Do You Know Exactly Why You’re Chasing Your Dream?

A lion knows why he dashes after a zebra in an open field—he needs to eat.

Editor’s note: The original article was published in January 2012. Also, I want to give a big thanks to anyone who came out to UTM’s book launch last night in Toronto and supported a bunch of new authors. A special thanks to those who bought my book, Lessons for Creative People. For anyone else interested in getting a copy, you can order it online at my publisher’s website.

Kevin Spacey’s interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio is inspiring. In this short segment of the full interview, he explains to a young audience that when you achieve your dreams, there is no external prize.

Achieving success bestows only an internal prize—a feeling of fulfillment, resolve, strength, purpose.

The most satisfying aspect of doing creative work is watching yourself grow and your skills mature—and witnessing the universe crack to allow room for your dream to breath, grow, and manifest.

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Two Contradictory Elements That Are Crucial to Your Creative Success

Nobody can sustain slogging through a high-energy period for long. You burn out, lose focus, trip up.

Creative People seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion. Usually each of us tends to be one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of the crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show…Creative individuals, on the other hands, seem to express both traits at the same time.

—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (last name pronounced ‘cheek sent me high’)

Solitude and solidarity: To succeed, creative people need these two (opposing) assets.

Solitude

Solitude is probably most important. It involves staying away from the chaos of everyday life. It means finding enough privacy to hear your deepest thoughts and connect with your authentic self.

Not everybody likes being alone; some desperately avoid it. Solitude often causes loneliness, sadness; a forsaken life.

Most people like being with others—sharing a hearty laugh and creating memories. Getting outside yourself, joining groups, and building relationships with others—these are all things that bring happiness. (Psychologists say the happiest people are usually the most social.)

If you over-identify with others, though, whatever creative energy and uniqueness you have dwindles.

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Do You Make this Fatal Mistake With Your Awesome Ideas?

The mistake is this: ‘having an awesome idea and letting it rot in your head for months, even years, until it perishes completely.’

Has that ever happened to you?

Well, it has to me. I’ve had tons of ideas over the years and sadly let many of them R.I.P.

Idea-Idleness

I’ll call it Idea-Idleness—a period of inactivity in the creative process that, if left unchallenged for too long, will kill off your awesome ideas.

In other words, the longer you wait to act on an idea, the more likely it becomes that you’ll never use that idea.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

For self-actualizing creatives, letting an idea germinate off to the side while they work on other projects is necessary; they have so many ideas and can only work on one at a time.

But for the Creator Who Isn’t Creating, waiting for better circumstances or more resources to act on an idea is nothing more than an excuse to avoid either hard work or exposure.

It’s great to write down your ideas and let them harvest on their own for awhile, but only if you’re working on some other idea in the meantime. If you catch yourself with a notebook full of awesome dreams, but you’re not acting on any of them in the present, then you’re engaging in Idea-Idleness.

Here’s usually how an awesome idea dies. 

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50 Quotes that Will Replenish Your Creative Reserves

Image by jjjj56cp (Creative Commons)

Today I want to share with you a list of the most inspiring creative quotes that really resonate with me. When you read something that resonates, it cuts to the bone and can change your attitude and the way you look at life. All of these quotes have done that for me. I hope they will do the same for you.

“There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.” —Martha Graham

“I don’t think there’s any artist of any value who doesn’t doubt what they’re doing.”—Francis Ford Coppola

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”—Jack London 

“The weeds keep multiplying in our garden, which is our mind ruled by fear. Rip them out and call them by name.”—Sylvia Browne

“Nothing is done. Everything in the world remains to be done or done over. The greatest picture is not yet painted, the greatest play isn’t written, the greatest poem is unsung. There isn’t in all the world a perfect railroad, nor a good government, nor a sound law. Physics, mathematics, and especially the most advanced and exact of the sciences are being fundamentally revised. . . Psychology, economics, and sociology are awaiting a Darwin, whose work in turn is awaiting an Einstein.” —Lincoln Steffens

“No I won’t back down. You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down. No I’ll stand my ground. Won’t be turned around. And I’ll keep this world from dragging me down. Gonna stand my ground…and I won’t back down.”—Tom Petty

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My New Book About Achieving Success on Your Creative Journey

Lessons for Creative People is a research-oriented essay about achieving success on your creative journey. It gives solutions and strategies and philosophies to help any creative person overcome their mental barriers that are holding them back from doing the work they love.

I call the book an ‘essay’ because it’s very short—16,000 words. You can breeze through it in one sitting. 😉

In this book, you’ll learn:

  • How other creative thinkers and artists turned their lives around from the depths of despair to achieve profound success.

