I recently finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame (I’m late to the party, I know). In this book, she recounts some musings on what it’s like to be a creative professional. They are lessons on creativity if you will.
As I was reading the book, I felt like it had been written for me. I totally got what she was saying because I’ve experienced many of the same things in my own career (And my career is nowhere near as successful as hers. Not by a long shot.). However, I couldn’t help but think of colleagues and even some coaching clients who must have missed the memo when it came to these lessons on creativity.
And so I’d like to share some of these lessons on creativity in case you’re currently struggling with your creative career.
Creativity is serious, but it’s not that serious.
One of the greatest lessons on creativity every freelancer must learn is that creativity is serious business, however, you do need to have some lightheartedness as well. Actually, if you’re not at least somewhat lighthearted in your approach you may actually have a hard time being creative.
According to Gilbert (and I happen to agree), you need to take your creative work seriously. That means you need to actually show up and put your all into it. However, at some point, you just need to let it go into the world and let go of your fear of criticism.
For a freelance writer, that looks like sending a draft over to an editor and not taking it to heart when they edit your work. For a designer, it looks like being okay when a client doesn’t like aspects of your work and wants some edits. In other words, if you’re going to make a living as a creative, you can’t be so sensitive about your work.
It doesn’t always need to be a struggle.
A lot of artists hang on to that mysterious tortured soul archetype because creativity has always been linked to struggle. A struggle to be creative. A struggle to make money. A struggle to be a functioning member of society. You catch my drift.
However, in her lessons on creativity, Gilbert points out how this doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, sometimes hanging on to the struggle is destructive behavior and it actually hinders your creativity and your career progress.
Self-sabotage could be as simple as saying “My life as a creative professional is going to be hard simply because it’s creative.” This isn’t inherently true. Having a creative career does not need to equate to a constant struggle.
In fact, if you do equate your creative career with constant struggle, you run the risk of never putting your work out there out of fear. You essentially run the risk of ruining your own creative career before you’ve even given yourself a chance.
The main lesson on creativity that I got from Big Magic is this: Creativity – and making a living with it – is full of paradoxes. If you can learn to be serious about your work, but lighthearted with your approach, you’ll be way ahead of the game.