Do You Have The Courage To Lead A Creative Life?

by Lauren Martin

The creative life: To live solely and purposely for your innermost desires and to work only for your happiness and the purpose to produce work that fulfills and excites you.

There are few people I respect in this world and most of them are the ones pursuing the creative life. They are the ones who work menial jobs only to go home to their crowded studio and paint until they have to get up to do it again. They are the ones skipping dinner to pay for new supplies and eating Ramen three times a day to save money because they need to save money for their next trip to India.

The creative lifestyle is something that’s long been admonished and stigmatized by society as an unstable and disrespectful way to earn a living. It’s been bred out of us since childhood when we were pushed to study “stable” and “respectable” fields, like biology, math, chemistry, law, business, computer programming and economics.

We were trained to look at art as a pastime, as innovation, like a risk.  It seems society has an aversion to the artist, the individual, the lone wolf. We praise the investment banker and spit on the artist. But why?

It took me a long time to finally find myself and become completely content with my ambitions and the idea of who I wanted to be, but when I did, I realized that my desires would lead me to a life that would not be an easy one.

Unlike many of my counterparts who are able to flawlessly fit into their molds of med-students, lawyers and financiers, I found my mold in the amorphous space of the creative life. I found that feeling of “work worth doing” in painting and writing. I found that purpose that so many people never find.

However, I realized that being creative wasn’t enough. To pursue a life that follows one's own passions and whims, one must be willing not only to sacrifice everything, but to expect nothing.

“If you care about something you have to protect it – If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”— John Irving

The reasons I respect those who choose to live a creative life is that they protect their dreams, a feat many people can’t claim. But most importantly, they have chosen to follow their passions even if they bring them down a road of despair. They sacrifice every day for their dreams and never give in because they can’t buy new clothes or afford rent.

They are stronger and more willful than any man or woman in a suit and can hack a life that most people can’t ascertain. So before you throw away everything to pursue your passion for pottery, make sure you have the courage to delve into the creative life.

Can you stand up to adversity?

The first and hardest obstacle of choosing to live creatively is knowingly entering into a life that will be harder, scarier and more dangerous than many others. It's like expecting the slap before the beating.

Daring to create for yourself and go into the world not following the path already laid out and no map in hand is as difficult and exhilarating as jumping into a pool of freezing water. How you get used to the cold defines how you handle one of the many obstacles you will face.

Can you fail a million times?

What marks a true innovator is the ability not only to learn from failure, but to let it fuel the desire to succeed. Failure is many times the turning point between those who succeed and those who fail. You must learn to fail a million times before you can truly reach your goals and only those who are willing to take the pain and hard blows that come with hitting rock bottom will make it.

Can you live without luxury?

Choosing to live a creative life means giving up almost all basic comforts. It means risking a good apartment, stable pay check, groceries and absolutely no extra money for splurging. It means trading new clothes for new supplies or vacation funds for start-up capital. It’s scraping, saving and going with as little as possible for as long as possible.

Can you give up everything?

Can you really let go of all other attachments? Because you can’t fully achieve something unless you completely devote yourself to one thing and that one thing only.

Chasing a creative life means cutting off ties to the many things society has said you can’t and shouldn’t live without. It means giving up job security, health insurance and friends. It can mean giving up other dreams, hobbies and activities to pursue only this one.

Can you be alone?

The road less traveled is a lonely one. There are much fewer people along the road you are taking and you must not only be comfortable being alone, but thrive in your solitude. Being unique and deviating from “the norm” means losing many old friends but meeting many new ones. However, it really means supporting and putting most of your attention on yourself and your work.

Can you take the criticism?

If you don’t have thick skin, don’t expect to thrive in a life that’s constantly criticized and critiqued by the outside world. Living a creative life means being not just completely content with yourself, but being impermeable to the outside world. Only those who have complete self-confidence and unfailing respect for themselves can truly hack it.

Can you love without rewards?

If you are pursuing a creative life because you think it will bring you money and fame, just stop now. Anyone who pursues the life of the artist does it because he or she doesn’t know any other way to live.

These people paint, film, act, sing, dance, create because they have to. Fame and money are desires that most likely won't be fulfilled in this type of life and pursuing an honest living for dishonest reasons will only lead to a life of pain and disappointment.

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