Monday, August 24, 2015

In Pursuit of a Creative Life

I love watching Project Runway, but if you saw me in real life on most days, you would realize that I don't really care about fashion. What I love about that show is being able to watch people take raw material and create something new. The drama and pressure of challenges that result in sometimes stunning conceptions, executions, and final products is what keeps me running home on Thursday evenings to tune in year after year.

It's about watching creative people live a creative life--and many of the struggles that creative desire brings. Whether we are drawn to write, sew, paint, sing, act, dance, carve, name your art, often there is a great personal struggle involved in doing these things. Both internal and external.

Here are just a few reasons why we either don't start or stop creating:

Having time
Having a place
Quieting the critic in our own head
Quieting the critic in your own house
Persevering through the "beginner stage"
No monetary pay off for time invested
No professional validation has ever been extended

Oftentimes, the struggles overwhelm the desire to create and can snuff it out all together. Or more likely, cause us to shove that desire down, deep down into a place inside us where it will maybe fester and possibly make us very unhappy people. (I often wonder if some of our harshest, most cynical critics have unpursued creative inclinations of their own.)

Recently, Project Runway has been airing an AARP commercial with Tim Gunn and a gentleman named Chris Donovan. Chris was the winner of a contest sponsored by AARP and Lifetime. He received critical feedback from Tim Gunn for his shoe designs. You can see some of Chris's work here. In the commercial, we see Chris and Tim examining some of the unique shoes Chris has designed. In the ad, Chris explains how he has worked at a phone company for most of his life, then at 55 he quit his day job to pursue his creative passion--shoe design.

Now if you are thinking, "Well, I can't quit my day job to pursue xyz. I have a family to support!" I hear you, I can't quit my day job either. Even if I could I'm not sure I would because, even though it is at times ridiculously stressful, I happen to really enjoy my career in education. My point is not that Chris took a risk and jumped from his day job and into his passion (that's really fodder for an entirely different blog post) it's that Chris is actively pursuing his creative life despite not experiencing creative success or recognition until later in life (thank you to the AARP and Lifetime for pointing out that as-of-yet-unrealized-dreams don't have to die at 29, ahem.)

Let's face it, most of us will always struggle with those internal and external barriers between us and our work, whatever our individual media may be. I believe that if we find personal joy, fulfillment, and a meaningful challenge in working through our creations, finding the time, finding the place, finding the self confidence to face the blank canvas is totally worth more than any monetary pay off you may never see from commercial success.

If we hold our center to be the act of creation, our creative life is about the active engagement with our media. That is where the real joy resides. The outcomes (acceptance or rejection) elicit emotions of their own, but in an ideal creative existence, should not interfere with the joy found in the original process of building our works.        


  1. This is something I've been struggling with as of late too. It's time to take the plunge and allow myself to live a more creative life. Thank you so much for this post, Rebecca. It seems that it's come at a time where I've been contemplating this myself!

    1. I think it's always helpful to know that we all struggle to leap our external and internal barriers when it comes to focusing on our writing.