Listen: can you hear the siren song of the creating life?

What is creativity?

To me, creativity is the impulse to change other people’s hearts and minds by shining a new light on old ideas.

To heed this impulse, we use many different tools: a paintbrush, a camera, a computer keyboard, a guitar, even our own voices and bodies.

When we begin, we know we’re in for a ride. It’s likely that the thing we are creating will become an obsession. This is the primary occupational hazard of the creating life.

I think this is one reason that so few people, even truly creative people, allow themselves to live like artists. It’s so much simpler to slip into mediocrity, to use our gifts to churn out ordinary drivel, especially when ordinary drivel pays the bills.

Although the lure of the creative life is strong, we know, if we give into it, we will be lost to our regular lives, sometimes for days or even weeks at a time. When we begin a project, we are compelled to keep going, often at the expense of household chores and paying work and a dozen other things that regular people seem to value so highly.

Yet many of us do it anyway.

This is the difference between being good and being great. Not in the beginning, because everyone sucks in the beginning, but eventually.

“Wanting to be a good actor is not good enough. You must want to be a great actor. You just have to have that.”

—Gary Oldman

Deep down, all artists know this is true. They know they are not living up to their full potential as human beings unless they are creating great art. Yet, any sort of creating is a high wire act.

You see, we’re all terrified.

The terror is unavoidable, because the creative life requires us to push our stories and paintings and photos out into the world, where they may be judged harshly, or not at all.

Unfortunately, we can’t change other people’s hearts and minds if we put our poems in a drawer or hide our paintings in the garage. So we take the risk. If we refuse to take the risk, we are not living the creating life. That’s the hard truth.

How to keep going.

I feel fortunate to know many artists, from musicians to painters to filmmakers. And, of course, many writers.

When I met Matt six years ago, he was writing screenplays and making photos, in addition to his day job as a graphic designer. His enthusiasm liberated me from a creative funk that threatened to kill the artist inside of me. Since then, we’ve pulled each other out of that pit many times. For this I am grateful.

If you’ve ever felt the pull to create, I encourage you to seek out kindred spirits. Find others who are creating. It doesn’t matter if they’re exploring the same medium as  you. Just being around people who feel the fear and create anyway will fan the flames of creation inside of you.

The creating life is not right for everyone, but if you’re willing, we need you. Don’t let your light go out, and don’t stand by while it goes out in others.