Are goals a dirty word in the creative process?

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In my twenties, I got myself into some pretty significant credit card debt. Coupled with my student loans, a car payment and my other “first” expenses—like rent and utility payments—I soon found my entry-level paycheck wasn’t enough to cut it. 

I floundered for several years until I made the decision to change things. Part of the problem was my impulsiveness, but another was my lack of focus. Retirement was decades away and I’ve never been good at saving for rainy days, only those things which I can clearly see and work toward, things that are concrete.

Two decades later, I’m in a very different place financially and working toward a big, seemingly impossible goal with my husband. Still, when I look back on that time of my life I see significant correlations between my financial journey and my creative journey. The biggest of these is the importance of goals. 

Goals Are Not a Dirty Word in the Creative Process

Floundering financially meant that I was goal-less. Sure, it would be great to not be carrying around thousands of dollars in debt and to stop getting calls from credit collectors. But what could I do about it? I was waiting. For someone to step in and save me. For my luck to change. For some brilliant scheme to wipe out my debt in one fell swoop. Or at least, for my creditors to give up and stop hassling me. 

What a difference though, when I researched my options and made a plan to pay down my debt. Yes, it felt overwhelming--like I was standing at the bottom of Everest in flip flops. But it was also exciting. Now I knew how I was going to start and where I was headed. 

The same can be said of the creative process. Making a deadline for ourselves can be one of the greatest gifts we give our creative spirits. It provides structure and something to work toward. It allows you to start, knowing that every tiny step you take is moving you toward your goal. Small steps, taken imperfectly, are the way to successful completion of any goal. 

In the next post, we'll look at other ways in which goals will nurture our creative spirits. In the meantime, please weigh in: how do you feel about creative goals deep down? Love them? Hate them? Ambivalent towards them? 


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