[Continued from Part 1]
“The practice of any art isn’t to make a living, it’s to make your soul grow.”
To be creative at times feels like an almost effortless flow, but creative work may also require a high level of courage and boldness – even to make the choice to do something creative.
Joan Chen comments about directing her first film: “Xiu Xiu, The Sent Down Girl” (1998), which had opposition from the Chinese government:
“From getting an idea to completing this film…There was obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. I think without that drive, that spiritual need to tell a meaningful story, I would not have been able to do it.”
Actor Judy Davis made a related comment, with an acknowledgment of the personal value of being creative:
“To pursue acting… needed a fair degree of willfulness… I grew up in quite an oppressive Catholic society. In order to survive that, you either had to be willful or risk losing touch with yourself.”
One of the things that motivated me to develop this article was hearing screenwriter and film director James Toback on the Charlie Rose Show.
He commented that although he has been able to do what he wants to do creatively, he has many “very talented, imaginative, and ambitious” friends from Harvard who have been successful in areas outside the arts, but did not find a way to “harness their creative energy” and “every one is unfulfilled; every one is a frustrated artist.”
Hear a short clip of Toback, as well as Eric Maisel about some of the challenges of being creative, in my video:
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See my related article for details about the contents of the video: Being Bold To Be Creative
and multiple resources, such as these:
Beliefs about life and abilities affect our identity and self esteem.
Beliefs also impact how much we develop creative talents and pursue other interests.
Here are two of many dozens of articles on my sites:
Getting beyond impostor feelings – Many talented and creative people experience limiting feelings and beliefs about themselves, despite their accomplishments.
Creativity, Meaning and Existential Depression
Psychologists including James T. Webb note highly sensitive, creative and gifted, high ability people can be particularly vulnerable to existential depression.
Clive Hazell, PhD, author of The Experience of Emptiness, speaks of a related existential despair: our experience of emotional trauma and the feeling of remorse that the trauma contributed to a “life unlived” – a feeling of existential guilt: “I have committed the crime of not living, and I shall never live.”
[The image is from book: I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion – by Dawna Markova.]
This topic of depression means a lot to me, personally.
For many decades of my life, I worked at a number of “survival jobs” (temp clerical; customer service; testing glue etc) which paid the rent, but were soul-sucking and deeply depressing.
I did also connect with a few jobs that were much more engaging, such as brainwave research and visual effects cinematography, but none had the depth of engagement and creative satisfaction as what I do now as an online writer, publisher and entrepreneur.
Financially, it is still a struggle, but I have the satisfaction of creating and curating material that helps many creative people better understand themselves.
To a great extent – for me – that is way ahead of working just for a paycheck.
Back to creative people and fulfillment – or depression.
Author, speaker, coach and interfaith minister Laura Berman Fortgang writes about the pain of not doing creative work you deeply, passionately want to do – maybe you can relate:
“It starts as tightness in the upper solar plexus. Then it starts to droop like the top of an ice cream cone on a 100-degree day, eventually melting over everything to form a vague coating of ambivalence. Sometimes it matures into hopelessness and, for some, even depression. The ‘it’ is the yearning for meaning. And it can swallow you whole.
“I started to feel it in my twenties as I struggled to cling to my dream of being a Broadway star while entering what would be my seventh year of waiting tables in New York City…It was at that point that I first remember straining to hear some guidance as to what I was meant to do with my life.
“The straining hurt, and the answers did not come quickly.
“Two years went by, my depression deepening into complete darkness, and then suddenly, meaning came for me in the form of painting floors and stuffing envelopes for the Manhattan Center for Living—a short-lived nonprofit organization that was a haven for people dealing with life-threatening illnesses.”
From article: What is this pain? – an excerpt from her wonderful book The Little Book on Meaning: Why We Crave It, How We Create It.
Also in the book, she writes:
“What’s interesting is that some of the smartest people with the most developed minds suffer the most at the hand of their own high analytical ability when it comes to having happiness and meaning in their life.”
[Photo: “Laura does her first musical theatre role in 17 years. Betty in The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” From her Facebook page.]
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Psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel points that the ongoing search for meaning and the task of meaning-making “is work, but it is the loving work of self-creation. It is the choice we make about how we intend to live our life.”
And in his book “The Van Gogh Blues: A Creative Person’s Path Through Depression,” Maisel notes, “Creators have trouble maintaining meaning. Creating is one of the ways they endeavor to maintain meaning. In the act of creation, they lay a veneer of meaning over meaninglessness and sometimes produce work that helps others maintain meaning.”
He warns: “Not creating is depressing because creators are not making meaning when they are not creating.”
From article Creating To Maintain Meaning.
See long list of his books.
Learn more about his online class “How to Create Fearlessly”
– This is from ‘The Top 10 Big Ideas’ of the class:
“How you speak to yourself determines whether or not you will create. If you tell yourself that you have no talent, that you hate mistakes and messes, that you have no imagination, or that you’re too far behind and maybe even ruined, you won’t create. You must change and improve how you talk to yourself to have any shot at creating regularly and deeply.”
The link will take you to the Academy for Optimal Living site, where you can find other classes by Maisel, as well as many other teachers.
Also see my article Brainpower and The Smart Gap – which includes material from his former online course Why Smart People Hurt.
The course was designed to help people explore and deal with many challenges:
* How distressing states like mania, insomnia, and unproductive obsessing are the natural consequences of a good mind gone racing.
* The ways in which our families, schools, churches, work situations, media, and other social and cultural institutions dumb us down.
* The challenges of dealing with more depression and more anxiety than the next person.
* The sheer hardness of thinking, as evidenced by how hard it is to grasp the plot of the novel you’re writing, produce a breakthrough in your scientific field, or see enough moves ahead in chess.
* The surprising self-unfriendliness of a good mind: a mind that involves itself in personal inquisitions, torrents of self-recriminations, repetitive brooding, and other painful self-reprisals.
* The “smart gap”: dealing with the gap between the smarts you have and the smarts you need in order to get your chosen work done.
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Career / Work that is meaningful and creative
“To love what you do and feel that it matters ‚ how could anything be more fun?”
Katharine Graham, when she led the Washington Post.
– Quoted by Valerie Young, Ed.D., who says:
“You think you need a career change. But what you really want is meaningful work, joy, and more control over your time and your life.”
Her articles include:
A profile notes, “Since escaping her corporate job in 1995 to found Changing Course, ‘Dreamer in Residence’ Dr. Valerie Young’s career advice has appeared around the world…”
Changing Course programs include :
Finding Your True Calling | Impostor Syndrome Self-Help Workshop
Making Dreams Happen | Profiting From Your Passions Coach Program
See the site for more programs and free resources : Changing Course.