I’ve recently been considering what, exactly, I want from my creative life. Exploring my creative mission statement, and wondering where I should want it to take me.
It’s a tough thing for me to consider. You see, I’ve done this before.
When I was a kid, graphic design and computer animation were among the many things I thought I wanted to do with my life. I was pretty serious about it. I took the art classes, I took the computer classes, I studied on my own. I even went through a summer orientation with the Art Institute, because I just knew that was what I wanted to do. But that orientation blew my mind. There were so many people who were so much farther along than I was! So much talent! So much knowledge!
I came away warped and wounded, as only someone who sees herself as an artist (should I pronounce it ar-teest at this point? No? Too much?) can be. I melted down on the concept that I would never be good enough and turned my attention to the theatre (Oh yeah, I just whipped out the “re” on y’all. This is legit.) instead.
Because that was the place to take a fragile ego.
I devoted the next chunk of my life to the stage. I auditioned for every play I could, I spent every night in rehearsals. Those were the days when I thrived on too little sleep, too little food, and WAAAAY too much coffee. It was a weird time, but I loved it. I finally came to the conclusion that I wanted to be a director. After getting my feet wet and then flooding my senses with directing opportunities, I just knew that was the way to go. So, I set my sights on grad school. I aimed for the acting side and the directing side, figuring I could set my focus once I got in the door someplace. I attended auditions. I received callbacks and went to tour campuses and spend time in their departments. But when it came down to it, nothing ever panned out. I tried for several years.
Then life pulled the proverbial rug right out from under me. I underwent some major personal things that kicked my ass. They’ll come up at some point around here, I’m sure, but…well…not right now. Just know that what I went through robbed me of my self-confidence, my passion for life, and my ability to dream. No back of the hand to the forehead drama here, folks. Real, terrible, painful stuff that no one should ever–EVER–have to go through.
After that, for a while, I supported myself (barely) with an indie art business–vintage goods and handmade jewelry, mostly. But the attempt I made was half-hearted because I was half-hearted. I didn’t feel like I had anything left to devote to creativity. I thought my creative side was gone. For good.
It took me nearly ten years to get back to a point where I believed in myself again. I dabbled off and on with theatre–both acting and directing because that love will never truly be out of my blood. But it doesn’t feel the same to me anymore. I’m too raw and have too much to draw from. Usually, this would be considered a good thing. Unfortunately for me, bringing up the emotions to create a well-developed character in real-time is a bit too exposing. I could leave a rehearsal for a British farce and cry all the way home. True story.
It wasn’t until I set my mind to writing Black Wolf that I freed the caged creative energy that had been hiding in my bones. Learning that I was still that person has been one of the best parts of this process. I found my way back to the place where my creativity flows freely. I no longer have to fondly remember when I could draw from it. It’s there, pulsing and coursing right under the surface.
I feel more me than I have felt in years. It’s pretty amazing.
But now? Well…I want more.
It’s hard to say I want a creative life again because I believed that was a concept I had successfully put on a shelf. It’s easy to say, “I’m fine with this as a hobby.” It’s much harder to say, “I want this to be my future.”
Knowing that I want to make my life–my living–creatively is a tough thing to voice. It means admitting that I would, one day, like to leave behind my good, real job with my excellent boss and steady paycheck to pursue something far more perilous and far less certain. It means opening myself up to the potential embarrassment of never reaching that goal. It means that I’ll never have to stop fighting against a current of people who wonder why I bother. Of people who don’t think I can succeed. After all, doesn’t basically everyone who writes wish they could do it full-time?
Sure. And some people actually get there. Why can’t that be me? I’m smart, I’m talented, and I’m determined as hell.
I believe in the possibility that I could do this–for real–with my future. There is plenty I have to learn, but I’m okay with that. If I commit to always getting better, I’ll get better. I’ll learn and I’ll grow. Reading books about writing, attending classes and conferences, practicing the art every day–these concepts are not new to me. I thrive in this type of learning environment and I’m a glutton for this kind of pressure.
It’s risky–but what will I gain?
Myself, for one thing. I’ve always been my most me when I’m free to be creative. I feel more in touch with my true nature and I love myself best when I’m living in that creative zone.
My schedule would be my own–my husband and I could truly travel and go and do and see whatever, whenever. Talk about a perk.
If I can demand from myself the things I need to form this creative life, then I’m set to gain so much. And it’s the craziest thing, but when I work hard for this? It doesn’t feel like work. I don’t mind. I don’t have days off now. My weekends are devoted to marketing. My afternoons are devoted to writing. Even when we went to NYC, my special notebook went with me everywhere and I worked on the plane and in the hotel, and I loved every second of it. I feel like Anne of Green Gables: there’s so much scope for imagination!
So, stick around, because I’m gonna try like hell to make this thing happen.
Over to you. Do you thrive when you’re creative? What do you want from your creative life? What tips do you have for someone who wants to pursue a creative future?