Which idea, of all those swimming inside your brain, are you compelled to pursue the way Ahab was driven to hunt Moby Dick? Here’s how you know—you’re scared to death of it.
The whale is your unwritten book, your unsung song, your calling as an artist. You die grappling with this thing, lashed to it, battling it even as it takes you under. But your death is not a mortal death. You die instead the artist’s death, which leads to resurrection in a higher, nobler form and recruits you to the next hunt, the next chase, the pursuit of the next Thing You Love.
Is there a White Whale out there for you?
You’ll know that whale by these qualities:
Its accomplishment will seem beyond your resources.
Your pursuit of it will bear you into waters where no one before you has sailed.
To hunt this beast will require everything you’ve got.
You may have started, like me, as a junior Mad Man, scripting jingles for canine kibble. There’s nothing wrong with that. You may have prostituted your talent, sold out to the Man. I have, a thousand times. It doesn’t matter. I forgive you and I forgive myself.
Each incarnation is an apprenticeship, if you live it that way. Are you slaving now in some sell-out job? Are you living a Shadow Career instead of your real calling? It’s okay. It’s all part of the journey.
What you learn in Wrong Career #1 will serve you in Off-Key Career #2 and in Out-of-Kilter Career #3, and the wisdom you acquire in #1, #2, and #3 will form the foundation of Real Calling #4 (or #5 or #6 or however long it takes.)
We’re all creatives now, whether we recognize it or not. This era is marked by frenetic creation.
The new supersedes the barely-no-longer new with surprising quickness. The laptop I’m tapping away on. It’s so last year. There’s a newer version that’s even bendier. Lighter too. Plus it’s amped up to new steroidal highs with more/better capacity in every way.
It’s exciting. Mommy blogs, yoga selfies, angel investing, tech unicorns, digital nomads, tiny houses, staycations, YouTube stars, life hacking, lifestyle design . . . . So many things that didn’t exist 100 years ago, if 10.
Glorious, even madcap innovation goes on everywhere. To be alive today is to be creating. In truth it’s always been this way, but innovation wasn’t treasured. Not in the ways we value creativity now.
There’s the story of the Roman Emperor Tiberius who immediately beheaded the craftsman who innovated the process for creating ‘flexible glass.” This shiny material that dented but did not shatter upon being dropped was later speculated to be the first discovery of aluminum. The hapless discoverer lost his head because Tiberius feared it would cause gold and silver to plummet in value.
And then there’s Queen Elizabeth I who denied a patent to William Lee, inventor of the first knitting machine. In her denial of a patent she bemoaned the effects of progress itself, that it would put out of business too many of her subjects who made their living from hand knitting. Though he was eventually to find some success in France, he ultimately died in poor financial straits — while his invention went on to become the backbone of the textiles industry for hundreds of years.
Artistically there’s never been a freer time.
Abstraction, realism, happenings, conceptualism, surrealism, impressionism, expressionism, pop, action painting, pattern and design, art installations, earth art, ephemeral art, shock art, body painting, activist art . . . in the modern world every conceivable art form is being practiced somewhere. Someone somewhere is crossing boundaries, combining mango juice with blood and paint and feathers . . . or mixing high and low . . . or flaunting an anti-commercial message via an ironic and profitable commercialism.
Today, in enlightened societies, you are free to discard your gender identity. You need not identify as either of the traditional genders if you choose. Similarly, today you are free to be monogamous for life, polygamous for a time, polyamorous, polytheistic, monotheistic, atheistic or a religion of one.
We value those who create over those who destroy.
More honors are bestowed upon creators than conquerors.
Long after Che Guevara is forgotten, Gandhi will be remain ascendant in our consciousness. Eventually the peacemakers will be celebrated and the fearmongers and the warmongers will be shunned. Even in our media. Even to the ends of the political spectrum.
Even now you see it in popular books. The technorati of our era are celebrated far more in articles and books than fighters.
We’re living in the inflection point, the era when creators are prized more than warriors. All you need do is travel from town to town in any area with hundreds of years of history to its name. It’s the man on horseback with a sword who is cast in stone or bronze for all to admire. Atop a fountain or astride a city park.
