People often ask, “Where do you come up with your ideas?” and “How do you make time to write?” before telling me, “I could never be that creative.” The answers to #1 and #2 are blog posts of their own, but I always feel terrible when I hear the last comment.
I am convinced that all of us were put on this earth to make something of ourselves. Not in the usual meaning of the phrase, which means a person establishes her- or himself in a prestigious job, or becomes a celebrity or earns a big income. Say ‘make something of yourself’ aloud, but emphasize the last word.
‘To make something of yourself‘ implies that you put your heart and soul into creating something you love. For me, it’s making up stories. If I weren’t published, you know what? I’d still think of characters and plots. My stories happen to take the form of books. Other people make stories in the form of movies via screenplays, or acting. Some people love to tell stories to their grandchildren.
My mom always says she’s not creative. This from the woman who took a shoebox of broken rhinestone jewelry, cleaned it up, and glued the pieces onto colored felt in the shape of marvelous, sparkly Christmas trees to give to her friends as gifts one year. I would never have thought of finding such a cool use for junk jewelry! And she does stuff like this all the time.
As in the worldly meaning of the phrase, it’s not easy to make something of yourself. Society approves of some goals more than others. For example, Warren Buffett is usually admired for doing what he loves, namely making sound investments. The rest of us aren’t so lucky. If you like making up characters and stories about them, people say you’re a daydreamer. If you like to paint, people tell you to stop fooling around with watercolors and get a job. Even if you already have one.
To make something of yourself, here are some things you’ll need:
1. Something you love to do or have always wanted to try.
2. Teachers or mentors: Instinct only goes so far. You’re not going to know how to compose a picture, dry flowers or develop a character right off the bat. If you can’t find someone in person, look online for help, or in the library. Julia Child still inspires budding chefs thanks to her cookbooks, for example.
3. Time alone to explore what you love: This one is a bear, especially if you’ve always tried to be there for others. That makes you a wonderful person, and means you’re entitled to schedule a bit of time once a week or so for *you*. Schedule your time, and fight for it. You’re allowed to be less wonderful for that hour or two.
5. Permission to Fail: We all suck the first time we try something. This is normal. If you’re feeling terribly ashamed of how much you suck at whatever it is you tried (which you shouldn’t because you’re still a wonderful person, right?), you don’t have to show it to anyone. It was just an idea that didn’t work. You will get better next time.
6. Permission to Succeed: Use part of your creative time to think about your definition of success. Work backwards from there to where you are now. This way, you’ll know what you need to do next. Then, when a painting is accepted for the show, or a manuscript is requested, you’ll know what you want to happen, where you are on your road to *your* success. Other people will have a hard time talking you into what they think you should want. Don’t forget to give yourself credit for every stepping stone you land on, even if others say, “Are you sure you should waste time doing this?” If it’s still fun and you can put your heart into it, the answer is ‘yes’.