For a long time during my many periods of creative stasis (aka eating chips and binge-watching Netflix), I have wondered about the secrets of successful people. I've spent more than a reasonable amount of time wondering - how is it that THAT person has THAT creative success? How did THEY get THERE? As a matter of fact, I've probably spent far more time wondering and fretting than actually DOING (and subsequently getting depressed and doubting myself over having done). Most creative people don't seem to talk very openly about the fact that in order to have any success at all, you have to spend an inordinate amount of time working day in and day out on things that have very little to do with creativity. A lot of time is spent doing tedious, frustrating or uncomfortable things peppered with a few glorious moments of creative brilliance.
I really wish I knew that 20 years ago. I'm not proud to say that I snuck out the back door and went out to lunch with classmates many times during the "Business of the Arts" class in college (and for those of you that went to lunch with me, I hope you learned your lesson earlier than I did! You know who you are...).
So my wisdom is hard won through many years working, observing, wondering, stagnating with my snacks and ultimately... doing. Somewhere along the way, during my years of youthful enthusiasm, I had gotten it in my head that a truly creative life meant nothing but stunning, creative brilliance 24/7, 365 days a year. I've had the good fortune to work with and for creatives for a long time, and not to burst anyone's bubble, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Even the biggest, richest, most creative people out there spend the majority of their time W-O-R-K-I-N-G day in and day out on things that have very little to do with their brilliant, creative process but everything to do with their belief in it. This time is spent not on the shining, adrenaline filled creative moments, but on the "other stuff": the marketing, the pavement pounding, the convincing people that what you have to offer the world has worth, the selling yourself, the stepping outside your comfort zone, the uncomfortable hobnobbing with others in your field in order to network, the learning new technology to keep current or advance your art, and on and on and on. In between all of this other "stuff", these people create. Then instead of talking themselves out of what they just did, they put it out into the world believing that it has some sort of value. And then the next day they do it all again. And again the day after that.
That is success. Not everyone who does this will be wildly rich, or famous, or own a yacht and their own island (in fact most people won't). Wealth is not the only definition of success though is it? Just like productivity is subjective, so is success. Every day you just do whatever it is you believe in again and again until something happens - or doesn't. If it doesn't, maybe you move on to a different idea (or you stagnate with a can of Pringles and an endless vortex of Youtube). If something happens, people will look at you and they'll say "How did THAT person get THERE?" and they will think that you live a creatively blessed life where 24/7, 365 days a year all you do is bask in the gloriousness of your awesome creative brilliance. Really though, nothing could be more incorrect.
What we generally miss (or choose to ignore) is the complicated and sometimes tedious side of the creative process. For every glorious concert you see there are days of driving and endless hours of loading in equipment. For every movie you watch there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people in the background tediously putting together every last detail. For every painting you see there are weeks/months/years spent fighting for the time to actually create it, frame it, market it, and for every song you hear there were hundreds of hours of practice behind it. The list goes on and on.
What you and I ultimately see is the beautifully crafted final product; the fleeting moment of glorious, creative brilliance. If it is done REALLY well, this moment looks like it was the easiest, simplest thing in the world to accomplish. So when you see these beautifully crafted moments and you start to doubt yourself and reach for the Oreos... reach for your pencil instead (or your instrument, or your yarn, or your paint, or whatever you use to express your creativity). Start today and create a new habit of continuous, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes tedious but predictable creativity. Because it's not the final product that really matters much at all, but how you get there. And you never will get there until you start (and continue... and continue... and continue...)
© 2016 Krysta Bernhardt. All Rights Reserved.