No one has your creative DNA.
If you do not do the thing that your heart knows it needs to do, no one else will do it for you. No one else can do it for you.
Of course, there will be artists to come after you. There were artists that came before you. They paved the way. they lit the path so you could see where you could place your foot and continue walking.
But they were not you.
They inspired you, they gave you ideas. they showed you just how far you might be able to go.
They arrived in the world with their own biological and creative DNA.
Let me tell you a story.
DNA is defined as the master molecule of every cell. It contains vital information that gets passed on to each successive generation. It coordinates the making of itself as well as other molecules (proteins). If it is changed slightly, serious consequences may result. If it is destroyed beyond repair, the cell dies.
No two people have the same biological DNA.
But the lineage we come from does inform our DNA. So family members can have shared (but not the same) DNA.
The same is true for creative DNA. It’s the creative information that gets passed on to each successive generation. Our creative DNA does not come from shared blood but shared the creative experience.
Last month, I wrote about creative ancestry and defined it as the lineage of creative people from whom which your work is descended.
Our creative ancestors may not look like us or may come from a different time period and a different country, but they have informed the cells and the base structure of our creative work.
In the same way that no two people share the same biological DNA, no two people share the same creative DNA.
We might have the same relatives (people who informed our work) but our creative body will do something different with this information and make it something that only we can claim, own and share with the world.
Is this making sense yet?
No one else can do your creative work.
If no one has your creative DNA, then no one can do the work you were meant to do in the world. They can do the same type of work, but it will not be infused with the distinct creative molecules that only you have.
On your hardest days, remember this. On the days when you feel like you have nothing to contribute, remember this. When you think that your voice does not matter, remember this. If not you, then who? There will be no one to share the truth in the way only you know and only you can.
Remember that there is always room for your unique voice. There has to be room for you. You have never existed before. Your creative DNA has never existed before.
Trust yourself dear creative.
Keep going. 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
you are your best evidence.
you are the evidence of immense possibility. you are also evidence of failure. I want you to own the full spectrum of your creative experience. this is how you will learn to trust your creative voice and move forward when all the stories of imposter syndrome show up.
we live in a world that asks us to own our flaws but does not encourage the same when it comes to our greatness.
we’re afraid of appearing conceited or narcissistic. I’m afraid of that too. But I recently realized that I’m also afraid of living on one side of the creative spectrum where I only own the failures. This is not healthy either. This can lead to extreme self-doubt and paralysis.
in 2019, i want you to embrace the full spectrum of your creative work.
there will be days when I write inspiring (to others) poems and there will be days when my work fails. There will be days when I create beautifully designed websites and effective marketing strategies, and other days when I wonder if I should have stayed with writing instead of also incorporating technology.
and you will also have those days. I want to encourage you to own all of it. If you remember the failures with specificity, also remember the days you birthed something that felt incredible. Remember the awards in great detail. Remember the press mentions. Remember what you were wearing and what you said. Remember all of it.
you are creating a body of work.
Keep creating it, keep growing it and keep embracing the full spectrum of your creative out our.
don’t worry about being conceited. As soon as you celebrate one win, there will be a creative failure to greet you. This is the process. This is the work.
in the end, I want you to know the truth about your work: you’ve done some amazing work.
your future self