How many times have you started a new project- great idea, materials on-hand, maybe even a hungry audience in mind- only to find a few days or weeks later that it hasn’t gone anywhere? That many?! Yup. Me, too.
There’s a simple phrase that will inspire all those half-finished projects to become finished ones, which in turn become the objects or ideas that inspire you to take the next step on your creative journey. It’s “follow-through”. The only real way to create art, change, or anything else in your life, is to follow through.
I have always believed that in life, what we do is what we want to do. What we actually put our time into, rather than what we say we want to put our time into, is the evidence of our commitments. Sometimes we have to choose, consciously, deliberately, how we spend our time.
One of my closest friends from college professed he wanted to be a great sculptor. In fact, he was a great sculptor, during college and graduate school. After those years, however, while he proclaimed he wanted to sculpt, he spent his time in other ways: Bike-riding, hanging out with friends, just “living” in general. He was enjoying his time, but he wasn’t using it to make art.
Letting our passions run dry can happen to anyone, especially when we leave an environment designed around them (college, a supportive peer group) and move into something less structured, like Life. This is the time we need to shake ourselves awake! We must choose our commitment to creativity. Life will get in the way. We can count on that. But it’s the seeds we plant now, then nurture in small ways every day, that grow into life’s tall trees.
It’s up to each of us to decide how much we want to keep our passions alive. While our obligations will remain- things like paying the mortgage and feeding the kids are the stuff of Life, too- we can still perform those with great love, while continuing to nurture our creative selves. We may need to stay awake an extra hour, or rise an hour early, to spend time with our passions. We can choose to watch one less hour of television and instead write, paint, cook with abandon or rearrange the furniture.
I’m not naïve. I know it can be difficult to reconnect to one’s creative self, especially if one has been away a long time. There may be emotional work to do when reconnecting to your creativity, especially if Life doesn’t look like you thought it would when you were young and full of passion. So you revel in cooking a dynamite meal instead of composing the next great rock opera? That’s okay! Creativity takes all forms.
Eventually, my dear sculptor friend gravitated toward jewelry work. He got off the couch and got his bum into a jewelry studio. That friend is now the lead jeweler at a highly-respected jewelry store in his region. He found his way to stay in touch with his creative self and get paid for it! Bravo!!
I’m not sure how long it took him to let go of the idea that he could only be a sculptor to consider himself creative, but I’m so glad he did, because he is an awesome jeweler! He makes beautiful, one of a kind pieces featuring metaphysical crystals in silver and gold, which he sells to an eager crowd. He’s an ace stone-setter, too, which is a specialized niche in the jewelry field. I wouldn’t trust anyone else to set high-value stones for me.
I’ll get back to my point: creating the art or the lives we want is not about the Eureka! moment when we are struck with the great ideas. It’s about the follow-through, the steps we take after we declare our intentions, that make the real difference. In my friend’s case, he needed to get real with himself about where he was actually putting his time in order to reclaim relationship to his creativity. In my case, it’s about valuing the small, consistent steps I’ve taken- one by one, another one every day, to get me where I want to go.
You might consider making the same commitment this year. Do you have a room full of half-finished projects? Block out an hour one day to sort through them. Which one is your most fertile seed? Spend some time on triage, and commit to one of them- only one, please, or you’ll overwhelm yourself and do nothing. Commit to completing that single project this year, growing it from seed to sapling, without judging yourself for how long it takes or even how “good” you judge the piece taking shape. It is definitely “good” as long as it grows! Choose to focus on how healthy and positive you are to follow through on your original intention. Nurture your creative self. It’s the only way to give the world what you're here for.