When we rung in the new year on January 1st, I thought hard and furiously about how I wanted 2018 to go. Should I chase more wealth, fame, and networking opportunities with amazing entrepreneurs in and out of my state? Should I go into freelancing to support my writing and my job as a registered nurse? Or should I just focus on being a full time nurse while writing for fun? Should I, should I, should I.
After what seemed like an eternity, I decided on a word that has been nagging me for the past six months and has eluded my life for most of my adult life: freedom. To be precise, creative freedom. Or to be exact, the freedom to live a satisfying creative life. A life where I don’t have to choose either passion or money but passion and money. I know many people out there are in the same boat, and if you are reading this, you are probably me right now (as I am you).
1. Do something that scares the heck out of you.
Every day, I’m surrounded by the most amazing and ambitious individuals at work and in my personal life. However, one thing that saddens and scares me is the number of people who desire to do something different from what they’re currently doing but are deliberately holding themselves back. Because of the stories they’ve told themselves about who they are and what they’re supposed to do. Because they haven’t been given permission to be different.
You do a disservice to the world by hiding your creativity, and the only way to experience a highly satisfying creative life is to never settle for less. Whether you’re doing it for fun or for money, do something that scares the heck out of you! It might be falling in love with writing (again) and sending a pitch to a magazine editor. It might be picking up that phone or emailing your contacts that your interests have changed and you’re looking to change careers.
Every day is an opportunity for you to deviate from what’s comfortable yet stopping you from stepping into an even bigger part of your purpose.
2. Fail fast. And publicly too.
What? This sounds very counterintuitive because all we’re taught is to never give failure a chance. However, I disagree with that notion. The idea that we are NOT allowed to fail sends the incorrect message that the process itself isn’t worth noting or celebrating. The idea of protecting us from failure exposes us and leaves us with bruised egos and shame. But the only way to live a life of freedom and a satisfying creative life is to try many things…and experience failure.
When I first started writing online, I felt the pain of rejection so much that I went harder at trying to be an online entrepreneur. Well, this only led to burnout as I crept back into my introvert hole, vowing never to write again. But I had several mentors in my corner who shared their failures and pivots publicly which led to an internal shift…and eventually, writing again.
Here’s the right way to fail publicly: Choose a platform and build an audience that loves your work. Pick a project that scares you. Declare your intention to the world and have a go at it. If you fail, that’s fine! You can always go back to evaluate what went wrong. And guess what? Failing publicly is a great way to build an audience of humans who are interested in your next big thing and would promote your work to their circles.
3. Finish something every single day.
It is okay to want to experiment with your gifts and skills. It is okay to live a life that doesn’t tether you to one single definition of what it means to be a “creative.”
However, whether you want to experience a creative life just for fun or for profit, you have to finish what you start. Every published work of art can be traced to a complete manuscript or musical piece…not drafts. That unfinished email will not send itself to the publisher.
However great or awesome you want to be in life all depends on finishing what you start. Finishing your high school education and moving on to college. Graduating from college and obtaining your bachelors and masters degrees. Or in our case, finishing the projects we start and sharing them with the world.
4. Step away from your accomplishments.
Ego is the enemy. First is the need to bask in your glory and share this good news with others. Then comes the unsuspicious feeling of “having arrived.” But as a creative person, we can never fully arrive. We are always striving to do the next big thing. We cannot NOT create. The ecosystem of a truly satisfying creative life must always include the art of creation.
Yes, we are supposed to celebrate our successes and always share our work with the world (because who better promote us than we ourselves). But the trick is balancing sharing with creating. While doing the work should never stop us from living our best lives, we must not let promotion take the center stage while our work suffers.
5. Get used to asking for help and receiving it.
Sometimes we get the idea that if we ask people to support us in our creative journey, we are selling out. But holding on to these beliefs only affirm the incorrect idea of the starving artist.
It is okay to ask for help if you’re stuck. It is okay to come back to your audience and say “the project I started a while ago missed the mark.” But in as much as we want to be seen and heard in an overcrowded internet, we have to make space in our hearts to receive help from others.
Receiving help doesn’t make you weak or make you vulnerable to mistreatment. If it is freely given, there are no judgements attached to receiving it.
These are some of the ways to live a truly satisfying creative life in 2018. And I am taking my own advice because what got me here won’t necessarily serve me where I’m going: a life where my interests, hobbies, and career meet at the intersection of creativity.