I love living in Nashville, Tennessee, the epicenter of creativity; not just in music, but in film, art, and so many other endeavors. I love being around a creative atmosphere.
But for those who think being creative comes easy, it doesn’t. It comes with a high price. Over the years as I’ve struggled to be creative in my own life through writing and speaking and other creative endeavors, I’ve learned along with others that there are seven costs of the creative life.
- The cost of loneliness. Creativity is done alone. People tout collaborative efforts and I guess they work. But I challenge you to go look at the great music and the great art, the great books that are written. They are all done alone, by a single person in the genius of the creative moment. If you’re not willing to be alone with yourself, your ideas, and the muse, it’s going to be difficult to be very creative.
- The cost of being unappreciated. Of the songs, the art, and the books that make it into public, only a fraction wiggle through into the public eye. The greatest books, the greatest songs have never seen the light of day. A writer writes. A painter paints. A singer sings. This is what we do. We don’t do it for money or accolades. We do it because this is who we are and what we must do.
- The cost of being misunderstood. Creativity is taking the simple and mundane and looking at it from a different perspective; putting words, ideas, images, things together, so that we get a fresh and better perspective. It’s also easy to be misunderstood in how we try to express a certain truth. Some people just don’t get it. And of they don’t get it, you can’t fall apart worrying about why they don’t.
- The cost of criticism. Creativity attracts inspection. It gets put under the microscope. And those who don’t have a creative bone in their body usually are the loudest in criticizing what they don’t like. As a creative person you have to learn how to have a tender heart and a tough hide.
- The cost of being ignored. I went for over ten years being rejected before I got my first book published. Being ignored is really difficult. Rejection isn’t something that the creative heart and sensibility takes well. So you have to pay that price. And we all do.
- The cost of being successful. This is what we want, isn’t it? We want our books to sell, our records to top the charts, our poems to be read, our art to be bought and hung in prominent places. But here is the double-sided sword of the creative effort: once you’ve been successful, you have to continue to be successful. It’s the one-up-ism of our culture. And the burden to have a better record, a better song, a better talk, a better book is one not easily born.
- The cost of being sidetracked. One of the most difficult things of being successful in your creativity is what gets built up around your creativity. Publishers, and singers, and managers, and performances, booking agents, bus lines, drummers, musicians, book-signings, public appearances: all these things come together to distract you from the very thing that you love doing – creating your art, making your contribution. All of a sudden you wind up being a business person. You have a big organization around you that you have to feed and fuel and fund constantly. The creative act itself gets put on the back burner.
Here are the things I can think of. Maybe you can think of more. But here’s the bottom line. You are creative; not just a few, not just the select, not just the genius. You are creative because you were created by a creative creator. The very first words of sacred Scripture tell us that in the beginning God created. He created the world and created you in His image as a thinking, acting, feeling, creative individual. You have within you the power to create a new life and a new future. You are innovative. You are smart, you are strong, you are good. We need your art. We need your effort. So don’t let the fear of loneliness, not being appreciated, being misunderstood, criticized, ignored, or even exploited because of your success hold you back.
Sing your song and offer your lyric. Tell us your narrative. Make us listen. Be compelling. Engage us at our deepest pain and take us to hope. You’ll be glad, and we’ll all be better.