Seven Crucial Tips for Surviving Your Creative Path

To the non-initiated, it might appear that creative souls (whether writers, musicians, painters, etc.) explode onto the scene fully formed. But, alas, it isn’t so. We learn and grow and discover our own uniqueness and vision by the smallest of increments. It takes years, sometimes a decade, to really see someone’s potential (or even to begin to mine our own). And there are always setbacks, disappointments, and soul-shearing moments of doubt, no matter how far we’ve come or how much success we’ve had. The following tips are things I’ve learned for myself, and issues I’ve heard other writer friends discuss. Dig it.

1. Stay Inspired: A serious writer (say me, or maybe you) has collected thousands of rejections. And even after we’re making a name for ourselves, there will still be markets and readers we want to reach, and there will be more rejections along the way. For me, staying inspired despite the slow-learning curve, the seemingly endless rain of rejections, goes back to soaking up, and being excited about, other writers’ books. I have dozens of writing heroes and find inspiration there. I have favorite films, favorite musicians, favorite painters. They have made it, they’re doing exactly what I want to do, which is to entertain and raise questions and amaze and inspire. They have taught me so much and keep the flames bright when that rain is working so hard to extinguish my, our, your dreams.

2. Dream Big: And when we’re inspired we tend to dream big, which is good because it engages some of the faculties we need to reach those dreams and pull them down from the firmament and clutch them so tightly they can’t fly away. But we also have to face reality: that more than likely it’s going to be a long slog and there will always be peaks and valleys. And sometimes, after we’ve worked hard for a decade without seeing much fruit for our labor, it’s easy to want to quit, or surrender, or acknowledge the looks our family is giving us. We’ll be tempted at times to agree with them (that we’re insane, that we should try something else) and maybe some of us must do that, but I think a part of us dies when we quit searching. So, keep dreaming big, just accept that it will more than likely take longer than you’d like to reach the place in the literary world that you want to claim.

3. Accept: You might not be ready yet… Accept that you have to find your own path… Accept that as you become more successful you’re only going to get busier…

4. Strive: To always learn more… Strive to experience life, which feeds the story and adds an authenticity only experience can give you… Strive to acknowledge the parts of yourself and the world you live in that you don’t like, as well as the parts that put a silly grin on your face…

5. Realize: If you’re learning and growing every year, your writing will change with you…

6. Give: Back to others… Time to your family… A reward to yourself to celebrate every success… The pieces of you that you can only put into your fiction… give to your pre-readers, who prevent you from looking like a fool in little goofs you failed to catch, or in a good story you had that their advice helped make great.

7. Assess: What you’ve done that works… Assess what you’ve done that hasn’t worked… Assess your own motivations… Assess your writing system and where it doesn’t feel natural, or where it simply falters…

What have you learned, and what are you willing to share, that will help someone else?

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