I’ve been writing a lot in here lately about how I am really craving a more creative life, one where I can pursue my interests and passions and feel like I’m really making a contribution to the world. I think the thing that holds me back the most from this is fear of the unknown. What if I quit my job as a secretary and started writing that book I’m hankering to write – would it work? Would I have the self-discipline to actually produce an entire book, and if I did, would it be any good? And even if it was good, would it be a success? (because, as history shows us, the two things aren’t always linked).
One of the ways I move through fear like this is to look to others who have given themselves over to a creative life and found a way to make it work, despite the obstacles. I think of musicians like Missy Higgins, John Butler, and Ani di Franco who make great music on their own terms and have rabidly loyal fanbases. I remember authors that I love, like Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut who write quirky, idiosyncratic novels, or brave, adventurous writers like Erica Jong and Henry Miller. I think of artists like Van Gogh, who painted the world in a way never seen before, and film-makers like Peter Greenaway who changed audiences’ ideas of what a film could be. And then there are the techno-creatives like Steve Jobs and Matt Mullenweg who imagined into being the wonderful innovations of Apple and WordPress respectively. And the entrepreneurial creatives, like Tim Ferris and Chris Guillebeau who are passionate about breaking free from the shackles of 9-5 work and designing their own lives.
These creatives all came to their success in different ways. They all worked hard. They all took risks. They all had talent. Some were lucky enough to find their groove young, others never achieved ‘success’ in their lifetime (Van Gogh only ever sold one painting and died feeling he was a failure). Some are/were very wealthy, some not so. But one thing they all have in common is that they followed their own path. They made their music, their art, their films, their businesses, in their own way, according to their own vision, and they kept going until the record was made, the book published, the canvas finished, the business up and running, despite the setbacks that life inevitably throws.
While I don’t know how my own creative endeavours will turn out, it’s good to remember that there are many people who’ve found a way to make their dreams real. There are people in the world, real people, who get to spend all day being creative and getting paid for it. If I’m good enough, and brave enough, you just never know, I may yet be one of them. And I’m more than a little bit cheered to discover that J.K. Rowling herself, who is apparently richer than the Queen, was at one time a secretary. So there.