Creativity often involves sacrifice. You may have had to give up a job that took up too much of your mental and physical energy so that you have more time to create. You may have forgone a social life so that you can make the most of your time and do something creative.
Alternatively you may have sacrificed your creativity for work and earning money, finding yourself trapped in a job that sucks all the life out of you but needing the money to pay your bills.
Why does creativity seem to require a sacrifice, and is it worth it?
I often find myself caught between two worlds. The world of work where I was always ambitious and very capable. And then my creative world – where my soul gets fed but my bank account doesn’t (yet).
I made my first creative sacrifice when I was 16. I was a musician and was active with Bedfordshire Youth Music. It was the start of going into the sixth form and nearly all of my friends got a job at the local supermarket. For our age group they were the best payers in town. I went there too for a job but when they asked me if I could work through the Christmas period I said no. I wanted to go on a music course in the Christmas holidays for the Bedfordshire Wind Band because we were going to play at a concert at the Royal Festival Hall.
Playing at a major London venue is a big deal at any age especially when you are only 16. The supermarket made it clear that I needed to be available to work in the Christmas holidays so I chose music instead. I continued in my after school job at the local library where I made half of what I would have made at the supermarket.
Mostly since then I have followed the money. Despite having a music degree I took the university careers service advice and trained to be an accountant. I went from there to investment banking but then crashed out because I wasn’t honouring my creative side.
In recent years I have found a happy medium of working three days a week in my day job which leaves me time for creative pursuits. But that still involves the sacrifice of less money, career opportunities and keeping my skills up to date.
Is creativity worth the sacrifice?
Despite the fact that I often get frustrated by my creative side and the need to cater for it, I would have to answer yes to this question. It is worth it. I couldn’t imagine my life if I didn’t have time to be creative. I would be moving through life as if I were dead. There would be no engagement.
You will have to make sacrifices if you want to be creative and if you can’t forgo those things, then you will sacrifice your creative spirit.
It is about choices and how you want to prioritise your time. This difficulty is not always realised by other people. Someone might be jealous because you have written a book or you have time to paint. However, they probably haven’t paid attention to all the unseen sacrifices that you have consistently made over the years to achieve this.
Honouring our creative side is a much harder choice. Not only in some of the tangible sacrifices that you will make but that it requires entering the realm of the unknown. You don’t know how your art will turn out. You don’t know how people will receive it. You don’t know whether you will be ridiculed. You don’t know whether you will ever be able to build the skill required to say with your art what is really in your heart.
How to make peace with the sacrifice
I don’t have easy answers for this conundrum. The best I can come up with is that we have to accept who we are as a person. We have to accept the pros and cons of the choices we make. For me it is a no-brainer – I have to honour my creative side. Things go wrong in my both my mental and physical health when I ignore it.
Some other tips are:
- Whatever choices you make, do the best you can with them every day.
- There isn’t a perfect way to go about this.
- There isn’t a set roadmap with guarantees to make you feel better. Having said that, ignoring your creative side completely is a guarantee of deep seated frustration and regret.
- Try not to compare yourself to other people. It is impossible to see what is really going on in their life.
- Be open to multiple ways to scratch your creative itch. It doesn’t have to be “this way” or nothing.
Each person’s route will be unique to them. Day by day you will find your way through this maze. You will probably need to change course regularly. Over time your cumulative creative efforts will add up to something which will make you proud.
Now I’d like to hear from you
What sacrifices have you made for your creativity? Has it been worth it? Has there been a time when you chose your creativity and regretted it?
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Every month I also share the ups and downs of my own creative journey – but only email subscribers get that insider view.