Our quest as creatives is to make things that didn't exist before. And most of us aren't satisfied with just bringing something new into the world, we try to to make those creations interesting too. Things that make people stop and look and smile (or cry). I think we can all agree that it's not entirely easy.
If we'd just be fine making repetitive and uninspiring things, we'd save ourselves a lot of trouble. If we didn't go for those projects that we can barely handle, the ideas we care about maybe a tad too much. It would save us a lot of energy and stop us from pulling out so many hairs.
But at the same time... would it be easier? Or would we grow so bored by our own dull creations that we'd eventually just give it up? Toss that creative identity and spend our free time on Netflix instead?
You see, I have a theory. I think creatives are an obstinately curious species with a relentless thirst for whatever it is that makes our tentacles start buzzing and whirring. Tell us that we're to follow someone else's stupid formula and our tentacles will soon start hanging like that sad old plant you forgot to water for a month.
Figure out what intrigues you and use that to your best ability
When I decided to start writing separately for my blog and for my email subscribers, the Teacup Owls, I thought it was an excellent idea to divide up the content a bit. Keep my Teacup Owl Letters more story-driven and personal, while making this blog a tad more practical and SEO friendly.
I assumed it would work out, because it was a rational thing to do. It was being a good blogger who listens to the advice of wise internet gurus.
But instead, two things happened:
- I got super excited about writing my Teacup Owl Letters.
- I got super bored by writing for my blog.
The truth is that I really can't be bothered with classic how-to articles. They're great if you're searching for a solution to a problem, yes, but I've never once said damn I read such a good how-to the other day.
In my humble opinion, they make for incredibly dull writing. I'm fond of words and I don't like being told to write as simply and non-fussy as possible. It's like not being allowed to play.
When you start creating things that you think you're supposed to create, that's when creativity starts feeling like a job. And that's when you might start wondering why the hell you're doing it.
I'm not saying it has to be fun and games all the time. There are dreary things we might have to do if we want to reach certain creative goals. But we're creatives and I bet most of those things can be made fun if we just approach it from the right angle. If we make it into our own version, the one that intrigues us. I could probably find a way to write how-to articles and enjoy it, if I bend the rules to my liking.
After I'd gone around being bored by my blog for a couple of weeks, I said enough was enough and sat down to figure out which posts had been most fun to write. It didn't take long to start seeing a pattern:
Above else, I'm a storyteller of the inner journey. I'm intrigued by how we learn lessons and grow as humans. How we battle the world and ourselves and how we make peace. It's true in my fiction writing and it's true when I reflect on my own creative path.
Guess what I also realized? Those posts I liked writing seemed to tickle my readers fancy too. The how-to articles? Not so much. You'd almost think there was a strategy to it.
If you aren't engaged, why should anyone else be?
Do you remember the teachers back in school who went on and on with a monotone voice and never did anything surprising? Did you also wonder if they had ever been fascinated by what they were teaching?
Did you also have teachers who genuinely loved their subject and could work themselves up until they completely forgot about everything else and ended up not having time to check you did your homework? I had one teacher who got so wound up talking about water shortage and sanity in third world countries, he made himself cry. True story.
Enthusiasm is contagious. It makes you a better creator and the people watching can tell whether you liked making it or not. Don't underestimate what a difference love for your craft makes.
Listen to advice, care about what people like, but above all, listen to yourself. You're the one who's supposed to do all the creating and you better like doing it or newsflash: you'll stop. And then no one will be happy.
From now on, I'm allowing myself to be a storyteller sharing my lessons learned. Because that's what I enjoy and that's what I do best.
If you stop caring, others will stop caring too. So do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and honor what delights you.