I’m a creative. I’ve known this in my heart of hearts for a very long time. But my well-meaning mom told me that the things I liked to do (crafts, sewing, knitting) were fine as hobbies, but you couldn’t make a living from them. She was just trying to do what she thought was best for me. I went on to get a marketing degree (ugh).
My mom is not a creative in the same sense as I am. She’s very analytical – a numbers person. While she was the one that exposed me to crafts and needlework, she could buy enough yarn for a sweater, knit it and be done. My yarn, fabric , pattern and bead collections are testament to our differences in this matter. For her, it truly is a hobby. Me – it’s wired in my DNA and NOT creating would be like not breathing.
I’ve tried for many years to carve out a creative freelance career but I’ve never been able to manage it. I’ve gotten hung up on money, credentials, and confidence. I let marriage, moving, motherhood and a whole other host of excuses (I’m too old, I don’t have a degree, I’m not as talented as _____, etc) stop me.
I’m at a very significant point in my life. I have a year until my son goes to college and then I am really free to do, go, be whatever I want. And after half of a lifetime of exploring different options (fashion design, graphic design, interior design, writing, event planning, custom drapery business, etsy shop, craft shows, website that featured sewing, knitting, crafts and interviews with creatives) and never really sticking with anything long enough to harness any real success, I am hoping that this time I can come up with some sort of reasonable plan and start putting it in place so that a year from now I may be able to escape the cubicle jungle.
Change the Process
I am approaching it this time with this in mind: DON’T do what I did in the past. Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. (For instance, I love the idea of a day planner. I’ve bought many but they last about a week. I’ve finally learned that I’m not a “day planner” kind of person no matter how much those leather binders lure me.) This time, I’ll try a trial and error approach. I’ll try something new, if it works, I’ll add it to my repertoire, if not, out it goes and move onto another approach. In the past I never really considered why I wasn’t able to stick with something. I assumed it was confidence and beat myself up over it (way to improve the confidence, right?). Being a little older and wiser, I’ve realized maybe I don’t need to fix me (i.e. get more confidence), maybe I need to change my approach/process/system. What a relief this revelation has been for me.
So, how am I going about looking for my “ideal” career. First of all, I am striking the word “ideal’ out. Why pick one ‘ideal” thing when I am obviously attracted to many different things? I like variety so a freelance career where I have an assortment of different projects is appealing from a “being engaged” as well as from an income standpoint. Not being tied to one source of income means if I lose one, it won’t be a financial disaster.
Find your Essence
My starting point was to do a little self-analysis. I made up a list of every job, project, etc that I’ve ever done and noted what I liked about it. Then I tried to narrow it down to its essence – why I liked it. I came up with: learning new things, creative collaboration, designing and creating. (None of this was anything new to me.) When you’ve narrowed your likes down to their essence it opens up many different paths you can take to satisfy that essence.
I’ve read a lot of books about finding your passion and most ask you to list what you like to do. But what you like to do isn’t as important as why you like to do something. I like to write but there are dozens of reasons people write. I do it 1) to process my emotions and thoughts and 2) to learn. I can now see why I lost interest in copywriting. But if I focus on topics I want to learn more about, writing is still a viable option. Spend some time figuring out the why and the whats will appear (but they may not be the whats you originally entertained).
I also went through all of my past creative pursuits and tried to figure out why I quit. I mean, from the looks of these, I should have loved doing any one of them. It’s easy to see why I left the insurance industry but why didn’t interior design or writing work? I thought it was confidence but turns out, confidence really had nothing to do with it once I really looked at what I was really doing.
Take writing as an example. I tried it for awhile, made some progress and then quit. Why? Well, when I was trying to be a copywriter (that’s where the “big” money was). But what I discovered in my self-assessment was that I use writing as a tool to learn. I should have been trying to write articles/books/blogs/presentations etc, about things I wanted to learn.
Another example is interior design. I loved designing my home. I was hands-on in the process – coming up with a plan, sourcing items, finding the right fabric for the drapes, sewing the drapes, painting the room, repurposing garage sale finds and then seeing it all come together. But after taking an interior design class, even though you do get to design, the majority of your time is spent managing people and resources. Learning why I quit serves two purposes. First, I can quit beating myself up for quitting because in the end it didn’t fit my essence and reframe it as a learning experience. Secondly, anything I decide to do from this point forward I can do a little research to see if the day-to-day realities match what I want to do before I invest too much time or money in it.
Here is a summary of my search so far:
1. Don’t do what you’ve always done if you aren’t getting the results you want. Keep trying different options till you find ones that work for you. Don’t focus on changing/”fixing yourself, focus on finding the process that works for you.
2. Keep your options open. There is more than one path.
3. Find your essence. Figure out the things that energize and engage you.
4. Reframe past “failures” as learning experiences and move on.
Please post a comment about your creative journey and what is helping you tap into a more passionate life.