Episode 93: Creativity: The Struggle and The Gift

The majority of episodes in 5 Minutes on Creative Entrepreneurship deal with the challenges we face with the business side of creativity. Most of these struggles are external such as difficulties in marketing, in managing money, and contending with growth. But as creative entrepreneurs we don’t only face external struggles, but also the creative struggle within. The creative process is marked by struggle. We agonize to find that perfect solution. We work through failure, jettisoning one idea after another on the path to perfection. This angst ridden process is baked into creativity and adds an extra layer of difficulty to our form of entrepreneurship. In order to push through all these challenges, it can be helpful to remember the incredible privileges we have in our creative callings.

Have you ever seen one of those infographics that chart out the creative process? They start with the peak fueled by excitement over a new opportunity, and then slides steadily downward as the hard work of seeking solutions takes its toll, then they bottom out as we enter the trough of despair where we become certain that we are total hacks, useless, and that all our ideas are junk.

We’ve all been there, and we’ve learned that if we just push through, if we gut it out, we’ll pull up as the creative process finally arrives at an elegant and fitting solution. When that happens the elation we feel makes all the struggle worth it.

In order for the creative process to arrive at a positive outcome, we have to persevere through that painful transitional phase. But when we find ourselves neck deep in despond—struggling for that elusive solution—and also weighed down by stressful business problems, finding the wherewithal to push through can seem impossible. At times like these you may need a little extra motivation, and so when you’re feeling the stress keep a couple things in mind.

First of all, as with all struggles in life, it’s helpful to count our blessings. Creativity may be hard, but it’s also a gift. Just the fact that we get to pursue this gift is an unusual privilege, when considering the course of history. The majority of humanity have had few options for work, other than supporting the family farm. So when we’re slogging through a hard problem, and need to come up for air, remember, we chose this path, and it’s a great path to be on. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d choose it all over again—given the alternatives—struggles and all.

Another thing we ought to remind ourselves of is the amazing outcome of the creative process. As creatives, we bring new things, new ideas into the world. Things that did not exist before our labor of creativity brought them into being. That’s what being a creator means. We start with a problem, we apply our minds and our talents, and in the end a new idea, a new image, a new product is brought into the world. We use many childbirth analogies when describing the creative process, and that’s fitting. Like childbirth, there is pain in the process, but the outcome is always worth it, and the joy on the other side, enables us to push through to the end.

Not only do we bring new things into the world, but our creations are usually part of a process that enables our clients to then bring new things of their own into the world. Our efforts get compounded into even more new creations. There is something basic to our humanity, something fundamentally satisfying, when we exercise our creative powers. It adds fulfillment to our lives. And to have this as our job, that’s something to be truly grateful for.

Creativity is hard, and the business of creativity is fraught with struggles. But if we can maintain our perspective, and remember the privileges we have—if we step back for a moment, now and then, to reflect on the essence of what it means to be a creator, we’ll be able to push through the challenging times, whether in running our business, or wrestling with the essence of creativity.

Until next week: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.

Are you ready to take the struggle out of finding new clients?