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Sometimes I feel like I’ve lived most of my life with only one foot in this realm.
The other foot has been exploring Hogwarts, or on a stroll with Lizzie at Longbourn, or running away from white walkers (and toward Jon Snow, if you know what I mean).
I’ve spent nearly three decades being mildly annoyed that real life gets in the way of fantasy. To me, fiction and art and music often feel more real and true than the monotony of everyday life, with its bills and laundry and mountains of responsibilities.
Could you make a case that maybe this is a problem? That I’m trying to escape reality and live in a perpetual state of denial?
You probably could. But hey, I’m still paying my bills, and my laundry gets done, and I’m not shirking my responsibilities. So cut me some slack.
Thankfully, I’ve found a way to weave creativity into my daily life. I’m not just absorbing other people’s creativity — in the form of books, movies, TV, music, and art — I’ve also built a business that’s fueled by my own creative inspiration (in the form of blogs and podcasts, mostly).
But I get that a lot of people don’t have that kind of seamless integration.
I was talking to one of my clients, Gwen, about this recently. She was feeling guilty about wanting to pursue writing — something she finds really fun and inspiring — because it’s not “practical.”
It got me thinking about how warped our definition of “creativity” is and how many weird “rules” we silently follow about what we’re “allowed” to pursue, creatively.
GWEN IS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE I’M JEALOUS OF
When I asked Gwen what she loved about writing, she positively gushed. She said:
“I don’t feel like I’m the one controlling the story or the characters. It’s more like I’m just getting to know them and recording what they say and do. It’s like stumbling upon a parallel universe, and I get to discover a place that no one has yet seen and report back. I love getting to build new worlds; it’s like I’m an archaeologist digging and brushing away at the dirt, following whatever path the story takes.”
Um, I WISH I had that experience with writing. It sounds amazing!
But here’s the thing: Gwen isn’t a full-time writer. She has a very standard 9-5 job in the accounting field right now. She’s not even sure she wants to be a professional writer. Maybe that would put too much pressure on it and make it less fun.
And yet throughout the day, she often gets intuitive nudges from the writing muse. She’ll feel pulled to start working on a new story or get a jolt of inspiration that she’s itching to pursue, but often won’t allow herself to act on it when she has a slow moment in the office or after work, when she has time to write.
When I asked why, she said:
“This isn’t my career. It’s just a hobby. So I feel like ‘real world’ stuff should come first. I feel like I shouldn’t spent too much time on it, given what it is.”
This simultaneously broke my heart and pissed me off. I very quickly set the record straight with Gwen, and I highly suspect I need to do it for some of you, too.
SO, HERE’S THE DEAL
I fully understand why Gwen said what she did. But it’s a warped conception of what creativity is all about.
That statement — “it’s just a hobby, so I’ve got to treat it accordingly” — presumes that the best way to measure the worth of something is with metrics like titles, money, and prestige.
As in, if someone is paying you to do something, that makes it more legitimate. Or if you can put it on your LinkedIn profile, that makes it “real.” Or if you’ve won a bunch of awards, somehow you’ve been validated.
We assume that unless we have those type of “stats,” our pursuits aren’t as important and are somehow less deserving of our time and attention.
And sure, external validation can be nice. But it doesn’t inherently change how creative something is. A book is a book, whether or not anyone ever reads it. And plenty of fantastic books have never seen the light of day. Does that somehow make the person who wrote them less creative?
CAN WE AGREE ON A NEW DEFINITION OF CREATIVITY?
If you want to read the textbook on this, you must stop what you’re doing and read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book will change your life.
In it she defines creativity as, “The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.” That’s it. Broad and vague on purpose.
She also says:
“I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The Universe buries strange jewels deep within all of us, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels — that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place — that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.”
In other words — creativity is an internal journey. It’s not about proving anything to anyone else; it’s about discovering and expressing who we are. Full stop.
And by the way, “creative” doesn’t necessarily mean “artistic.” The purest meaning of creativity is quite simply “the use of imagination or original ideas.” Imagination and originality can be applied to anything, not just art.
Oh, and “creativity” also has nothing to do with how good you are at something. You don’t have to have ANY talent to use your imagination and originality to express yourself.
“Good” is relative, anyway. No two people could agree on a precise definition of what that means.
So if being talented or artistic isn’t the point, and if making money and getting validated isn’t the point, then what is the point of creativity?
HERE’S WHAT I TOLD GWEN
The point of any creative pursuit is that it brings you joy.
The reason it brings you joy is because, in the moments you’re absorbed in it, you’re aligned with one of the deepest, truest part of who you are as a person.
In other words, joy is just a side effect of being in alignment. And whatever form of creative expression speaks to you is like a fast track to finding that alignment.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it until you’re tired of hearing it: We are not here to be practical and then die. What exactly is the point of living, in that scenario?
We’re here to express who we are and experience as much joy as we can along the way. Anything that lets you tap into that feeling is not superfluous; it’s actually a HUGE point of what you’re doing here, in the first place.
Which means that, yes, all the books I’ve read and Netflix I’ve watched haven’t been for nothing. When I’m doing it for the right reasons (as in, I’m not numbing out and trying to avoid my life), it feeds my soul and brings me a lot of joy.
My wish for Gwen, you, and me is that we care more about feeling good than we do about being practical, and that we start measuring our lives on a spectrum of joy rather than with dollars, metrics, and stats.
And I guarantee you this: Anyone who doesn’t understand why you’d spend time pursuing things that bring you joy, even though you may not be good at them and they may not earn you any money, is someone who hasn’t yet (as Liz Gilbert would say) had the courage to hunt for their own “strange jewels.”
So, how have you defined creativity? And have you allowed yourself to pursue the things that make you feel good, even if they’re “just hobbies”? Come share with me, in the comments!
IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN YOU’LL ALSO LOVE THIS E-BOOK…
Rachel (& Kristen)
TODAY IS THE LAST DAY FOR 1:1 COACHING ENROLLMENT!
Today, Tuesday, March 31st is the last day we’re accepting sign-up forms for 1:1 coaching clients!
- This enrollment period is for people interested in getting started ASAP (within the next 4 weeks).
- You don’t have to know for sure that you want to move ahead with coaching. You just have to be serious enough about it to want to have a conversation.
- We will have coaching spots open up before we take on the next “official” wave of clients (which won’t be until later in June 2020). So if you’re not ready now, or you’ve found us in-between “official” enrollment periods, then you can add your name to the wait list and we’ll contact you if and when we have availability.
- There are two options—2 months or 5 months. Brush up on the difference, here. No matter what, all of our clients get access to 10+ hours of structured content and unlimited email support.
Want to hear how our coaching process works (and why it works so well)? Check out our episode, “Why career coaching has (almost) nothing to do with your career” from October 2019.