We dream of living the creative life. Of earning money through work that feels inspired and meaningful. We envision days chock-full of invigoration and fulfillment, knowing that one day we’ll lie on our deathbeds and think: ‘yes! I have lived my dream’.
But what happens when making a living from your creative work feels anything but blissful?
When rigid rejection rips through you with a jagged knife. For the 99th time.
When you write and share and pin and tweet and network and submit articles and press releases and host freebie events and seminars and still…… still…nobody seems to be listening or buying or giving a damn. At least, not in the numbers that would validate your endless hours of sweat.
And internet bullies criticize mercilessly. Again.
Days when your work doesn’t feel engaging and you start to doubt and question. Everything.
And your friend (or spouse or parent) doesn’t get what you’re doing and why you don’t just give up and get a normal job.
When you feel isolated and alone in your thoughts of self-doubt and criticism.
When clients don’t pay on time. Or at all.
And everyone else has prettier websites, better programs, more followers, more connections with influencers, and glossier photoshoots taken in Tuscany and Thailand.
Creative work can be thoroughly rewarding. But there are harsh realities, too. These are just some of them. And somehow you didn’t’ expect them. Yes, you’d thought about things like rejection and the struggle, but you thought about them as distant concepts. As in, ‘that will never happen to me, because my art is so (fill in the blank)’.
But then it does happen. Some of the things or all of them. For days, weeks, months, maybe even years.
So what do you do? How do you cope?
You have two choices. Just two.
- keep going
Every day, you’ll make this decision. Most days you won’t be conscious of it. But sometimes you need to stop and make that decision again. Because making the decision renews your commitment to your art (or frees you up to do something else entirely).
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or doubting your way, you especially need to make a choice.
how to decide
I certainly can’t tell you what to do. But I can tell you that if you’re struggling, spend some time reflecting on:
Why you chose this journey.
What does your work mean to you? What does it mean to the world?
What was your initial inspiration to start? How can you rekindle that?
How does it feel when you are deeply in flow, creating your work? How can that feeling fuel your days?
Are you engaged with the work (most of the time)? Or is it not what you expected when you set out?
Would you feel more satisfied creating your art as a hobby? For some, tying money to their art, makes the work less enjoyable. This could be you. If that’s the case, you can always find another way to support yourself and pursue your art on the side. And know that even if you decide to stop, life–and art– isn’t over. Maybe there’s something else for you.
But if you know in your heart that your current work is your art, then realize that the struggles, the hardships, the rejection are all part of it. You didn’t anticipate how harsh it would feel, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t make it through.
if you do decide to keep going, you may have some decisions to make:
Should you stay on the exact same course or make adjustments? Are you creating inline with your true voice? Or have you gotten off-track from what feels real and deep and true to you? Do you need to take a rest (sometimes that’s all you need. As long as you get back to your art).
Make adjustments (if necessary) and shift your attention from the struggle. Go full force in the direction of what you’ve chosen.
here are a few reminders to help shift your focus:
**Realize that the dream becomes more vivid and real each time you face the struggles and continue on.
**Even though you think nobody’s listening (or reading or watching), someone always is. And that person matters.
**Your art is developing and refining with every criticism and rejection that you push through.
**In this journey filled with saccharine-sweet bitterness, you are unfolding and growing as a person…and an artist.
You see, the dream wasn’t a picture you imagined. Not at all. It’s the daily life you’re living.
You are creating the dream.
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