  • How to overcome four common mental blocks—dependency (and conformity), negativity, a divided self, and procrastination.

  • How to become more independent, bounce back from failures and setbacks, create with more authenticity and excellence, and work and live with fierce urgency.

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The Smart Person’s Guide to Developing Powerful, Long-Lasting Self-discipline

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Today’s article is a response to a reader’s question about how to acquire powerful self-discipline. If you stick around until the end, you will learn how to eliminate all the inner frictions and distractions and problems in your life that are sabotaging your willpower.

Recently I interviewed Julia, a lovely, talented OCAD student about the value of art school. At the end of the interview, I asked her to tell me about the biggest creative challenge she was dealing with right now.

Julia’s response:

I think what has come up in my research and in my struggle with procrastination and creativity is self-control. It’s a skill like any other but how do you go about developing it and staying on track? No amount of time-management and organization is going to stick if you can’t control yourself and keep going.

Lacking self-discipline is common for people in any field of creative work. There’s plenty of creative minds with terrific ideas, but no self-will to carry them out.

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Do You Use These Four Excuses That Keep You From Being a Healthy, Productive Artist?

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Unhealthy artists are controlled by their ideas, insights and emotions.

This article will help you banish some of the big excuses you may be using that keep you from being a productive, healthy artist. But before that, let’s define what the words healthy and unhealthy artist actually mean (to me, anyway).

Healthy artists

Healthy artists transform their ideas, insights and emotions into useful creations. They’re self-disciplined and active. They do their work even if they’re in a foul mood. By working in the real world, healthy artists gain a realistic outlook on life. By consistently engaging their talents, they discover things about themselves.

Unhealthy artists

Unhealthy artists, on the other hand, are controlled by their ideas, insights and emotions. Their foul moods dictate whether they’ll work on that screenplay or not. Their thinking is often negative. They’re stuck in their imagination. They dream and reflect, but at the end of each day they have little to show for it.

No paintings, no screenplays, no drawings.

Typically, this is how an unhealthy artist feels: they have creative energy, but they’re unsure how to use it. They feel stuck, restless, and anxious. They depend on all forms of escapism because they fear boredom, which usually stems from a fear of being alone. Because when they’re alone in the house with nobody around, they hear the faint whispers of their authentic selves.

You should write that book. You should take that acting class. You should form that band.

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Is Your Big Break Taking Longer Than You Expected? Then You Might Be a Late Bloomer

Late bloomers take longer to figure out their path in life.

Note: The original version of this article was posted in March 2012.

As creatives, every album/ novel/ painting that we create should move us one step closer to connecting with our Muse.

We can start our careers imitating the work of a favourite mentor. We can make stuff that is trendy at the time. With every stride we take, however, we want to progress toward making art that aligns with our deepest, truest selves.

This is hard to do. For some, it takes a lifetime to make work that is true to their soul.

Every artist will have a different reason for why they struggle to make work that they can claim as theirs (and only theirs).

Introducing Late Bloomers

One reason making authentic work is hard is because some artists are Late Bloomers.

In one of Malcolm Gladwell’s articles from What the Dog Saw, he explores the question of why some artists are able to make great, authentic art right from the get-go, while others take years to hone their style.

Gladwell writes:

Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity—doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth.

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Is Art School Right for You? An Interview With OCAD Student Julia Tchaban

graphite stick self portrait dressed as Frida Kahlo

Today I’m excited to share an insightful interview with Julia Tchaban, an up and coming art student at OCAD, the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Julia and I had an interesting discussion about the value of art school. Her thoughts and advice are helpful to anyone looking to apply.

In this interview, Julia explains the value of going to art school, even though she strongly believes that one doesn’t need an art education to be a great artist.

Enjoy the interview!

Best,
Aaron.

Interview With Julia Tchaban

1.    To start off, why don’t you introduce yourself?

My name is Julia, I’m 22 years old and I just completed my first year at OCAD University. Coming from an arts high school I’ve already had quite a bit of experience in painting, sculpture, printmaking and photography, which I will definitely study here at OCAD. I may even go so far as take up some integrated media and design courses as well.

When I’m not in school I’m working part-time as a Page at Toronto Public Library. I love to read, go to concerts, watch movies and take a ridiculous amount of pictures (my love of photography black and white or digital, doesn’t matter). Ideally I would like to be a working artist and display my work in galleries. But now I’ve started to warm up to the idea of maybe even teaching on the side.

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