Desire is the roadmap to finding out what you really want, how far you’ve actually come and where you want to go. What if the things you’ve always wanted have already come true?
I believe that our lives can change for the better when we ask the right questions. This week, my creative life changed with one question. What do you desire? This month, I’m exploring the word desire, as it applies to “creative desire.” I’ve been asking myself these questions:
- What do you desire in your work?
- What is it you want?
- What’s one thing that could change everything for the better?
What if your creative desires have already come true?
For years, I’ve wanted this one thing: to become a full time, paid writer. Every year, I create vision boards with images of the writers I most admire. Many of them shaped my perspective as a writer, and some of them are my creative ancestors. Writing is not a dream. It is a way of life for me, something I do with or without payment.
My love of language started at a young age. My mother filled the library with books from around the world. I read Achebe, Baldwin, Dr. Angelou, and the late Toni Morrison. I read anything I could find anywhere and deep down I knew I wanted to do what these people did. Language has always made me and allowed me to discover myself. Language and what we do with it can create profound experiences. And I wanted to find a way to pay the bills, keep food on the table and stay off the street.
My mother often worried this would happen. I was so busy wanting it and imagining what it had to look like, that I almost missed the fact that I had made my wish come true. I am a paid writer, and I didn’t even realize it. Let me explain.
Acknowledging your creative desire allows you to improve your creativity and see how far you’ve come
I work in technology as a web designer. Some days I build websites. Some days I’m more focused on the user experience side, while other days I write website copy. For every project I’ve worked on over the past 10 years, I’ve written something.
- I write client biographies.
- I write the Call To Action on each button.
- I write the Brand Story.
- I usually write the About Us page. 4. And sometimes, a client shows up with no copy.
- I start from scratch and I usually write something for every page on the website.
- Last summer, I wrote my first script for a short film.
I also wrote the product description for the first green screen app in 2011.
I have always been a writer. It’s in my blood. It’s how I make sense of the world, of my work. But when it did not show up in a way I could recognize it, I forgot about it. I needed to remember this. I needed to remember that every project I work on starts with a story. And usually, I’m using a combination of writing, images, and design to tell that story. And I’m getting paid to do it. Now, I can tell my mom not to worry.
I hope you take the time to ask yourself these questions to help you improve your creativity:
- What do I want?
- What do I desire?
- What part of this desire has already been fulfilled?
And when you receive the answer, be open to realizing that you may have already fulfilled your wish. You might need to find a new dream.
How did I miss this realization? I don’t know, but I can’t ignore it now. I did what many people told me I couldn’t do. Now, when they ask me what I do. I’ll say writer like I often do. But when the say “but how do you pay the bills.” I’ll say the same thing over and over again until they believe it as much as I do. Keep going dear creative. We all want to see your brilliance.
Your Future Self
Photo by Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash
Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash
You have everything you need to start.
Let me tell you a story.
Last year, I wanted to start blogging consistently. I researched my blogging niche. I made lists of all the topics I wanted to discuss on my blog. I even “tested the market” to see if people in my network would be interested in the subject. Although my friends said “yes”,I still continued researching. I compiled websites and documents for days, and I still did more research.
It took me many months before I actually committed and started blogging regularly. So, I am sharing this story because I want you to know that you are not alone. We’ve all been there. We know we need to start something, but for some reason we don’t.
Here’s what I discovered during my blogging research:
- I did not start because I thought I had to write a certain type of blog in order to find readers.
- I did not start because I was waiting for the “right time” to start my blog. There was always some work challenge that needed my attention first.
- I didn’t start because I had convinced myself that there was a “right time.”
There is no right time to start your creative career.
I realized that there is no right time.
Start now. Pick the next thing. Do you need to send an email? Do you have an email address? Send the email. Do you need to create a WordPress account? Do you have a working wifi connection? Do you have a computer? Create that account.Do you need to call that advisor to help you figure out how to get your company back on track? Call the advisor. Send them a text. Ask them to tell you when the best time is for them to talk.
I’m writing this because one of the things I’ve discovered that has made all the difference in my creative career is what David Kadavy calls “the heart to start.”
Can you give yourself permission to start?
Trusting your creative voice and giving yourself permission to start isn’t usually a question of resources. It’s often a conversation about creative confidence. Most of the tools I mentioned above are things many of us have. You can go to a remote village in the far corners of the world and find a wifi connection, even it is somewhat weak.
Usually, we’re struggling to find the courage to start.
Usually, we’re struggling to find the courage to start, the willingness to put aside the fear of judgment, ridicule, the comments from the haters. And sometimes, like myself, we are more afraid of the greatness that could ensue. Someone could start reading your blog. Some of the comments could be cheering you on. Imagine that? Imagine how that would look and feel.
There’s a narrative that says you have to have it all figured out in order to move forward. I don’t know how it got started or who started it because it is very dangerous.
It does not account for the fact that most of us do not need to have everything figured out in order to do the next thing. And most of the time we can not see the thing after that if we don’t take one small step.
What if it all worked out?
And often, that one step becomes two steps and then there’s the ripple effect. For every action of ours, there’s a reaction. We fear the negative reactions, but what about the positive reactions? What about the person who needs your work, and lets you know just how much they need it in the comments section.
What about thinking about what could happen if it all worked out?
The word perfect (as a verb) means “to improve through making.”So, you can only get better at your craft if you just keep making. When we focus so much on the end result, we rob ourselves of what we might discover in the process. We rob ourselves of the true gift.
I did say that you have what you need to get started. But you might feel like you don’t have what you need to follow through. Guess what? You can’t know that yet. You won’t know that yet.
Just start. Then see what happens. You have everything you need.
I hope you keep going. I want to see your brilliance.
Your Future Self
I want to talk to you about confidence.
This month, I’m exploring the theme of creative confidence.
But before I talk about creative confidence, I have to talk about confidence.
We tell ourselves to just be confident. We are also surrounded by media that encourages us to do the same. From teen magazines to women-centered blogs, I see lists everywhere.
After a while, I became annoyed with these “top 10 lists for more confidence.” The message wasn’t wrong, but I found that the way to get there always seemed vague and uninspiring. I was supposed to stare at myself in the mirror, push my shoulders back and realize my innate power.
This definition never served me.
Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash
What is creative confidence?
I thought confidence had everything to do with how good you felt about yourself. In school, the confident girls had clear skin, straight teeth, nice clothes and a walk that announced them before they entered the room.
I thought confidence was something innate. Some of us had it, and others would have to struggle all our lives to embody it.
Creative Confidence Is Linked To Creative Failure
What if confidence is directly related to failure?
What if confidence has everything to do with your ability to trust yourself when everything is going well and when everything falls apart?
You must confide in yourself to become more confident in your work.
Confidence is defined as the ability to rely on oneself. It is also defined as trustworthy.
Confidence comes from the root word confide, which means “to trust someone for safekeeping.”
- What if, our creative confidence is deeply rooted in our ability to trust our creative work?
- What if that trust can only come from becoming our best confidant and being able to confide in ourselves?
I trust my friends because I know I can confide in them. I can tell them the things that I’m excited about, as well as the things I’m scared of.
They represent my tribe because I can trust them with the things I tell them. They have shown themselves to be reliable when it comes to listening and safeguarding my truths. They will be honest with me and not just tell me the things I want to hear.
But when I looked at my own ability to confide in myself, I had to ask these same questions:
- Can you truly confide in yourself?
- Can you speak kindly to yourself?
- Can you listen and make myself tea when your current self shows up crying on the doorstep of your future self?
- Can you be honest with yourself about my creative work?
- Can you praise my work when and notice where you need to improve?
- Can you be my best creative confidant?
My best confidante does not just tell me what I want to hear. She also tells me hard truths about my work.
How can you apply this to creative confidence?
1. You become reliable when you show up over and over again. Are you showing up for your work? Are you practicing it? Are you giving it the attention it deserves?
2. You become reliable when you can acknowledge the ways in which your work works and where it needs work.
3. You become more confident when you trust in your ability. You cannot trust in your creative ability if you are not creating a body of work. It is only in creating a lot that you can start to see your patterns, your creative weaknesses, and strengths.
In 2019, I feel more creatively confident because I have come to trust my voice and my ability and confide in myself.
When we encourage people to let go of fear and become more confident so they can put their work out there, we are doing them a disservice.
I’d suggest that we think of things differently. Let’s start encouraging people to carry fear and lack of confidence with them as they do the work, understanding that they will become more confident when they become their greatest creative confidante.
Keep going. I want to see your brilliance.
Your Future Self
Photo by Kévin Langlais on Unsplash
On your hardest days, I want you to look back and reference yourself. Reach back into your history find a time when you, yes you, found a way to become your own creative superhero in spite of everything. This will be your defining moment. This will be your blueprint. this will be the guidepost for the way forward.
Yes, I’m encouraging you to reference yourself.
Let me tell you a story
I love old photos. I love the ripped edges, the looks on the faces. There’s a snapshot of who that person was, and it’s also an acknowledgment of who they were becoming at that moment. This is how we document history. I’ve been looking at my old photos again.
Honor Your Creative History
I’ve been thinking about how our histories as creatives are being made each and every day. Old photos are no longer black and white images from 100 years ago. They are the photos from my college graduation, the awkward itchy dress from that birthday party. They become personal and professional reference material of who we were and who we are becoming. On my hardest days, I’ve pulled out these photos. I needed to remember the girl I was back then. I needed to remember the creative strength it took to do some of the things that seem so impossible today.
I needed to reference myself.
How Do We Create In the Face Of Devastation?
This week marks my younger brother’s anniversary of his passing. It is also the week of his birthday. He would have been 35 this coming Monday. But he is not here.
