One of the hardest things you can imagine is being a creative person in an uncreative world. There used to be such a high regard for artists and other creative minds that they were quite literally revered. Nowadays making a living doing something creative is almost impossible. Sure, technology has created more outlets for expression, but to monetize those outlets is a burden that most people can’t bear. Having a creative mind is more of a burden than some people understand. Sitting in a cubicle working through mundane tasks when you’d rather be painting, singing, or writing is a kind of personal hell that so many creative people have to endure every day. For me, it was 12 years in the computer business. For some, it is a lifetime of going through the motions to make sure the mortgage is paid. If you are like me and have a creative mind, these are 4 struggles you know are all too real:
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1. The “Real Job” Conundrum
All of our lives we are told that we need to “go out and get a real job.” Apparently you have to be a famous writer, actor, artist, or musician for it to be a “real job.” As a creative person, there is no correlation between fame/money and doing what it is that you love. People don’t understand that you do what you do out of a personal need to create, not a need to be compensated. An insurance salesman doesn’t sell life insurance because they have a personal need to sell insurance – they do it to make money. For creative people, the process of creation is our reward. Unfortunately, you can’t pay your rent with self-satisfaction.
2. Choosing Convention over Creativity
So, because of the burdens of responsibility, you end up suppressing those creative desires. You get that “real job” that your parents and peers have pushed on you. Now your energy focus becomes supporting a life you can’t enjoy with endeavours that only serve to get you by, instead of endeavours that actually fulfill you as a person. Sure, you’re being a “responsible adult” but inside you feel empty. You get that feeling that you are a kid sitting in a classroom when you’d rather be on the playground. The playground is where it’s at. On the same token, you fear falling into the “starving artist” cycle. Somehow you become thankful for your conventional, albeit soul-crushing, job. Think of it like Stockholm Syndrome where you are both the hostage and the captor.
3. The Burdens of Doubt
As you progress into a career that fits like a shoe that is two sizes too small, you start to dream of breaking out and doing whatever it is that you love. This is when the “doubt monster” peeks out from the shadows and reminds you that you have bills, and responsibilities, and commitments. “You can’t make a living doing what you love,” he will say. No matter how passionate you are about what it is that you want to create, you doubt your ability to make a living at it. Your “passion” becomes a “dream”. Running off to join the circus, no matter how badly you want to, just seems like an impossibility.
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4. Expectations of Others
Then there comes a time when you finally take that flying leap off of the bridge of what you have to do to make money into the unknown abyss of what you want to do. Maybe you’ve saved up some money, maybe you haven’t. Either way, you’ve chosen to pursue your dreams. The people around you in your life will look at you with their sheep eyes, and try to convince you that you’ve gone crazy. You look back at them with your creative eyes and try to convince them that they are crazy for being cogs in a machine that they have no control over. You embrace the struggle and pour your soul into whatever it is that you’re doing, no matter the financial repercussions. Finally, you’re alive. But no matter how far you move forward, people still have their expectations of you. All of the sudden you dread the question, “what do you do for a living?”
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In the end, the choice is your, and yours alone, to do whatever you want to do. Life is way too short to spend it in a thankless, unfulfilling job. Life is also too short to spend it worrying about how you can pay your bills. If I can offer any advice for someone looking to break out of the cycle and get into a creative career, it would be this: Take your time. It’s not a transition that is going to happen over night, so be smart about it. Being creative is so often tied to being compulsive, so try to go about making the transition intelligently. There are always going to be people that question your choices, but I promise you: there is a whole world of people who will support your decision, and look forward to what it is that you have to share with us.