The overwhelming majority of my articles focus on the problems we encounter on the path of creative entrepreneurship. And there are plenty! So many of them threaten to undermine our ability to establish a stable, profitable, and enjoyable career.
This week I want to take a breather from our troubles in order to refill our tanks by reflecting on the amazing privilege we have in our creative callings. Contemplating the essence of our work can help us maintain our motivation, to overcome business hurdles, and to endure the hardships baked into the entrepreneurial effort.
Let’s Start With Gratitude
Whenever I start to feel the pressures of running a creative practice, I remember the debt of gratitude I owe simply for the freedom to choose this path in the first place. If I were born a hundred years ago, it would be highly unlikely that I could choose this path at all. Historically, people did not have the luxury of career choice. They just did their part to maintain the family farm or family business. Locating myself in the grand sweep of history helps to put my struggles into proportion.
What About Inner Struggles?
Troubles come in two main kinds, external and internal. A client that can’t be pleased is an external struggle. Trying to find new clients is an external struggle. These are the ones we tend to be most aware of. But under the surface, we face deeper internal struggles. And many of our inner struggles can be traced back to the root of creative angst.
The creative process is often described using analogies of birth. The painful transition stage of the creative process must be endured before an idea can come to fruition. Those labor pains can torment an artist’s soul.
For More on Angst and Motivation…
In my book Blazing the Freelance Trail, in chapter five on Motivation, I explore the connection between our modern pursuit of “meaning” in and through our work, as a possible root cause of angst. I do believe that creatives are driven by deep longings to find meaning in our work, and that drive can elevate the tensions we experience in our work.
The pursuit of meaning in the search for a creative solution, and the tension or angst that can produce, is both a necessary ingredient as a driver of the creative process, and a liability—an occupational hazard.
And so, if we’re going to labor in the travails of the creative process, over and over again—in addition to enduring all the practical troubles involved with entrepreneurship—we need to set our focus on the joys and rewards of creativity. Stepping back and reflecting on what it fundamentally means to be a creator is an important part of maintaining our motivation.
Bringing New Things Into the World
As creators, we bring new ideas, new images, and new products into being. We create things that did not exist before. This really is a remarkable gift. We so easily take it for granted. When a client comes to us needing a new corporate identity, a new website, a new print piece, whatever it may be, they need something that does not yet exist. And they look to us to bring this new thing into the world. They anticipate and wonder what we will produce for them. What will it look like? What color eyes will it have?
After we’ve done our job, having endured the struggle of creation, and we deliver the results, our clients delight as they see their own ideas or products brought to life. They often express amazement when our work is finally revealed to them.
That’s part of why we enjoy “the reveal” so much. (And why a client’s rejection can be so painful!) This moment of awe, at the revelation of a new creation, drives the popularity of transformation reality shows. We love to see the reactions after Robert Irvine’s crew transforms an old failing restaurant into something completely new.
Bringing something new into the world, or renewing something old, is an amazing process. And we get to do this over and over again! While it can be a painful process, full of anxieties, risks, and angst, it deeply satisfies our purpose as creators, and renews our own motivation to do it again.
Creations that Enable Creation
Lastly, as one more boost to our motivation, always remember that after we’ve brought a new creation into the world, our work then plays a part in enabling our clients to bring new things into the world. After all, every business is in the creation business at some level. By using our designs, our photos, our videos, they create even more.
Creativity is an awesome calling. It’s worth the struggle. It’s worth the effort.