I’ve been meditating (and crying) a lot this week. So, as I was meditating and holding my hand on my chest, I started crying. I was remembering the 22-year-old girl who went through so much in her last year of university. The things I learned from the woman I was (and became) during his passing are still there. I had just forgotten them.
- My brother died 3 months before I graduated. I had to finish my 50-page honors thesis and cry my way through all of my classes. I was not a fully functioning human being at the time. How could I be?
- My world blew up. Everything I knew was turned on its head and aI no longer knew who I thought I knew myself to be. This was a devastating time. During my last few months, my mentor, teacher, and friend June Jordan’s cancer came back with a full force and she died within a year.
- As I stood up there on that stage and gave the valedictory address, I laughed and cried at the same time. This was the best and worst day of my life. My mentor was supposed to introduce me, but she was so sick. My brother was supposed to be there, but he was dead.
The Power Of Referencing Your Past Creative Work
As I look back, I think about the sadness of the day and the joy of the day, but there was also the triumph of that day. How was I able to do the impossible. There was also breaking life into what seemed impossible and doing it. There was also my ability to hold my grief and my fear and my sadness and my joy all at the same time. So now, as I sit here meditating, I come back to that young woman. She was only a few years out of girlhood, and she had to find a way to get through that day.
I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know how she held the best and worst day of her life in both hands. I don’t know how her hands didn’t shake and collapse her to the ground, right there on that stage in front of everyone.
Honor Your Creative Courage
I don’t know why she did not give up. She could have said screw this whole thing and stayed in bed for weeks. She could have chosen to not graduate and take the remaining classes when she could have just left and never seen the walls of a university classroom again.
I would not blame her. Most people would understand.
It is hard to imagine that I am that same woman. I know she is strong and I know she cried in the bathroom while she waited to take the stage at the graduation theater. I know she cried while she was on stage.
Think back to a time when you were own creative superhero. What did it teach you? How did it change you? What lessons can you apply now?
Keep going dear creative. I want to see your brilliance.
Your Future Self
There will always be haters. That’s part of the risk that comes with choosing to take your place in the world of creativity.
Not everyone will love your work. There will be those who do. There will be haters. There will be those who do not like your drawing, poem, photo, painting, essay or the filter you used just before you publish Instagram.
Let me tell you a story.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to share my work/my words as a poet with audiences in Mexico City. I remember this young woman who came up to me after the reading in Coyoacan. She asked if she could speak to me privately. She spoke softly as I leaned in closer to hear what she had to say.
She told me about her best friend who died the week before. She told me about how she was not there to sit with her in the hospital bed. She wore a cloud of guilt on her face and sat there sobbing. She must have been 22 years old. Her friend was also very young. She thanked me for the poem I read. I shared my sadness about the ones I had loved and lost in my life. I realized that she needed to hear that poem in the same way I needed her to tell me how it impacted her.
There were people who loved the poems, but there were also those who needed it. They came up to me and told me that poetry was the thing that was sustaining them right now. ⠀There are those who need your words like they need air and good. Focus on them.
Focus On The People Who Need Your Creativity
But if there is anything I have learned to help me be a more resilient creative it is this: Are you listening? Write this down. Type it into your phone.
Use it as a screensaver. Say it to all of your fellow creative friends. Put it on a t-shirt or get it made into stickers.
Ready for it?
There will be people who love your creative work and people who hate your work. There will also be those people who need your work. Focus on the people who need your work. Let that sink in for a minute. Are you breathing a bit easier? Is the tightness in your chest easing up? Are you feeling a little bit more courageous when it comes to sharing your work out into the world? I hope so.
Your true creative fans will become more important than the haters.
When you doubt yourself, feel the doubt but also remember the people who need your work. What would they say? Keep their voices in your head.⠀
We forget about the people who need our work. They are not always so obvious. Sometimes they skip into our DMs with a note of thanks and a tale of the life they’ve lived and how our work has supported them. Sometimes they cry while reading something you wrote. They need your work like we all need food and air and water, necessary things for physical survival.
They understand that there are also necessary things for emotional survival and necessary things for creative survival.
The people who need your work check your Instagram feed first thing in the morning, just upon waking. Sometimes they don’t leave the bed before scrolling through your feed.
They keep their phone there just for you. If they see you’ve tweeted or shared a story, they immediately scroll through to find you and your work.
Your work is a lifeline for them.
I recently wrote about the late poet Mary Oliver, and all the people she touched. We all so desperately needed her work.
Through meditating on language, nature, and belonging she taught us how to belong to ourselves by taking our place in the world and belonging to the universe in the process.
Thank them, create with them in mind. Put their picture up where you work.
Give them your energy. They will give it back.
If you focus on the people who need your creative work you will realize that you are one of those people.
We often try to solve our own problems, and then we realize this is how we can help others. This is the beauty of this approach. The haters will be there. The lovers will be there too. But there’s also the needers.
Focus on them.
Keep going. I want to see your brilliance.
Your Future Self