So you want to live a creative life, but something is holding you back. You think you’re all tied up in other people’s wants and needs and expectations. But the truth is, you’re the one holding onto the ropes. Let them go, and those demands on your life will float away like boats on the tide. They may still exist out there on the sea, but it’s not your job to anchor them anymore.
How to live a creative life
Seizing your creative life starts with realizing that the power is yours. It always has been. Once you realize this, you can take the four steps:
1. Find a way to feed, house, and clothe yourself.
The idea of a starving artist is sad and unnecessary. Seek out work that will cover your basic necessities. You may not live like a queen, but you will be living, and only the living are capable of creating. It might actually help if the work is boring or tedious because that leaves you with plenty of time to think about creative pursuits while you punch the clock.
I wrote so many words when I was walking in circles as a gallery host at an art museum.
2. Let go of other people’s expectations and demands.
Other people will give you ropes to hold. That doesn’t mean you have to take them. Letting go might make you feel like you’re disappointing people. That’s okay. You might think they’ll be angry at you. That’s okay too. Your creative life is your own. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone (including yourself, see step one), you can disregard their protests.
Now you might argue that disappointing your mother, grandmother, teacher, mentor, or friend is hurting them. But it’s important to recognize whether you’re actually causing them lasting harm, or just refusing to buy into the story they’re telling about who you should be.
3. Let go of your own fears and hang-ups.
Stop and examine any thought or statement that begins with “I should” or “I have to.” Be equally suspicious of “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t.” Says who? Why? What do others have to gain by putting those walls around you? What do you have to gain by letting them? Is the profit worth the loss? You might find that it is. That’s fine. If it isn’t, it’s time to move to step four.
4. Do whatever you want.
This sounds like the easiest thing in the world, but it’s actually the most challenging step. To do it, you first have to know what you want. Not what you should do, not what other creative people in your discipline have done before. Not what no one wants you to do so you do it as a form of rebellion. What do you want to do? Find out and do it. Congratulations, you’re now living your creative life.
Living your creative life to the fullest
This goes way beyond what you see as your medium. You might be a writer or a painter, a potter or a blacksmith, a fabric artist, or a woodworker. That’s not what matters here. Or, at least, it’s not all that matters here. Your medium is one way of giving form to your thoughts, ideas, and insights, but you find the raw materials in every part of your life.
So doing what you want means following your curiosity. Want to learn about bees, or how engines work, or what life was like for sex workers in the 1800s? Go ahead. Read a book. Hunt down some photos. Watch movies about it. Seek out an expert and ask them as many questions as they’ll let you. You don’t have to know what you’ll use that information for. You’re just gathering raw material.
A creative life is a curious life. Go live yours.