Waiting for Success as a Creative
The past several days, we've been trapped in a heat wave. It felt like I'd been bundled into a damp, heavy sweater that I couldn't get out of. No breeze stirred the air. No relief came from the heat, except in the very early morning and late evening, when the temperature dropped into the 70s.
I'm not a fan of hot weather, in case you hadn't guessed.
On top of that (or maybe because of it?) I haven't been sleeping well either. Waking super early and unable to fall back to sleep, my mind whirring along at a hundred miles an hour about silly, stupid things that I didn't need to worry about at all, let alone in the wee hours of morning.
When we're in these places of discomfort it feels as though things will never change. That the uncomfortable-ness will last forever. That this is the new normal, so we'd better just get used to it.
As creatives, we want to be successful. That might look very different for each of us: fame and fortune for one, a steady paycheck and ability to quit one's day job for another. And for another still, simply the courage to share the things that we keep bottled up inside our spirits.
When success doesn't come...the way we think it should
I've talked before about my struggles with "failing" as a novelist and the antidote I've discovered. But what about you? When you struggle to find the success you've been longing for, do you give up even in small ways?
That might show up as phrases like this:
- "This is too hard."
- "No one cares that I'm doing this, so why bother?"
- "XX has already done this, and done it better than me."
- "What do I really have to share with the world? Nothing of importance I guess."
- "I just don't have the (time, money, ability, skill) to do this successfully."
Or maybe it's even more insidious. Things like hopping online "for just a minute" rather than practicing your scales, prepping your canvas, starting the first paragraph of a new short story, warming up for your dance...and then realizing a half-hour, hour or two later that your little window of creative time has been gobbled up by the internet, by the TV, a good book or even doing housework.
Waiting for success
Sometimes it's at the very moment that we want to give up, throw in the towel and forget about our dream that a miracle happens. We get the freelance writing gig. Someone commissions us for a painting. We get the part we auditioned for. But most of the time success comes in tiny increments, sometimes so small that we can barely see them at all. Rather than looking like an arrow ascending toward the sky, our success looks more like the path of a roller coaster--filled with highs and lows and everything in between.
I'm not writing today as an expert on waiting patiently for success. Instead, I'm right here in the trenches with you. There are lots (and lots and lots) of days when the struggle has felt too hard. When it was easier to believe the lies (see phrases above) than the truth. When I've just wanted to quit. But here's what I've learned that's helping me: I've claimed my role as a creative and no one can tell me otherwise.
In the Bible it talks about putting on a new identity once you become a Christian. "...seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." (Colossians 3:9-10)
If you're a believer then you know that through God, you have a new identity. You aren't the same as you were before. And if you're not a believer, chances are that you've experienced growth and change in some area of your life that makes you believe it's possible.
Accepting your new identitySo, what does identity have to do with creative work? Acceptance I think, is where the connection happens. Accepting that:
- You are an artist, writer, dancer, singer, musician, etc. That's WHO you are and it's what you're on earth to share.
- Success may not look exactly the way you want it to in this moment...but that doesn't mean you should quit.
- You used to be someone who would get discouraged and give up. But that doesn't define you anymore. Now, you've claimed your creative self and you aren't giving up on her.
- Change is hard. It takes longer than you imagined. It doesn't go smoothly. It requires a lot of stops and starts, falling down and getting up. It never happens as fast as you'd like it to. But it does happen if you stay the course.
What thoughts or feelings come up for you as you read this today? I'd love to hear about where you are in your journey in the comments section.