Hello, my name is Julia, and I am a creative.
I have deemed this place our club, and by ours I mean mine, because I am seeking support, guidance, and any amount of bad small group snacks to munch on when I need to eat my feelings.
Even as I say those words out loud (or write them down), there is a catch in my throat like a warning I’m about to say something snobby.
I am a creative.
I can imagine someone saying this in a snobby way, and I can also imagine someone saying this with a self-righteous melancholy, as though they cannot believe their own misfortune at being so creative.
I am a creative.
I am a creative because the things I want to pursue, both professionally and for pleasure, are creative endeavors. I long to create stories and works of art, beautiful photographs and spaces.
Here’s the thing about the creative life: I have had to combat (and still fight through every day) a lot of shame and self-doubt. And, if you are trying to pursue any sort of creative purpose, you will more than likely face these things as well (if you have already overcome all your shame and self-doubt, please email me and include a link to any and all self-medicating services you have used, including cake delivery methods).
Living a creative life means understanding you may never be able to measure your success as a creative by the outward results of your creativity.
You are not creative to get hundreds of followers, money, a book deal, or a Tony-winning musical. These things would be great, and feel validating for a while, but you are creative because you have to be, because this is how you are wired, and to be anything but creative is to deny your nature, your make-up, to reach old age and know you could have been an artist if you had merely put paint to brush but fear and insecurity stopped you in your tracks.
This endeavor, this book or play or painting, might never make you any money. You may never become famous, and people may never scramble to hire you for your creative talents. These things would be awesome. If anything gets me up and at my computer in the morning (and not much does) it’s the possibility of all these things; glamour, importance, prestige.
The reason I know I’m a writer and that I must write, forever and always, is because even if someone told me I had no outstanding writing talent I would keep writing anyway. I couldn’t stop. Writing is part of my bones, it’s who I am. There is no me without writing, whether I’m writing in public on this blog or in a notebook no one will ever see (except maybe my adopted children once I am dead).
That’s how you know your calling, kids; you cannot stop doing whatever it is you are doing that is meaningful to you, no matter what other people think.
And you’ll have to deal with what other people think.
To be a creative means exposing yourself to the misunderstandings of some people, even people who might know you and love you.
Throughout this process (this process that I have been discouraged, confused, and disillusioned by), even people with the best intentions have misunderstood what all of this means to me. And why shouldn’t they? Even I still fall into the camp that says nothing is real until it makes you money. If you are a creative, a lot of people are going to judge your work by the measurable results it creates, including financial stability.
But you are a creative. What some do not and will not understand is that your success is that you create. Period. For a creative, there is the utmost, gut-wrenching desire to have these measurable, tangible results.
Oh, to be validated and wanted, to prove whatever this thing is more than just a hobby, has value, can sustain me. Is my passion more than a pipe dream for other people make polite comments about?
To be creative means accepting this truth that people may feel sorry for you. They may think you don’t do anything, or don’t work hard, or suffer in vain.
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. Then I tell them I’m a receptionist. Writer must always come first, even if it feels like a lie, even if it sounds mostly gross and self-important. Sometimes, I don’t even want to try and say I’m a writer, especially on the days it feels untrue. And it feels untrue a lot. Even now, in this moment, as I sit at my kitchen table in my robe, I don’t feel like a writer. I feel like someone who has declared their hobby to be their life’s work.
But, you have to say it. You have to name it and claim it, and when you put out a piece for the first time in months and the first thing someone asks you is, “Have you gotten any responses yet?” you will unclench your fists, take a breath, and remind yourself (again) that no matter how you long for emails to flood your inbox over something you’ve written, you cannot stop even if they never come. You must know what you’re about.
The measurable results of any creative endeavor are only ever going to be a byproduct of the inner rightness that comes from the mere act of creating.
Yes, you need to make money. You have to pay your rent and feed your cat and buy new shoes when the heel wears out. And you will once again combat the shame you may feel when you get a job that is merely a job, but one that allows you to be fully who you are those other 15 hours a week. People might see you as your job that is only a job. Okay, that sucks. So you’ll have to work extra hard to remind yourself to not see yourself that way either.
Your luxury might never lie in measurable results, a pay raise indicating good performance, or a steady paycheck. No, your luxury lies in already knowing what it is you were born to do, what you cannot tear yourself away from just as you cannot live without your own skin.
If you need me, I’ll be over here giving myself a pep talk in the mirror.
One of my favorite ways to be creative is to take pictures and put a very specific filter on them so it looks like a fancy photo (instagram.com/hellosoulblog). Last week I posted a video of me dancing in a bee costume. So that’s about what you’re going to get.