This is the fourth blog in a 4-part series on Strategies for Creatives amidst a busy life
Anchors are those heavy, metallic things, connected to chains and fastened to the deck of a boat that, when thrown overboard sink to the ocean floor, immovable, so that said ship does not float away, no matter how rough the seas.
Here I’m using the term as a metaphor. Creativity, in some form, floats your boat. What keeps you fixed in your determination? What holds your resolve in place?
I love G.K. Chesterton’s quote from his incomparable book Orthodoxy that “Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea.”
The threat in our creative pursuits is to be driven and tossed by the wind, blown about and thrown against the rocks. Life gets busy, the income-generating tasks tire us out, family commitments require so much of us that all the good intentions laid out at the beginning of the year get dashed and our creativity capsizes.
Don’t let your creative goals drown or disappear in the insanity of life this year. Revisit your anchors.
Why are you doing this anyway? Why did you want to create in the first place? How will the world be better because of what you offer it this year creatively? You have something to write. You have a song to sing. You have an inventive idea that can transform lives and if you don’t do it, who will?
I’m not talking about how you get that idea to the world or how you publish the story or where you perform the song (and how you’ll collect the royalties). I’m talking about the joyful and mundane and infuriatingly important act of creation.
Why are you doing it and when?
Essentially, I’m reminding myself and yourself of your anchor. There is a reason and that’s something you need to write down.
The vision I return to when I feel lost in what I'm doing, have moments of discouragement, or need to evaluate if I should pursue an opportunity is this distilled phrase:
tell stories that affirm the value of life and capture the imagination of the heart
Here’s a few suggestions for how to remain connected to the purpose of why you create:
1. Write down the reason why you are compelled to create this year
It may be in a journal. It may be on a sticky note that you affix to your mirror so that every time you put on your makeup in the morning or shave you’re reminded of it.
Perhaps that much contact with said ‘reason’ is overwhelming, so you need to tuck it away in a place where you know you’ll stumble upon it again in six months (the inside jacket pocket of your winter coat if you’re in Canada and have regular winters) or a Google reminder set to notify you every three months. Whatever you need and however often you need to be reminded, write down your why.
2. Share your work with people you trust
Some people create simply for the satisfaction of the creative process itself. However, most people I encounter who write or paint or draw (etc) do so because they want others to engage their work.
When you create something it’s important to share it. You may need to set terms around the sharing (e.g. “It’s just a rough draft” or “please give it back” or “I don’t want critical feedback, just your gut reaction…”) but you need to share. Ultimately, creating is about enhancing people’s lives, serving others, and expressing truth that is vital.
The risk of sharing and the act of humility to offer work to others reminds you what your creativity is all about and also serves to realign and redirect your creative output if it’s offtrack of its purpose. Sharing your work keeps you anchored to your purpose if you’re honest and open in your craft.
Great resources that can help you discover and revisit your anchors:
Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership by Laurie Beth Jones - I’m sure there’s been a hundred or more books written on the subject of finding your purpose, and many of them may be better than this particular book. However, I was gifted this book at a key time in my creative journey and Jones’ practical vision-mapping exercise helped me greatly to understand my why. It’s been over a decade, but to this day I still revisit my vision map that I created as a result of reading this book. It’s been a helpful way for me to remain anchored.
Reflection in the quiet and lonely - A thinker I admire, Gordon Pennington, says that “there’s no substitute for the quiet walk with God.” I quote him from memory, but the words strike me still. Taking time to reflect on everything that comes with the creative journey is important. If your creative gift is applied in the marketplace, then there can be a lot of feedback, criticism, and input that comes with the territory that can impact your why.
The market may also demand content that you’re not passionate about. You might feel dislocated from your tribe or audience and don’t know where to find them. There can be a hundred other things that pile up and cause you to feel disconnected from who you are as a creative and why you create.
When you start to really feel all that, it is usually a sign that you haven’t been reflecting enough. I’m not talking navel-gazing introspection. More like Frederick Buechner’s exhortation to “listen to your life.” You know in your knower who you are and what you’re called to as a writer or artist. However, it takes time, care, and attention to remain connected to that purpose.