“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
Sometimes the creative drive flounders, us writers, artists and craftspeople know that all too well, as does anyone putting their head and heart into whatever they do. We find ourselves in the ebb, rather than in the flow.
When this happens, we tend to think like this:
There are so many artists, so many writers, how can we all make our presence felt? How can I possibly make an impact?
It’s not so much the ego at work here, rather, it’s the wanting to share. You write to be read, you paint for your work to be seen, whatever project you’re invested in, there are others doing the same, and we are all inevitably competing at some level to be taken notice of. And there is repetition of ideas, nothing is truly original anymore. It’s all been done before. As that incredibly wise mysterious person said in Ecclesiastes (the only thing I can quote from the bible) there is nothing new under the sun, and think how long ago that was! If it was true in the last part of the third century BC, then it must be suffocatingly true today. So the fact of existence is, that as we all strive in our creative work, then there are times when we will lose our motivation, lose our self belief.
It’s not fashionable these days to admit to any kind of faltering. We are meant to be driven, to pursue ‘success’, to market ourselves relentlessly, to take advice on how to ‘get there’, advice of which there is a vast ocean, often with turbulent currents tossing us around in paradoxes and confusions. There is constructive criticism and not so constructive, and we are under pressure to ‘get it right’, to search for how we can improve our work, not to mention ourselves. And there is so much information, so much instruction. And so…no wonder we falter.
Then we can feel like just one tree in a vast forest – nothing special, just one of many, reaching for the sky, but hemmed in by so many doing the same thing as us. No room to be ourselves with our growth stunted. And so our motivation wanes, and we ask ourselves – Who are we to think we can stand out in the crowd?
Whatever we do will indeed be insignificant, and many of us must have decided to not bother any more, either it hurts too much or it becomes fundamentally unrewarding. I know creative people who have let their significant interest go because it seemed pointless, they just didn’t feel they were getting anywhere. We give up trying to get our book published because there is too much competition and we’re not making an inroads, we wonder why we bothered spending all that time on it in the first place, we give up trying to get a reputable gallery to take our paintings, we give up trying to find some meaningful work to do, because the way the world works simply doesn’t make it easy, in fact it makes it really tough. And what happens if we cave in and give up the creative work that makes our life meaningful?
We shrivel, we die – because that’s what happens to our creativity, and thereby ourselves, if it is not expressed. I’m not putting creativity on some kind of pedestal here, I never have, in fact it’s only recently that I’ve learned to respect it in myself much more. And that is how I know that it’s damaging to our spirit if we ignore what we have within us…and so we have to do our work, in spite of it being insignificant.
And I do struggle with consistently believing this, like many of must, because we don’t all live in secluded Buddhist monasteries in lofty mountains, with the drifting tinkles of chimes to soothe us, to help us maintain contact with our inner selves, to find inner peace, away from the realities of living in the real world.
So what should we do?
We must try to accept the creative ebbs within us (and you can probably surmise I’m going through one now), allow them to be, acknowledge the way the world we live in works, and that by engaging with it, as we must to get our work seen, that it will inevitably contribute to, if not stimulate, your faltering. But also know that we must flow on with our work, because it makes us who we are as individuals. It helps us to flourish and grow, to express what it is to be human, to give the best of ourselves to others because we’re not twisted with resentments and regrets. And remember that true success isn’t about making the bestseller list in whatever your meaningful work is, it’s keeping that important connection within ourselves, with who we really are on a day by day basis, while we live the journey of our life, and we just have to believe that this is more rewarding than what can be very fleeting outer achievement. And even if we get to where we want to be, having a strong inner connection will ground us for what further challenges may come.
So despite knowing that whatever we do will be insignificant, savour your work, nurture yourself and grow. And even if there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to creative ideas, the power is within you to explore and express these ideas your way.
(Pictures courtesy of pixabay)