There was a lot of talk last night in the “Love the Life you Live” telecourse about reviews and rejection and Grammy speeches. The members of the group dared to share their best and worst case scenarios, most of which I’ve indulged in myself along the way. They are the fears we all have for the creative work that comes from our hearts.
What came through to me so strongly is a feeling we’ve learned alongside math and spelling:
“I only want to do this if I can be sure it’s going to work.”
“Work” is defined in ways unique to each of us, but always occurs somewhere in the future. And it always seems beyond our control. There is an alternative.
Well trained as consumers from our first digital image, we learn to do what we do…
- because it’s going to make us famous
- because it’s going to make us rich
- because it’s going to make us attractive
…because it’s going to get us something we think we need to be enough.
But creative people learn that there’s an incomparable sense of aliveness only attached to doing what we do…
- because we can
- because it pleases us
- because we love it
- because we must
The first of these two points of view is externally oriented while the second is internally oriented. The first is designed to increase your value in the eyes of others, while the other fulfills you as you are. The first leaves you at the mercy of others, while the second puts your worth into your own hands.
Too often, we want others to find the value in what we do because it means (to us) that they find value in us, especially when it is the work that comes from our hearts.
But each of us must define the value of our work, and we can only define that value for ourselves. As a creator, part of your work is to be clear about why you do it and what it gives you. As a viewer or listener, you also determine whether a work has value for you; that is your own personal response.
- Finding the value for yourself has to come first. Why must you do what you do? What does it give you?
- The value to others is discovered as you put it out there, test it, keep working and refining it.
- Value to society is yet another question, a commercial one.
Your experience of success depends on your intention for your work in combination with what others need and want.
- To create only because others will buy your work is to industrialize the process.
- To create only because it’s what you must do is to purify the process.
- To create what you must and then go about the ongoing process of connecting it with others is to find the deepest connecting links between your work in the world and what makes us all human. It’s also to accept that not everyone is going to like it or find the value in it.
But the value is still there, at least to you.
If a plant can’t feed us does it not have value?
If a stuffed doggie has no bark, does it not comfort?
If an unknown painter paints, does it not enrich the world?
What if you were to do your creative work just because you can? Because you love it? Because you must? And keep doing it until it connects with others who find the value in it. What kind of life would that be?
But what we tend to do when someone may not find our work valuable for them is to connect with them in the negative: “If they don’t find value for them, they don’t find it valuable, which means it has no value for anyone, which means I have no value.” A very deadly chain of sentiments for a creative person.
And how could anyone create under those conditions?
Best Case, Worst Case
On the other hand, if you start with the inherent value of doing the work because you can, because you must, the value is there already. Then you are free to engage in the creative process that comes after, which is promoting the work.
Many creators, it must be said, are not publicly recognized in their lifetimes. But we live in a world today where our work can spread to millions like wildfire. There are hundreds, if not thousands out there who will find value our work if we are willing to take that journey too.
I think we have to be very honest with ourselves about why we do what we do. We can’t afford to be surprised at the end of the road if we get something different. We have to tell the truth about what we are really seeking and decide if that is really what we want. Only then will our work be rightly aligned with the results we produce.
Even more important, we cannot expect our creative work to fill the voids within us for recognition for respect for someone else to tell us that we have value as human beings. I wonder if this isn’t why fame is so destructive to so many: “You mean, I went through all that, and I still feel this way inside? Damn!”
If the work itself does not fulfill us, we are risking a great deal indeed. We are risking our lives. And we’ve missed the value of the gift we’ve been given for ourselves.
I’m taking a poll on The Wheel of Creativity Facebook page. Please take a few seconds to head over there and let me know… How do you define the value of your work? Why do you create?
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