Growing the roots of your creative life

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I used to do a slight rebrand of my blog every few months. Fuelled by some new inspiration, or a lingering sense of doubt, I’d adjust my course and propel myself in a somewhat different direction.

At one point, I wondered if I’d ever land on something that felt like home for more than a little while. But I trusted that I would eventually find my own voice, style and purpose.

And I did. While creative work always evolves and grows, I feel much steadier in it now. I think this process of trying out different things was necessary for me to figure out what I wanted to do and say.

But it’s not just that I experimented until I suddenly one day found “it”. Things kept getting clearer and clearer to me with every tinker, and what really made a difference was when I started to dig deeper.

I started to grow the roots of my creative life.

If your creative life was a tree…

If your creative life was a tree, the roots are what keep you grounded. They’re your values, the ideas you’re endlessly fascinated by, the work that brings you most joy. They’re your choices and priorities. Your dreams.

Growing your roots isn’t something you do in an afternoon. It often starts with an idea, an interest, a longing - a seed flying through the air searching for a good spot. It lands somewhere and start to grow.

First it’s just a fragile little plant, that idea. You can easily dig it up and move it a couple of yards this way or that. It can get beaten up by the wind or shadowed by bigger trees surrounding it.

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But once you decide on a place and nourish it, the roots shoot down into the ground beneath it. It digs deep and grabs hold of the earth. Start to grow and take up its very own space.

I used to tinker with the positioning of my creative life, and that was necessary, but I could have kept doing it for too long. If you move things around on the surface endlessly, it can keep your creative life from setting roots and become something bigger.

What to ask yourself to start growing roots

Growing the roots of your creative life is a sort of self-exploration. I have taken inspiration from many different resources on branding and finding your creative identity, among them Kayte Ferris’ view on finding your purpose and Sara Tasker’s The Insta Retreat.

Here are some questions that have helped me dig deeper and figure out what it is I want my creative life to be.

  • What do I enjoy the most when creating? What am I always pulled towards, or keep coming back to?

  • What do I want to contribute to the world? What do I think is important that not everyone think is? What idea or perspective would I like to stand up and defend?

  • How do I want to spend my creative time? What do I want more/less of?

  • What values do I want to bring to my work? What do I not want in my creative life?

  • Why do I want to do this work? Why is it important to me?

  • What feel most genuine, most like me, or a braver, a little more knowledgeable version of me?

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The point of these questions is to start digging. One question may unlock a different one. I’ve found that the same ideas often come up again and again, and that’s a sign it’s something important to me.

The benefits of sturdy roots

The self-doubt that often sparked a rebrand earlier hasn’t really gone away. I still have bouts when I wonder what the hell I’m doing and if I’m on the right path. The difference is that I now have something to return to.

I’ve written down my roots in a document that often go to, especially when I’m feeling a little doubtful. There I’ve collected my why, my core values, my plans and ideas. It makes me remember that yes, this is what I’m doing. This is who I am. I don’t have to redefine everything.

When you have roots in place in your creative life, it informs everything on the surface. It helps you know which direction to grow in. It’s keeps you stable in your creative work and gives you something to hold onto when things feel hard and scary, or when you get distracted. It keeps you close to your vision - and to yourself.

And if you eventually decide you need a change, to uproot and move, you have your roots to take with you, not having to start over from scratch.


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