You’re working to get your business off the ground. You’re trying to write great blog entries. Or you’re pitching your book to publishers. You’re discovering a hard truth: it’s not easy, and sometimes it’s downright difficult.
You feel trapped and find yourself procrastinating. You don’t believe that you are capable of doing the work. Despair makes you want to give up altogether. It’s much easier to grab a glass of lemonade and go hang out in the hammock.
But by avoiding difficult situations or work, you’re missing out on the very benefits you need to be creatively empowered and bring your projects to satisfying completion.
I’m going on eleven years and draft fifteen of my novel, Chasing Sylvia Beach. Thinking of doing another revision feels difficult. But I can look back to previous iterations and see how staying with it has empowered me to tackle other creative projects.
This work has given me innumerable benefits, and here are five qualities that I’ve gained from the often-difficult work of creativity.
Five benefits of facing difficult creative work:
1. Humility and ego taming
2. Greater tolerance and increased capacity
3. Ability to risk and try new media
4. Greater confidence, feel empowered
5. Feel more alive and satisfied
Humility and ego taming
I doubt that any of you suffer from an over-inflated ego (Heaven’s no!) but sometimes a dash of humility and ego taming can help a lot. When I tap into humility and let my ego take a back seat, I feel grounded. I feel connected to the bigger picture, to others who are striving, to the very essence of what it is to be human and try to create something.
From there, I experience an open-hearted approach to creating. I feel aligned with a lineage of people who have applied their best efforts to their art and who have succeeded because of it.
Making art, building a business, writing a book are all very humbling work and I am grateful for that.
Think of a recent and difficult situation. How did it help you cultivate humility?
Greater tolerance and increased capacity
When I wrote my first book, Create Your Writer’s Life, it was fun but also daunting. I found it hard to organize all my material. I first published it as an e-book and the technological challenges made it seem like I was climbing an enormous and impervious mountain.
With help, I launched the e-book, and a year later, the paperback edition. Now I know that when I am facing a daunting project, I can do it. If I hadn’t leaned in and gotten help to overcome the difficulty, I’d still be wondering if I had it in me to write a book that has been called the best book on writing since Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
Where are you thinking small and where might you benefit from believing that you can go further than you think you can?
Ability to risk and try new media
Because I knew that I could figure out how to write and publish a book, I recognized that I had the ability to try and succeed at things that were outside my comfort zone.
That’s when my life really became one of creative engagement and exploration. From there I went on to teach myself blogging, podcasting and video production. I explored the illustrated journal and launched creativity workshops in Europe.
Creative people need to be adept at taking risks. Making anything is a crapshoot and you never know what will work. Difficult helps you become more tolerant of the inherent risks of creating.
What risks are you willing to take? What are you not willing to risk? How has a recently difficult situation helped you take more risks?
Feel more alive and satisfied
There seems to be a misconception going around: running your own business or being creatively engaged means you’re free as a bird and never have to do anything you don’t want to.
If that were the case, there’d be a lot of things on your to-do list that would never get done. For me, I don’t want to do my bookkeeping entries from Paris, converting euros to dollars and coding everything correctly. While I want to mail packages out, I don’t really want to do the packaging to get it out the door.
When you’re facing something difficult, cast your mind to the other side. You’re finished. You’re done. And you feel really, really alive and satisfied. That satisfaction, that pleasure, is such a treat, I’d almost put difficult things on my list just to get that glow.
Where could you use a sense of vitality? How has your creativity helped you feel more vital and alive?
I wasn’t always a person who embraces difficult. I’d much prefer to lie around reading, drinking lemonade and then lazily heading to the kitchen to make dinner for friends. I don’t think I’d have learned to embrace difficult without my coaching skills. Holding a bigger vision, adopting new perspectives and enrolling allies are all coaching practices that have allowed me to publish articles, run a business for eleven years, and plug away at my novel. Friends, colleagues and my coach help me to persist when I want to give up and take the easy way out.
Embracing difficult allows you to grow as a person and to be creatively empowered. It doesn’t have to mean struggle. When you struggle, you lose a sense of power, you become disengaged from the work, and goodness, it’s no fun at all.
Go back to the list of benefits. Take an honest look at your creative work and ask yourself, are you lacking these qualities? It may be that you’re avoiding the fruits of creativity by avoiding things that are difficult. Don’t do it! Don’t rob yourself of the satisfaction of overcoming difficult.
Next time I’ll share some of my coaching strategies to help you face those difficult creative challenges. What has facing difficult creative work done for you? Share your story in a comment below.