Why Creative People Need To Learn To Love The Process
If you’re an artist, a writer, an inventor, or a creative person of any kind, there’s one thing that can enhance your life and work beyond all else. Learn to love the process, whatever your particular process may be. Love what you do, not what you achieve. Love the act of creating, not the results. Love your craft, not your finished product. There is no overnight success. You’re in this for the long haul. So learn to love the process, or do something else.
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It’s a privilege to learn about something you love
Every time you sit down to write, draw, paint, or create, you’re learning more about your craft, finding new aspects to your talent, and pushing yourself to make something new. You have the time, resources, and opportunity to do that, even if it’s not as often or as consistently as you would like.
Maybe you work hard all week, and write on the weekends. Maybe you take care of your kids all day, and create beautiful art after they’re in bed at night. Your life may not be ideal, but if you get to learn more about what you love to do, on a (fairly) regular basis. That’s a privilege.
It’s more of a privilege to earn while you learn
I’ve really had to wrap my brain around this concept this year. I’m a writer. I’m working on a book. It’s not as complete as I would like it to be, because working on my book is not the only thing I do during my working hours. I work as a freelance content creator and content marketing manager, and I spend a lot of time on the day job.
The day job takes me away from my passion project, but it supports it, too. I write articles and blog posts and website copy, and get to work with amazing editors. I improve my writing every day, practising and tweaking and honing my craft. As a content marketer, I get to learn about new software, tools and techniques that I can use in my own business. One of my clients is an amazing author, one who I’d like to emulate, and I get to see how she runs her writing career, from the inside out. I get to earn while I learn, and that’s a privilege.
It’s a privilege to practice your craft, and improve over time, and feel the satisfaction that goes with that
What have you achieved this year? The last five years? Over your lifetime?
Answer those questions, and celebrate the answers. Because overnight success, when it comes, will be built on a thousand tiny wins. The publications that accept my work, the writing contests I place in, the blog posts that go viral, the readers who reach out to tell me they liked my work: all these things are what I should be celebrating, every day. Because this is the process, and I’m lucky enough to enjoy it.
Your life’s work is your life’s work. It takes a lifetime to create it. Returns come slowly sometimes, for artists, writers, and other creatives. It’s not always possible to know in advance what will pay off and what won’t. So it’s more important to do the work, make it something you’re proud of, and put it out there.
In her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert tells a story of how she decided as a young writer that she would never ask her writing to support her. In fact, she vowed she would always support it. She would keep the day job, find other ways to bring in money, and always do what was necessary to allow herself to keep writing, even if she had to wait a while for that writing to pay off. She kept a variety of jobs that ran alongside her writing career. She was still working one of them until after her book Eat, Pray, Love became a bestseller. As Gilbert puts it:
“CREATIVITY OWES US NOTHING IN EXCHANGE FOR OUR DEVOTION TO HER — EXCEPT THE GORGEOUS EXPERIENCE OF GETTING TO WORK WITH HER AT ALL.”
Sometimes we have to support our art. We have to take the day job, or the evening job, or the freelance copywriting work, so we can spend our spare time perfecting our poetry or novel. We have to put in the self-care so we have the energy to come to our personal passion projects rested, and ready and willing to work on them.
We have to take an attitude of ‘I get to work on my novel/blog/passion project today’. Never ‘I have to work on my novel blog/passion project today’. And, of course, we need to keep putting in the work, no matter what, with extreme patience. Even when our return on investment seems to be zero results for hundreds of hours, because when it comes to practicing our craft, the results may come all at once, after hundreds (or thousands) of hours of practice.
Patience is a virtue, but there’s nothing virtuous about sitting there idle, waiting for success to happen. Practice while you wait. Hone your craft while you wait. Create while you wait.
I love the last verse of A Psalm of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
“LET US, THEN, BE UP AND DOING,
WITH A HEART FOR ANY FATE;
STILL ACHIEVING, STILL PURSUING,
LEARN TO LABOR AND TO WAIT.”
That’s how I try and live life. Up and doing, no matter what the result. Logging small achievements and pursuing small goals. Working my butt off while I wait.
So today, for all the artists and writers, and inventors and creatives out there. I’m sending you a simple message. Keep doing the work. Keep loving the work. Keep loving the learning process. You control your choices and your actions, but not your outcomes.
Oh, and get your shit together. Ask yourself this question: When I hit it big, what am I going to wish I had in place? Because chances are, when you hit it big, it will happen quickly, without warning. That’s why success looks like it happens overnight, even though it often takes decades. Be prepared.
This post also appeared on Medium.com.
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