August 9, 2004

if you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you


More thoughts on "How To Be Creative":

12. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.

The pain of making the necessary sacrifices always hurts more than you think it's going to. I know. It sucks. That being said, doing something seriously creative is one of the most amazing experiences one can have, in this or any other lifetime. If you can pull it off, it's worth it. Even if you don't end up pulling it off, you'll learn many incredible, magical, valuable things. It's NOT doing it when you know you full well you HAD the opportunity- that hurts FAR more than any failure.

Frankly, I think you're better off doing something on the assumption that you will NOT be rewarded for it, that it will NOT receive the recognition it deserves, that it will NOT be worth the time and effort invested in it.

The obvious advantage to this angle is, of course, if anything good comes of it, then it's an added bonus.

The second, more subtle and profound advantage is: that by scuppering all hope of worldly and social betterment from the creative act, you are finally left with only one question to answer:

Do you make this damn thing exist or not?

And once you can answer that truthfully to yourself, the rest is easy.

Posted by hugh macleod at August 9, 2004 8:29 PM | TrackBack

inspiring! i read your blog now and then... i like it.

why inspiring? for one i can not agree more that what really hurts is not tackling the opportunity when it comes jetting by... or slowly shows up at your door.

Posted by: cairo otaibi at August 10, 2004 4:17 PM

Speaking from experience, it can definitely hurt you! Earlier in my career I lost two jobs (granted, I had outgrown both, but they were paychecks) because of my adamence on pursuing particularly "creative solutions" (both of which ended up being adopted within two years of my departures).

I've learned to adjust my life in order to stay creative. Other than carrying a reasonable mortgage, I pay cash for everything so no creditors can take my stuff next time I butt heads ;)

Posted by: richw at August 10, 2004 4:56 PM

richw: This sounds as if it hurt your wallet more than it hurt YOU. I think it's an important distinction to make. Many people seem to find it easier, or better, to live with a hurt psyche or a hurt soul than a hurt wallet. I think this is why so many of my friends seem to constantly be searching for meaning in their lives. They tell me constantly how much they envy me, yet they are the ones with families, and homes, and rich material lives, while I have none of that. It takes a certain courage to face the possibility of failure - monetarily, creatively, personally - and still take advantage of that unique opportunity. And yet it is only by failure, by breaking down, that we grow and learn.

Posted by: Karen T. at August 10, 2004 6:52 PM

I'm sure you believe that, but in my case it hurt me. I wasn't prepared for it the first time. I've been in poverty and while it has it charms, I no longer embrace it nor wish to. Poverty means I lose the luxury of doing what I want - there are only so many hours in a day and figuring out how to survive to the next is time and energy consuming. In my case it sapped both my confidence and creativity.

I have never subscribed to the theory that being creative meant suffering economically -in the convoluted world of my mind it should be exactly the opposite. So after the first time I lost work I got around to deciding to suck it up for a couple of years, save like crazy and hope it didn't hurt so bad the next time. And it wasn't as bad the next time. Or the time after that, after which I started my own business.

It worked for me. I can pick and choose with whom I want to work and still have time to both do leisure things I like and get involved with causes I care about. Unfortunately, there just weren't any Medicis around these parts when I could've used one. So I became my own Medici.

Posted by: richw at August 11, 2004 9:13 PM

Being "your own Medici" is good - it is basically what I have done. i sold my house and am living off the profits. They won't last much longer, but at least now I have the option of finding a job I like, working with people I like, in a place I'd like to live, rather than taking the first thing that comes along simply because I have to.

I've been fortunately enough to never be truly poor, so I don't know what it is like. But I never meant to imply that poverty is good; of course it isn't. And I agree that being creative should not have to mean suffering financially. But it still sounds like, while it might have hurt in the short run, it helped you tremendously in the long run, by giving you the foresite and fortitude to carve a place for your (creative) self. We are never prepared, the first time we are rejected or tossed away. But if we are lucky, we learn from it, and it gives us a clearer idea of what we want and what we need to be happy and fulfilled.

Posted by: Karen T. at August 12, 2004 8:33 PM