This week we're giving ourselves a break from creativity pressure.
Some people won't accept you're an artist if you're also a stockbroker. Some people won't believe you're an author if they know you from serving them coffee in Starbucks.
Well, what other people think about your job, skills or identity isn't your business. Many great authors, artists, performers and musicians held down regular jobs while they were producing great works.
To be a writer, painter, 'maker', etc, isn't quite like some other jobs. It's not a literal breakdown of what you do all day in exchange for money. It's a label we embrace, entwined with one's identity in a slightly mysterious ways (though the things we do can, and should, be exchanged for money, as I discuss in other posts).
But what you do creatively need not be all that you are. And it need not take over all your time.
This is very, very important to hold in your mind and is one of the most difficult things for creators to tolerate, emotionally. Part of the reason it's so difficult to understand is because everyone in the world is trying to make it untrue. Creatives want it to be untrue so they can feel they're fully embracing their identity as a 'creative'. Those who work conventional jobs want it to be untrue because it's easier to break the world down into categories of 'like me' and 'not like me'. No one wants to think there might be someone out there who is like them, but managing to fit more in... or who is like them but doesn't feel as satisfied by the same kind of work we do, or who is like them but doing much cooler stuff.
Which brings me to a related, defensive, subconscious thought we all have:
If someone's doing more, or cooler stuff than us, they must be magic.
I don't know about you, but I could instantly list 20 reasons why any named person is doing better than me at something I'm trying to do well at, and none of them have anything to do with me not being good enough. They had a better start in life, or they got in with the right crowd, or they went to a better school. And if it's none of those things then it's definitely some je ne sais quoi factor that has simply nothing to do with me at all.
Should ring alarm bells really, shouldn't it?
But there's a deeper problem still. The reason I'm even noticing what other people are doing is because I'm imagining that making, like so many things in life, is a competition. And if I want to win it, I'm going to have to be in it 100%.
The goal of creating is not to be the Queen of Creating. Even if they achieve recognition, most artists and makers of things seem to be as reviled as they are celebrated. True originality divides people. You can't be in it for the fame. I mean, you can be in other, related, things for the fame - seriously, knock yourself out. But making stuff, in itself, is reasonably hierarchically flat.
So if someone seems to be doing something cooler, the thing is unlikely to have much to do with what they're making, and more to do with their intended or otherwise, business tactics. And there will be plenty of people out there, I can guarantee, who don't think that what they're doing is cooler. But my point is:
The idea that in order to be legitimate we should be creating all the time, or with all of our self, is based on false premises, and only leads to unnecessary guilt and stress.
This post and more also appear on my creativity blog leilajohnston.com/blog. Bookmark it now, and you can go and find them all there, along with other resources, if you need a boost at any time. There's also an accompanying creativity-themed podcast providing inspiration and interviews, twice a week.