As creative people, we often ask ourselves a lot of hard questions, such as: What am I doing? What will I accomplish? What will the impact of my work be? Will I ever be successful? We wonder about these things as we make something out of nothing—as we dive into the mystery of creating without knowing what the outcome will be, but anticipating that it will somehow affect our destiny.
This daily dive into the mysterious world of art-making can be daunting, but here are some encouraging words from Erik Wahl in his book, The Spark and the Grind: Ignite the Power of Disciplined Creativity:
“When you embrace the creative process each day, you are embracing the becoming of your potential. You can admit that you don’t know what all this means while still welcoming the prospect—not only of seeing what you can do but of what you will become along the way. Oxford professor and creator of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis called this unceasing wonder your ‘true north.’ It points to your destiny—what you are meant to be and do—and you are drawn to both its mystery and its fulfillment. How you handle that attraction is up to you, however.”
Creating is just as much about ourselves as it is about the work we produce. As we create, we accept that we don’t have all the answers…there is an unspoken agreement that there will be things we just don’t know, like how the novel will end, or exactly what the painting will look like when we finish. While this may be uncomfortable, we’re (mostly) willing to keep exploring, whether it’s with dogged determination or a laid-back zen attitude.
With ourselves though, we’re much less patient, wanting to get to success as fast as possible. Except, success is a moving target. Reach it by meeting one goal, and it dashes into the distance, forcing us to delay that sense of accomplishment, plus making us feel as if we just don’t know what we’re doing or if we’re going about it the right way. We want to know everything, to efficiently reach our destiny, and yet the answers on how to get there remain elusive.
The “unceasing wonder” that C.S. Lewis talks about is what we must rely on when confusion sets in. If you’re willing to be curious, to wander, to be along for the crazy ride instead of focusing on the finish line and outcome (and who or what that will make you), you’ll start to see all the possibilities instead of absolutes, to accept your true artistic self instead of a perfect, unattainable version that only exists in your mind. Whatever successes or failures come your way, and it will likely be both multiple times over, remember that these are outcomes that fluctuate, not finite characteristics that define you.
The reality is much simpler. As you create, you become just that—a creator. That’s who you are. Embrace it. Embrace yourself.