What does it take to make it as a creative person in this world?
You could say: talent, skill, luck, connections, a unique vision and voice. All of that is true. Also: persistence, courage, gumption and a belief in yourself. Also true.
But to really answer the question, we need to hone in on some preliminary questions first:
– what does “making it” mean?
– how is our “creative person” involved?
– what do we mean by “the world?”
I hope those questions don’t sound trite or rudimentary, or like a syllogistic game. In fact, I think they’re important and often skipped over. In our earnestness to derive the elements of creative success, we sometimes fail to define our terms.
Defining Our Terms
Let’s look at a single instance of creative expression:
A creative person has a vision, often fueled by intense desire. The vision is projected onto the scrim of the world. This is a natural impulse. We take what only we can see internally and then imagine it outward.
This initial psychological action feels so true – at once potent and at the same time rendering us completely subject to the world – that we don’t stop to ask these questions: what does “making it” mean in this instance? How and in what way is my creativity involved? What constitutes “the world” to me?
- Does “making it?” mean completing the project? Selling our work? Having it critically appraised/reviewed? Winning an award? Winning renown? Or is earlier in the spectrum of accomplishment: mastering a new skill, or even learning a new skill – or maybe even testing out a new domain?
- Does our creative involvement invoke our creative strengths (which are different from the talents and skills needed in our creative domain)? Are we growing creatively? Or are we reproducing within our comfort zone? Do we even enjoy what we’re working on?
- Is “the world” our community? A professional or an amateur marketplace? Our family? Our heritage or ancestry? The imagined audience of our legacy? Some vague collection of all the people whose approval we’ve sought in the past? Our relentless internal critic?
Having looked at a single instance, now maybe the potential to really plumb the depths of this question in general feels more delineated: What does it take to “make it” as a “creative person” in “this world.”
Over the course of a creative life, the answers will change and change again. The point I hope to make here is that the answer doesn’t lie only in a list of virtuous characteristics and fortunate conditions, but in how we’re conceiving of ourselves, our intentions, and the community with which we seek to creatively engage.
Answering, or even attempting to answer, the questions is empowering. Simply trying to “make it as a creative person in this world” without periodically defining our terms, on the other hand, leads to frustration, confusion, and unproductive and sometimes damaging judgements.
To our creative essence, the power and beauty of the creative vision is, I believe, immutable. With greater awareness, we can begin to direct where we project it in this world, and know with greater clarity what exactly we would like to make of it.