If, like me, you have shunned the suit and tie and are bravely plowing ahead with your craft, then, like me, there will be demons and dragons to face on the road. It can be a long, hard road. Be it writing, music, art, starting your own business, or being self-employed, the pitfalls are similar and can be categorized. In the eyes of the world; or at lest as far as you think, you may be a failure..but sometimes we must travel desolate lands to reach greener pastures.
Most of them are around fear, and I am classifying doubt as a part of fear here. There are small and massive doubts and fears – the worrying over individual pieces of work, the larger worries about the tone and message your work is presenting, and of course worrying about ‘what people will think.’
“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.“
There are fears and doubts over whether you are doing the right thing, walking the right path in life. These can be crippling, and consume such a frightening amount of time as to cause depression. Depression, and other mental illnesses such as addiction, anxiety, and insomnia consume the creative types. To others, our lifestyle may seem ideal, our time seems to be our own, and there are inevitable on and off periods.
To us however, we battle with our resistance, our doubts, our fears, and if through this assault of thought forms we can stay strong and sit down to our work, regularly, then we succeed in our own small way. We win a massive victory every time we sit to write, or wet our paintbrush. The artists way is like the warriors then, we must constantly show up, battle our inner voices and cares, and refuse to let our resistance crush us.
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
We have to believe in ourselves. There must be a level of confidence or you would not have devoted your time to the task of “getting somewhere” in your craft or business. It is helpful to remember that initial drive, that belief in yourself. Hopefully it is not a delusion and that you could genuinely make a living selling your craft.
Then there is the thorny issue of what it is to “get somewhere” or even “make it.” For you does that involve writing the next Harry Potter and becoming a billionaire, or being as sought after as Hans Zimmer? Does it involve prizes and wealth? Was van Gogh or Beethoven’s career any less valid because they died in poverty, driven mad?
Does it matter if you have recognition? This is the question. What is motivating you?
If you can honestly say that you love doing what you do, then who cares. It is then its own reward. The flow, the sheer magic of creating, of seeing or hearing something new emerge from the unmanifested. The spark of the dakini, the gentle whisper of the muse, can it be enough?
I believe that if you have some talent, and devote your time to it (I mean here actually working, not wrestling with it in your mind or talking about projects) then there is a chance you can make a living from it. It can seem impossible at times, and when we compare ourselves to the very best it is hard to come out on top, especially when plagued by the insecurities of the artist.
In my life I have succumbed on several occasions, after finding my calling in life (as I then saw it – it can and does morph) I would try to find ways to combine my work with a job. I have given up and decided to retrain, to teach. I have taken a job when I have needed to for money, which is fine, but in my case it can take over and I have no energy left for my work.
I have to think about it like this; if I take a full time job, then I am only a few cheques from bankruptcy, and I will be paid once. For some of my creative work I could be paid time and time again through my life, and therefore it is like investing in a possible future. Is it a high risk investment? Well that’s down to me, my inner strength, my connection to the spiritual, my daily battles and routines.
For me, I need to drop the expectations, drop the comparisons, let go of what others think, find some faith in myself and the universe, and get on with it! It helps me to meditate before I work, clear my mind, clear a channel for the sunshine to work through me. Just for today, I will sit down and work, I will lay aside my fear, I will pray for guidance and strength, and I will work. I will crack on with my task, and whether it’s a productive day or a useless day I will know I tried. I showed up, I did battle.
“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling.”
There are other ways to see these forces and our actions than the warrior archetype, and there are other ways of working with fear and demons. I also like to feed them, learn to love these forces and watch them transform. In meditation I find peace, and this eases any restlessness too. I am a man though, who grew up on a diet of heroism and bravery, of action and victory, so the warrior can work for me.
You can let spirit or God work through you, flirt with the muse, take it easy or just think of it as a hobby. Dance with your fears, treat them as friends, or just sit with the demons, acknowledging them and using their forces to guide and motivate.
Actually doing the work, regularly, starts with one good day, which must be duplicated each day just for today. It becomes a habit very quickly, as I found out writing this blog. I started with one short article which was going to be for a book, but then it became a blog and I resolved to write something every day. Simple as that. Now I have published 25 and have about 50 in the editing or obsessing process!
Thus habits are formed, thus novels are written. Thus my anxiety is treated, my depression lifted, my doubts assuaged. I know I am doing the work. I know I’m trying hard. I know I’m doing the legwork. I am leaving behind me finished work, chapters and verses, compositions and the occasional sale. This gives me something, although its not total confidence it is a good start, it is the knowledge that the path is being walked. I took that first step, and each step thereafter can but take me somewhere!
If you only knew what walked beside you,
You would never feel fear again.
What also helps me is to add in an element of altruism. A lot of the work I do can benefit others, so this gives me fire. I can align with a higher purpose, a higher calling. Any warrior that has been able to do that has been invincible.
All art, all beauty, music, or literature can touch someone, their prayer may be answered in your lyric or brushstroke, and their spirits raised by what you do. Who knows, your work could heal or inspire somebody else somewhere, but at the very least, it will heal and inspire you.