When we’re unsure of who we are as creators, when we are new to the experience, especially coming to it later in life, it’s tempting to think there is a particular way to create, a right way. It’s tempting to think there is a secret language known to “real” artists though it might feel inaccessible to us.
There is not.
Many of us learned what we (mis)understood to be the rules of life, including rules of the creative life. Many people live as if those “rules” are true and inviolable.
They are not.
Those rules are an illusion. Or even delusion. To think beyond them, to freely dream of alternatives is at the heart of creativity. It’s anarchy, rebellion. It’s as punk and revolutionary as it gets.
But to people who embrace the illusions of stability that rules establish in their lives and, worse yet, pass along to others, they value rigid comfort above all else. They are afraid of a life that is free of rules. So they dwell within self-fulfilling cocoons of those “rules,” caterpillars never wishing to emerge as butterflies. Even more preferable to them, their cocoons reside within a collection of like cocoons. The more the better. Comfort buffered by comfort, isolated from the scary evidence of what life as butterflies might entail.
It is in this society which we all have come up, and in which we find ourselves trying to break free. We hear and heed the call from within to emerge into our true colors, stretch our wings and take flight, yet feel uncomfortable in doing so and at first struggle with how to go about it.
It is no mystery, then, why at first we might seek certainty in our creative lives, absolute answers. And why we assume other creators know how to achieve the creative life in a way that seems to elude us.
They do not. And it does not. They’ve simply faced their fears and become explorers within themselves, as we must too.
Leaning into this freedom of Self and creativity is scary, vulnerable and the utmost experience of adulting.
Sure, as adults, haven’t we all at some time or another wished someone would give us the answers to life? Haven’t we at times gotten tired of the endless decision making and possibilities, fearful we’ll choose wrong for ourselves or, what’s more, our children?
But the creative life is a constant practice and process of pushing into those uncharted spaces of ourselves and making choices. And then owning them. While we are learning and developing our creative practices, it is often uncomfortable.
“Am I doing this right?” The answer is: Yes, you are.
There is no blueprint for a creative life. No one else’s path is yours. It’s a road trip without destination, and without end. It’s a story that is ever unfolding and, ultimately, can never be anywhere but here and now.
In whatever way you feel you are falling short against your vision today, embrace it as the learning and the work that is an unavoidably necessary stepping stone to whatever lies ahead. Because it is.
In five years, and 10, 20 and 30, you likely will look back at this moment and see flaws and shortcomings even in the work you feel proud of today. And, well, shouldn’t you? That is the process. That is the way. That is living.
It is the growth that comes from practice, and from consistently showing up for your creative life day after day. And that is the only language of “real” artists, having the courage to vulnerably show up again and again in the face of all the self-denying rules we were conditioned to believe.
The more days and years I keep showing up to my work, the more ease I come into with myself, and with this creative life, and how I understand creativity.
Creating is about problem solving. It’s about exploration. It’s about asking questions and expressing possible solutions. Creativity is about ideas. If any of us had the absolute end-all answers to life, to art … to anything, really, there’d be no need for this work.
Life is change, evolution, progress. The never ending creative process is what makes that progress possible. And it’s inherently unblueprintable. Thankfully. Otherwise, it would just be another set of human potential-limiting “rules” meant to be broken.