Hello friends! So… right out of the gate, let’s address what some of you are probably thinking right now. You’ve read the title of today’s episode, you’ve seen the above picture, and you’re thinking “Yeah, okay, Sarah. I’ll just quit my job and start painting every day.” ::eyeroll::

But this episode is definitely not about supporting yourself financially with your creative work.

I’m not even talking about filling your day-to-day life with arts and crafts (even though those can be a fun way to express yourself). So don’t worry — you don’t have to hang macaroni art on your walls or plant flowers in shoes to live a creative life. I mean, I certainly won’t stop you from doing so, but what I’m addressing today runs much deeper than that.

Today’s episode of the Write Now podcast is about asking yourself some tough questions and, most importantly, answering yourself honestly. But first things first. What does it even mean to live a creative life?

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Dreams and Molds

Today, I mention one of my all-time favorite webcomics, XKCD by Randall Munroe. One of his strips really speaks to me. It talks about trading our dreams and aspirations in for the molds from which society tells us we should emerge. Heady stuff, to be sure:

Image of XKCD Comic 137

(I blurred out the strong language to keep this post family-friendly, but simply click it to read the whole thing!)

I’m also reminded of another work not mentioned in today’s episode that parodies “socially-sanctioned” creativity. The YouTube series Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared (also viewer discretion!) takes a more sinister look at how cultural norms poison and undermine our attempts to be different and creative.

I think these different works share a similar idea: that society has very defined expectations of us all.

We live in a world that encourages us to work hard and do well in school, get a job, get married, and raise a family, all while buying and owning the correct things at each stage of the process. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this plan, and it works well for many people.

The problem emerges when it becomes an expectation of us all, regardless if it’s the life we want for ourselves or not.

Elizabeth Gilbert touches upon this in her book Big Magic. It may be that we were raised by parents who valued rules, or avoided risk, or who just had no creativity to begin with. These are difficult things to rise above, especially if we were raised in and/or work in these environments.

But I think that’s what it really means to live creatively in today’s world. It’s not necessarily about proselytizing a quirky lifestyle, sustaining yourself on creative work alone, or even creating something in your free time every day.

Living creatively is about deciding and shaping for yourself the life in which you want to live.

The Big Questions

Like me, you may not even realize which molds you’ve been stuffed into until you’re an adult. So how can you tell if you’re living creatively or by someone else’s terms?

Here are some big (and sometimes tough) questions you can ask yourself.

  1. Are you living the life you want to live? This simple yes-or-no question may be the hardest one to answer honestly. It’s easy to look at all the advantages you have and say “Yep, I’m good.” But answering “no” to this question brings up a lot of uncertainties and leaves you wondering, “Well, what do I want?” Having the courage to answer honestly will ultimately give you more control over your life.
  2. Are you living out your purpose or calling? Again, this doesn’t necessarily pertain to your career. We all have to eat, after all. But what were you made for? What are you supposed to be doing? What’s the one thing that makes you feel like a million bucks when you do it? You may not know the answer to this question yet. But don’t stop searching.
  3. Are you deciding for yourself what you want? When answering the above two questions, keep this in mind. Is this what I want… or what I was told I want? The same goes for your calling — only you can decide that. It’s important to identify where your self interest intersects with your upbringing, your beliefs, the people who impact you, and what society in general expects of you. You may find the life you truly want lies outside of all of these influences. And you know what? That’s okay!
  4. Are you shaping your own world? Trick question — the answer is always “yes”. Whether you are consciously steering your life or passively letting it happen, what you do shapes how you live. The real question is, are you happy with that? And it’s okay to say “yes” or “no”, as long as you’re being honest. Hopefully, your answer will lead toward taking the steps you need to live the life you want.

So what does this all have to do with living a creative life?

A lot, actually. Creativity is stifled by fear, public opinion, and the limits placed upon us by others and ourselves. By identifying what it is we truly want, we can more easily recognize the obstacles that keep us from living it out. Much like human beings, creativity can only truly thrive in freedom.

Inspiration to click on!

Here are some links you may find useful:

It is my hope that today’s episode helps somebody take a good hard look at their life. Is that person you? Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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