That’s changing. Finally, inventors and doers and scrappers and entrepreneurs and tinkerers and artists and writers and thinkers and film makers and innovators and chefs and choreographers and lifestylers and healers and designers and engineers and scientists and . . . so many more . . . are celebrated. In fact, creators are at the top of the celebration pyramid.
The zeitgeist has changed: Bring something novel into the world, we are asked. Bring your best self into what you do, we are advised. It is no longer about conquerors. It’s about creators.
We’re all creatives now. Success now is about what you can create — a generous-hearted home, a meme, a business, a song, a friendship, a life — not what you can acquire. It is the same with adventure. It is no longer about claiming parts of the world from tribal peoples with primitive weaponry. Adventure is about what you can create! A freelance lifestyle, impact, a family, a career, an experience, a connection, an opus, a website, a cartoon, a smile . . .
Creation is where it’s at. Creativity is universal to the human spirit. The creative spirit runs through us! It’s also what connects us. Through our offerings and through our exchange of ideas. And creativity is not limited to what we normally think about when contemplate the creative realm. The creative impulse is not constrained to being artsy-crafty.
There are many reading this who don’t have an artistic gene in their body — at least not one that is expressing — and yet their creativity runs rampant.
And you feel it. That cool boss who smooths the vagaries of the work day in a way others don’t even think of. The starter upper, launching biz after biz. The mom who makes every play date a joy.
Every sphere of life worth living is creative at its heart.
Excerpted from a bookito in progress: The Way of The Creative
Master glassworker Rick Eggert passing on his knowledge to the next generation:
“Write down your new truth. Make it exactly opposite of your greatest fear.”
~ Suze Orman
When you clarify your Vision and your Purpose you are taking Suze Orman’s advice to heart. You are writing a new truth for yourself. And then acting on it. At first in small steps, and then in ever more confident strides.
In my early twenties, a couple of years out of college, I left the family business — a tire store in South Florida. I headed to New York City for the glamour of living with my friend Gil in a dark 440-square-foot apartment in Hell’s Kitchen.
I fell into freelance proofreading because that’s what he was doing. And in the City they paid decently for simply being literate. For me the freedom was heady. I could log heavy hours at crazy times of the day — which really means night — late late night — and make adequate cash for our minimal load.
I took 7 vacations in one year. It was beautiful … until it wasn’t. I remember suddenly feeling stuck. Like there was nothing I’d ever be able to do to get myself out of the proofreading life. My eyeballs were burning from the outside in. Words — once magical to me — became mundane. Tiresome even.
One day I quit. My boss took me into his office and expressed how much they enjoyed working with me.
The conversation went something like this:
Boss: Why are you quitting? We love the work you do here.
Me: I can no longer be a proofreader. I’m dying inside. I’ve got to be me, man. I’ve got to be free. I’ve got to express myself!
Boss: Well, what do you want to do?
Me: Umm, I don’t know. But I refuse to proofread any more!
Very Cool Boss: Got it. But what are you interested in?
Me: You know, I spend all my spare time in the Graphic Design department. I love the cutting and pasting, the creative aspects, doing whatever I can to help out there.
Way Cooler Than I Ever Imagined Boss: I’ve noticed. They love you in there. OK. I accept your resignation from proofreading — only if you’ll come work in the Graphic Design department.
Boss: Yeah, and we’ll pay you more.
Me, later on the way home, thinking: That’s all I had to do? Make a decision I would no longer accept my current place in the world??!!
The Graphic Design department was like advanced kindergarten to me. You got to draw and construct and design — all manner of fun projects came through — and you got paid to play. I was in bliss heaven.
I had written a new truth in my mind and reality shifted quickly to accommodate the new perspective.
That’s happened to me several times since then. Almost always it’s preceded by a feeling of being mired in a place of stagnation … and then in a burst of intensity I release this new thing from me. What gets released is a new desire I’m longing for urgently. I make a move in the new direction. Then another and another.
Reality always shifts when you demand it.
Excerpted from Burn Baby Burn: Spark The Creative Spirit Within
A question for you: Is there a new truth you want to put out there?
Write it down.
Then go relax, like Love Bear. Ideas will come.