The Key to Creative Success

Photo by HoliHo on

Like most writers, I used to write stories as a kid. Then I grew up.

A couple of bad experiences in a creative writing class with a teacher obsessed with Science Fiction (about the polar opposite of what I write) left me doubting I could do it at all.

Still, I always had the lingering feeling that maybe I could write stories and maybe they could actually be good.

But I didn’t try.

I was so paralyzed by fear of failure that I was stuck.  I figured if I didn’t try for my dream and lose, or have it taken from me, at least I still had my dream. And it was precious to me and well-guarded.

So I felt jealous. I was jealous when people who were pursuing their dreams had success. I was jealous when a crappy musical play about bagpiping and cougars was produced at my town’s community theater. I wish I was making this up. I’m not.

Side note, my husband still says that play was amazing just to get my goat. And it always works!

But back to the point, I started to see it like others got to do things and I just didn’t get to. 

But my friends, having come out the other side of this kind of faulty thinking, I can now see the main thing successful creative people have is something pretty simple: they have a little bit of natural talent, and the tenacity to not give up.

They are people who develop themselves and seek out ways to grow. They keep putting themselves out there and getting better until they become, like Steve Martin says, so good they can’t be ignored anymore.

Successful creatives possess the drive to work hard to improve their craft, and they find the right venue for their natural artistic abilities. It’s not magic. It’s not a special calling or blessing from the Cosmos that says they get to do this and other people don’t.  

So if you find you are jealous of the success of others (or mean, spitting, and hateful), take a moment to ask yourself, “What is it I wish I could do?”

And once you’ve named this, why aren’t you doing it?

No matter where you’re at, you can take some small steps to start down the path. For me, the small step was letting myself peruse the writing section at the library. It’s amazing to me now how much courage it took just to acknowledge to myself writing was something I wanted to do. And then I took my another step and actually checked out a book called On Becoming a Novelist, by John Gardner. A great book.

I think you’ll find, even if you are still a long, long way off from your end goal, you’ll find joy just in moving toward it. Stop plopping in the road and grumbling at all the people who are passing you by. Get up and start walking.

So, what exactly do you wish you could be doing that you aren’t pursuing yet? And what little step can you take today to get closer to it?

And let’s face it, no matter what you write it can’t possibly be worse than that play.

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