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How to Live a Creative Life

In a world that wants to pigeon-hole who you are

By Jamie JacksonPublished 2 years ago 6 min read
How to Live a Creative Life
Photo by Matthieu Comoy on Unsplash

If you're reading this, you're probably a creative person. Not everyone is. Some people are happy to go to an office, do a process-driven job and then come home to watch Netflix. If they have money in their pocket and a bit of comfort, they're content.

Not you. For one reason or another, you have the itch to create. A restlessness to make things, write things, paint things, play things, build things. Whatever. You don't know where it comes from but it's there.

And that's OK. You're not a weirdo, you don't fit into the normal mould of drinking at the weekends and working during the week. You want a life less ordinary.

It's OK. Look in the mirror and say "I'm a creative person and that's OK."

Do it. I'm serious. This is step one to accepting the life you're choosing. The life of a creative, someone who swims against the current, someone who doesn't fit into the social mould.

You see, we live in a paradoxical culture where creativity is both celebrated – music, art, talent shows, books, films – but also frowned upon.

Don’t believe me? Then why’s it so difficult to say “I’m a creative person”?

No one is allowed to say they're creative, that's not the done thing. It’s seen as a boast, as if you're claiming to be talented and special. But the need to create and talent are two different things.

Secondly, we live in a world where solicitors and accountants are regarded as successful while the artist living on a shoestring is seen as a dreamer at best and a liability at worst.

As a creative person, you'll always feel at odds with society because society is set up for people to be cogs in machines.

Creativity is celebrated, but only the result, never the process.

Society doesn't want to know about the artist's journey.

No shit. No one cares if you're writing a book. Who cared about JK Rowling when she was a struggling, unsigned author, or even when she was a published author? People only cared once she was a billionaire.

Society doesn't value creative endeavours, it values pre-approved results.

No one cared about Van Gogh or his art when he was a penniless artist. He was considered mad and a failure. Today, everyone says he's great, but what do they know? Where were those same every-men when Van Gogh was alive and no one would buy his paintings?

People's judgement should mean nothing for your creative endeavours because people’s judgement is based on fitting in.

John William's novel 'Stoner' sold less than 2000 copies when it was released in 1965 but it experienced a literary renaissance 40 years later and is now considered a modern classic.

Herman Melville’s 'Moby Dick' was a commercial failure and went out of print by the time Melville died in 1891. Today, it is considered one of the greatest books ever written.

In 1962, Decca Records rejected The Beatles and told them "Guitar groups are on their way out."

Opinions mean nothing and cost nothing. They are worthless.

To be creative, you must emancipate yourself from the shackles of other people’s opinions It is only how the creative journey manifests in you that matters.

Therefore, understand creativity also means being frustrated and misunderstood. But this frustration can be eased by refusing to measure yourself against society's games of conformity.

The second part of this isn't easily done, but it's possible. Let me explain how.

Beware of the Box-tickers

Box-tickers are mindless drones who collect shiny objects and live to tick boxes. Exams. Tick. A steady career. Tick. A nice car. Tick. A mortgage. Tick. A designer watch. Tick. A promotion. Tick.

Work and you shall be free — free to bury yourself under a mound of shopping bags.

I worked in offices for 19 years. Every time I spoke to my colleagues about creativity it was as if I was speaking a different language. If there was no financial return or status attached to it, why would I do it?

The world is surprisingly full of non-creatives, slowly and collectively, they will chip away at your confidence, your hopes, your dreams. You will be gaslighted by society having creative urges.

Understand you are fighting a war of attrition whether you like it or not.

This sounds overly dramatic, but those closest to you will try to pop your bubble, they want you to settle and stop rocking the boat. They'll offer up "realistic" solutions and lukewarm alternatives to your passions, but as Will Smith said:

"Being realistic is the most common path to mediocrity."

I used to ask older colleagues what I should do with my life. For 19 years the answer I received was always the same: "Stay here, climb the corporate ladder, get a deposit on a property, top-up your pension fund, and hold on for retirement."

There is more to life than just getting through it.

Get out of these environments before they brainwash you into believing the pursuit of money and stability is all life is about.

Surround yourself with other creatives. Find your tribe. Environment always beats willpower, so this is imperative.

You must soak up and absorb the creative energy of others, else have it sapped from you.

Here's how you need to look at it

The world is full of people who don't understand creativity, so why let them give you advice?

If a cat advised a bird how to live, it would never fly.

When I spoke to my office colleagues it was like talking to a caveman about television, there was no way for them to conceptualise my point of view and I couldn't conceptualise theirs.

The idea of endless conformity and working to make someone else rich seemed like madness. I'm sure they thought I was mad too.

Being around people who don't see life as you do is isolating.

Not at first, at first, it will be an education, but leave before isolation takes hold. And it will come. Not in a blatant form of "What on earth are you talking about?" but rather in the form of a general disconnect in conversation.

Don't get stuck speaking in creative and everyone around you speaking in consumption. It's maddening.

Never let someone who's given up on their dreams talk you out of yours.

You are a dreamer. All creatives are dreamers. You pull ideas out of thin air and turn them into reality. As EE Cummings wrote,

"Your head is a living forest full of songbirds."

It needs to be protected and nurtured if you want to hear its tune, but it's under attack by the noise of conformity every day, in a thousand subtle ways.

Dreams aren't burst in an insistent but are instead slowly deflated over time.

Hold steady. Remember, whilst everyone is looking down, you are looking up. Whilst everyone is counting cash, you are counting ideas. Whilst everyone consumes, you create.

This is you. You're creative. Be at peace with it. You didn't choose this life, it chose you. Listen to it, use it, let it be your guide. You're not going to change, so you may as well surrender to it.

Free yourself from the shackles of judgment and surround yourself with those who understand. Why wait?

As Henry Rollins said:

"There's no such thing as spare time, no such thing as free time, no such thing as down time. All you got is life time."

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About the Creator

Jamie Jackson

Between two skies and towards the night.

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