Choose to be more

by Doc Coleman on September 11, 2013 · 7 comments

in Asides

This post was inspired by a conversation I had on Facebook this weekend with a fellow writer who has had a difficult time of late. It was also inspired by many, many conversations I have had with other friends who have expressed their gratitude and their respect for all the work I have put into being an author and a voice actor. At first, I didn’t understand where that respect was coming from…

Many writers, indeed many artists of many types, struggle with the idea that they are not successful. Being a creative means living a very different life than most people do. For most people, life means getting a job that is good enough to pay the bills, finding someone to share your life with, planning vacations, raising a family, and if you are forward thinking enough, planning for retirement. As I put it in the Facebook conversation, life is career, spouse, and 2.37 kids. For the vast majority of people, that is what they are taught that life needs to be. Sometimes the career comes first, sometimes the spouse, sometimes the kids, but usually the elements are all in there somewhere. This is the typical measure of success. What you are in life is your job. What you are remembered for is how much you earn, or what landmark things that you accomplish in that job.

Life is different for a creative. Oh, we still have jobs, and families, but we also have this drive to create. This strange, strange thing in our heads that makes us give up evenings and weekends and miss out on social events so that we can create in our particular media. It makes us spend money on special tools without regard for how long it will take us to recoup the costs of those tools. It makes us become geeks, specialists in the minutiae of that thing we have chosen as our art. And that is assuming that we haven’t decided to pursue more than one art form.

Now, the trouble usually comes when a creative decides that nights and weekends aren’t enough. We must have more time to dedicate to our art. We must at last do away with that horrible time sink, the dayjob, and dedicate those hours to the pursuit of creative endeavors. At first, all is well. There is time to work, to create, to envision your dreams becoming reality! And then the money gets tight. You see, while art is highly treasured, and considered to be a boon to all mankind, most of it doesn’t pay very well. For every one lucky person who casts off the shackles of the dayjob to seek a life of creativity and finds a market for their art that allows them to continue producing, creating, and eating regular meals, there are thousands of artists who did the same, but cannot find a gig. Their art may garner respect and admiration, but for some reason it fails to come with a paycheck.

And then the real problem sets in. For when our young creative considers the scope of their life, and tries to determine if they have made the right decision, do they look at the art they have created? Do they look at the joy they have produced? No. When they come to measure themselves, what yardstick to they choose? Why, the one everyone else uses. Career, spouse, 2.37 kids. And in that measure, they are always found wanting, because their priorities have always been elsewhere.

This is why creatives are often a bit neurotic.

But what else do you expect when you continue to use the wrong measure of success? But what other measure does one use besides career, spouse, and 2.37 kids? How do you define success?

Success lies in doing not what others consider to be great, but what you consider to be right. – John Gray

Clever man, that John Gray.

What makes us successful as a creative is the act of doing what is right for us. And what is right for us is to create something.

But that isn’t the only reason to choose to create.

At the beginning of this essay, I mentioned other friends of mine who expressed their gratitude and respect for all of my work in pursuing my writing and voice acting. Well, they weren’t just saying that because they thought my writing had fundamentally changed the world of literature and dramatically changed their lives. That is still on my to do list. In fact, I’m sure that some of the friends who complimented me had never read any of my writing or listened to any of my audio work. So why were they thanking me?

Let’s take a moment of perfect honesty right now. At this point in my writing career, I’ve written a handful of short stories, or which about half of them are really good, and of the really good ones, one is still to be published, and the others aren’t very easy to get a hold of. They’re out there, but they’re not all that easy to find. I’ve also written a novel that I’m still revising and don’t have a publication date set yet. I’m just starting to break out of the realm of rookie mistakes in my writing. I’m getting to the point where I’m figuring out what I’m doing, and starting to do it consistently. As an author, I’m still looking up to the lowest part of the mid-list. I’ve got potential, but I haven’t done anything of note yet. Yet. So why would they be grateful?

So I asked.

Know what they told me?

They told me that they were in awe and respect for the fact that I was following my dream. That I was taking the time to pursue something that wasn’t easy, something that most people didn’t do. That garnered their respect, but the gratitude came from the fact that if I could do it, there was still the possibility that they could do it, too. I’ve been told several times that my example has inspired people to get their acts together and do more, to be more than they would have on their own.

And that is where this little essay comes together. Creative types tend to beat themselves up for not being able to fulfill the standards that the crowd measures their lives by, but the crowd looks to those self-same creatives for inspiration and reassurance that there is more to life than just career, spouse, and 2.37 kids. By pursuing our dreams, we help others keep their dreams alive.

That is powerful stuff.

But even more powerful is the realization of what makes the difference between the crowd and the creatives. What is it that makes a particular person a creative? What makes them go after that dream? What fuels that creative drive?

Choice.

The creatives become creatives because they choose that path. They decide to take the time and put in the effort to bring something new and unique into the world. It isn’t talent, or inspiration that makes a creative, but choice, commitment and drive.

I have chosen to tell stories. I came into this decision later than most, but not as late as others. I know it is a lot of work. I choose to do that work. I choose to be more than my job.

You have the same choice, gentile reader. Do you want to take that dream down off the shelf, dust it off and make it a reality? Are you content with life as you know it, or do you want to chase that dream and see how close you can come to catching it? It isn’t too late.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David in Adelphi September 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Dear Doc – I’ve been struggling with this creative thing since I was a teenager. Do you have any idea of how many years that includes? I keep hoping it will become easier, that I’ll know more of what I am doing. It isn’t just about being successful at the creating. It is all about doing the creating. Thanks for reminding me of some of the reasons why I pound my head against the wall of creativity. – David

Reply

2 Doc Coleman September 12, 2013 at 4:36 am

David,

Glad I could do my little bit to help put things in perspective. The thing about creativity, I don’t think we ever do really know what we are doing. We’re lucky enough if we have enough practice that we can concentrate on getting the work done.

Doc

Reply

3 Melissa (My World...in words and pages) October 2, 2013 at 10:21 am

This is something to think on. Really think on.

I remember when I had a job 7+ yrs ago and all I did was work. Started at 7am didn’t come home till 6-7pm and brought work with me. I was stretching to reach that all American thinking…the career. But, I didn’t get to see my son and family much. And really, thinking about it the career wasn’t going anywhere but draining me. Thankfully, I was laid off – business changed hands and things were moved elsewhere. This was about the time I wanted to leave anyway, well aware it was draining me.

I was thrilled.

This gave me the chance to find a job where I can not stress so much and have normal hours for my family at night. I got just that. I do have to keep reminding myself this is what I want from time to time. You know, when I hear others talking of their great successful jobs. Which isn’t all that’s out there in life. There is more and I have what I want.

Now, I have more things in life I want to do. It’s rearranging to get to them that I need to figure out now. 🙂 I will find a way to get my writing in more often. I will. And I’m working on figuring out what will work for me now.

I’m glad you are going down the path of your dream. And hope all works out amazing for you. You definitely deserve it.

Best wishes to you.

Reply

4 Doc Coleman October 2, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Sometimes the dreams we chase turn out to not be the ones we want to catch. It is OK to switch to a new dream, just don’t give up on your dreams altogether.

I hope you’re happy with your new dreams.

I’ve got to get back to work on mine. Still have to put in a good bit of work before it starts paying off.

Doc

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: