Does that pay anything?

If you’ve ever created anything: a painting, a birdhouse, a soapstone sculpture, you eventually get asked, “Where are you going with this? Is there money in that?” This is where creativity hits conventional logic. The fit is tricky.

A lot of time and energy and money are poured into creative endeavors. There’s a payoff, but a monetary one isn’t first on the list. It can’t be. There are too many hits and misses, practice runs and false starts before whatever it is you’re doing becomes something. I have two half-finished manuscripts, that will never see the light of day, sitting in my laptop to attest to that.

Why bother?

Creating is not a straight line process. It doesn’t follow a protocol. Even creatives who have a habit and who are disciplined, who show up at the same time and place every day to pursue their craft can’t tell you exactly how the process works. You just do your ritual and the rest takes care of itself.

And for whom are you creating? Is it someone or something ‘out there’? Fans, followers, money, fame. Or is it, foremost, indulging that happy little five-year old inside of you. You know, the one with the finger paint up to the elbows, driving the whole shebang?

Certainly, I still get those moments of doubt. The Is it all worth it? Why do I bother? moments when practical reality says creating is a waste of time. Where logic lays claim as the only reality and defines creative reality as a created reality in which you are fooling yourself with a pipe dream and you need to ‘get real’? Which real is that?

In practical reality we like to measure everything. It’s the only way to compare and see what’s working. Measuring means numbers. Money is numbers. Creativity has its own measure that has nothing to do with numbers. It doesn’t mean it’s a dream world. You don’t have to wake up and leave. You don’t have to choose. They aren’t mutually exclusive. I’ve tried and I can’t. But beware, fear loves this angle. By the way, fear is your ego, again. It’s the old ego-soul struggle. It wants you to close as many doors as possible. The more closed doors the safer life is. No more wasting time, says your ego, parading as your wise self. No more goofing. Stop investing, stop hurting yourself. You’ll just be disappointed eventually.

The Pattern of Fear

I’ve told myself so many times how stupid I was and that I lived in a fantasy world. “Stop goofing.” was one of my ego’s favorites. Along with “Do you think anyone else wasted their time like this, imagining something is going to come of it?” and of course “People don’t do this at your age.” Your ego is smart, I’ll say it again. Because it’s you! The inner five-year old is miserable. But Ego has me fooled, so I tell her to grow up. “This isn’t the real world. We have to stop pretending we’re doing something. This isn’t going anywhere.”

Eventually, I started to see a pattern and therefore started reading a lot about intuition and how to recognize it. Because they’re all different voices. I realize my count is up to three here, and although that may sound strange to say the least, I’m sure I’m not alone. Finally, as cliché as it may sound, I accepted the creative me. I write, I paint. I enjoy the process and the learning as much as the result. In the end, my inner five year old stops pouting and dragging her feet. So can we just leave it at that?

Above is a detail of one of my paintings. Why that image? First, the blog definitely needed some color, as winter drags on and coronavirus has us all worried. Also because it’s what I like to do and I’m not worried about how it looks or makes me look anymore. I like to paint. Almost as much as I like to write. It makes me happy. And that’s reason enough.

Lastly, on a side note, one of the absolute best books on fear and the ego is Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love. Fear will make you do so many things, and all of them will, ultimately, make you unhappy.

Photo: Detail of Tutti Fruitti by the author