapery business. She partnered with a company to supply window blinds and shutters. All she had to do was measure and order.
It gave her just the financial boost she needed and allowed her to continue what she loved… sewing and creating magical home interiors.
When you look at her strategy, she didn’t immediately quit her medical practice and start up a drapery business. She blended the two until her creativity could adequately support her lifestyle.
When she wanted to expand her vision and grow her finances, she was smart enough to look at her options… adding a stream of income that was in line with what she was already doing.
And that’s what living a creative life is… allowing your mind to see what is possible.
But what happens when you continually ignore your creative calling? The butterfly alights on your shoulder, taunting you to revisit your heart’s desire.
You can stay small in your cocoon of wishful desires, or you can spread your wings in all their glory.
Those thoughts are asking for a real commitment, and you’re still on the fence.
At this point, you have a choice.
You can say yes, or no.
What happens when you say no?
You’re off the hook… for now. Whew…
If it demands nothing more of you, will there be regret?
But be assured, it will try to get your attention again.
What happens if you finally say yes?
You have entered into a contract with yourself to fulfill your creative destiny.
It’s now totally up to you, and it takes a hell of a lot of courage.
Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote, Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear believes that a creative life is one driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
Fear is a comfortable friend.
Fear is your lifeline to not fulfilling your commitment.
You can trust fear to stop you from doing anything that might be challenging.
Isn’t that easier? Yes… but…
Elizabeth Gilbert targets some frequent fears creative people have:
“You’re afraid you have no talent.
You’re afraid of criticism.
You’re afraid others do it better than you.
You’re afraid you’ll be embarrassed.
You’re afraid it might be a waste of time and money.
You’re afraid you have no discipline.
You’re afraid you’re too old.”
The list of fears is endless.
Fear is the easiest way out you’ll ever have…
…if you choose it.
Now might be the perfect time to fully cooperate and joyfully accept your new, inspired life.
“Do the work.”
Stephen Pressfield, author of The War of Art, says “Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
And that’s when living a creative life happens; when you commit to it by making room, a commitment, and doing the work.
It comes down to trusting yourself to fully execute your creative contract, making it a priority instead of an option.
It doesn’t have to be a big announcement, or dramatically quitting your job. It can be a gentle move into your new world.
It’s important not to talk too much about it; just begin.
What happens when you talk too much about an idea but never do the work?
Idea burnout… the ideas start to fizzle and die.
I learned first hand about idea burnout. It happened often to my late husband when he developed new ideas for scripts.
Social occasions always opened with, “So what are you working on?” My husband went into great detail, and I would join in, fleshing out the stories to our captive dinner audience.
It was almost like a performance. At the end, people would say, “What a great story!”
And soon the enthusiasm would wane. The mind tricks you into believing that was enough. We already had the applause. The story felt complete.
Except it often never made it to the page.
David discovered how to only give the logline of his next script, and we’d both restrain from fleshing out the story in front of a captive audience until the script was completed.
The other thing that happens when you talk too much about your creative works is free floating exchanges. I thought I was the only person out there who believed that there’s a collective library of ideas floating around for all to access.
But, I discovered in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, that she believes the same thing!
When you have an idea… claim it! If you don’t take ownership of it and actively work on it, the idea will float away for someone else to claim.
You must commit when your idea calls you.
Does a creative life need permission?
No, it just needs commitment.
When I was 16, I flew to New York to audition for a musical show that toured the world. After a year and a half of performing, I returned home; I was lost and suddenly stuck in a non-creative life.
I longed for self-expression. I began pouring my heart into art, calligraphy, then acting. I bounced from one creative flow of activity to another. Nothing held my commitment for very long.
I doubted my talents and abilities. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be successful in any of those areas. I would then go into a cocoon of closure on that activity until something new stirred my interests.
But the essence of my creative self was always there, ready to transform, waiting for the next idea and passion. Waiting for the butterfly of an idea to land and catch hold of my enthusiasm.
Look at your options.
Diversity in art and creative expression is not a bad thing. It gives you a taste of your options.
Do you want to write a book? Record a song? Paint pottery? Dance? Plant a garden? Sew? Start a business?
Time to tune into what your mind and heart are telling you. Listen to your thoughts. Which ideas give you a thrill? Do those thoughts keep recurring?
I finally recognized there was a through line to my creativity… telling stories. I did that every day with my husband and his work, but there were other outlets too.
Whether it was in song, calligraphy, dance, or art … all of it was a form of telling stories with my creative yearnings… and yet sitting down to write words was the hardest thing in the world.
I tried everything to divert it. I made jewelry for a while, painted pottery, even did interior design. All of it fueled my creative yearnings for a while, but it didn’t satisfy it.
I kept asking my creative self to do more, but in actuality, I needed to do less. I had to stop skipping around on the fringes of creative fulfillment with other activities and claim the one thing that I kept denying… sitting down to write.
Discover your through line… it’s there hiding within your life.
Elizabeth Gilbert says “Declare your intent.” Stand tall and say, “I’m a writer!” I’m a singer, I’m an actor, I’m a gardener, I’m a designer, I’m a chef.
See how it feels.
It doesn’t mean you can’t do these other things, it just means you finally fulfill your creative contract with yourself by committing to the work.
That’s when the magic happens. Even writing this article feels like magic to me, especially when magical things happen when quotes like this pop up in an email (from The Mission).
“But all the magic I have known, I’ve had to make myself.” ―Shel Silverstein, children’s book author, Where the Sidewalk Ends
How far will your creativity take you?
It’s up to you. Your initial enthusiasm is like a drug. It’s all you think about and all you want to do. As that wanes a bit, the real work begins. That takes a sense of direction and a plan.
The plan is what takes your “someday, I want to….” into reality and that’s when you really start living the dream of your creative life.
Can you see yourself years from now with the book you said you’d write someday, or the business you always dreamed of?
It’s possible with a plan.
There is really no tomorrow until it arrives, so why not live your dream today by taking action on your creative dreams?
I know for sure… life isn’t something you can count on, it’s something you have to wake up to every day and be thankful for.
I remember my young teenage son dreaming of his future. He loved sports. He was always MVP on his baseball team, and actively participated in football, basketball, and hockey.
He was dynamic in so many ways. And he loved writing! He had a real talent for it. Instead of keeping it a small creative dream, he started a sports newspaper for his school.
His teammates and classmates loved him. At 16, he was at the top of his game… and I couldn’t wait to see what he’d become.
And then one day…
And then one day, my beautiful vibrant son died in his sleep. He woke up with a fever and was dead the next morning. The assault was a deadly form of bacterial meningitis. It killed him, and it killed a part of me.
None of my son’s future dreams were fulfilled, and it was a long road to healing.
But he taught me something. The joy of pursuing his dreams was something he woke up to every morning until the day he died.
Maybe life isn’t about focusing on the long-term but making a series of choices to fulfill every single day.
Creativity saved my life.
After my son died, I thought I couldn’t go on, but creativity gave me a safe place to mourn. Within my days, I wrote in my journal, planted and tended a memorial rose garden, painted pottery, and made jewelry.
But the greatest gift I gave myself was the creation of a book that few could write. I wrote my story of loss and resilience to help other bereaved parents thrive. It’s my son’s legacy and my purpose. (How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen, A Parent’s Step by Step Guide to Healing After the Loss of a Child).
You only have one life, but each day is a life in itself.
What are you waiting for? Don’t wait for a time when it will be more convenient to awaken your creative life. You’ve only got this moment to begin.
Your creative life is inside of you right now, just waiting to be invited into the present. What starts on this day makes all the difference. That was my beautiful son’s message, loud and clear.