The way I see it, there are two ways to live a creative life.
In way 1, I am tense, anxious and agitated – with myself and with everyone else. I am self-focused. I have tunnel vision. There’s a constant heaviness in my chest and a lump in my throat. I am doing-doing-doing, like a hamster in a wheel running a race to nowhere. I think, “I just want to get this done“. I want to reach the end of that friggin’ tunnel so I can move on and get another tick in a checkbox and another notch on my CV. Way 1 is exhausting. It’s my default. It’s driven by fear. A fear of scarcity, defined by Dr. Brene Brown as “not enough”. Not smart enough, not accomplished enough, not successful enough. Not doing enough. I have do more so that I can be enough.
In way 2, I am joyful. I am inspired. There’s a feeling of exhilaration at those rare moments when ideas come together. There’s a feeling of magic, because I don’t know where the ideas come from (they have a life of their own!) but there they are. In way 2, I am working hard but in a way, I am also playing hard. But there are challenges. I do get stuck and more than once, feel like giving up. There are days I can’t wait to get to play/work and other days where sitting down at my desk to create something out of nothing feels like the hardest thing to do. In way 2, life is interesting. There’s always something new to chew on, a puzzle that I can’t quite solve yet.
In Rob Bell’s book “How to be here”, he talks about the difference between “craft” and “success”.
He writes: “While success asks ‘What more can I get?’, craft says ‘Can you believe I get to do this’?“
I keep this quote near my desk. At eye-level. Always in my view. It is something I don’t ever want to forget, because I know how easily and imperceptibly I can slip back into Way 1. So this post is for you, dear reader, but mostly its for me.
So that Future Me will read this, and remember what matters.
PS. Writing this was inspired by some recent conversations I had with colleagues who have been incredibly “successful” in their careers. In the short-term, it looked like they made it. In the long term, they shared a different story. One of exhaustion, burnout, looking back and feeling like “what was it all for?” So yes, Way 1 will get you results. The question is, at what cost? How might those results compare to those of Way 2?
PPS. If you liked this post, also check out “This creative life, part 1”.