Being a creative person is both extraordinary and frustrating. I didn't realize as a kid how often I was falling into a pattern of obsession and boredom. I wanted to draw, so I did… constantly. I liked reading, so I did that… constantly. I liked writing, so I did that… constantly. I couldn't afford to get my nails done in high school, so I did my own, spending three hours on them once or twice a week. This pattern was of little consequence as a kid. But as an adult, let's just say there were definitely consequences.
I would become intrigued with certain projects- those related to writing newsletters or building a website or creating a curriculum. I'd spend hours, work overtime trying to get them exactly right. But when finished, I'd get bored by other tasks and all of that focus disappeared.
When the recession hit, and I was no longer employed, I swung from project to project. My husband started teasing me about all the projects I would begin and then abruptly end. It became a running joke between us. I'd create a workshop and never teach it. I started a new degree but got bored and quit. I was constantly creating new projects for myself. I was constantly looking for something to satisfy my creative urge.
The great challenge for me becoming an entrepreneur was answering one question: what creative endeavor did I love so much, that I could do it consistently and perpetually? Was there a creative endeavor that was so powerful for me that I could create endlessly? Was it possible to live on the spectrum between obsession and boredom?
For a long time, I genuinely didn't know the answer to these questions. This creative desire comforted me as a kid, but became distressing as an adult who craved stability. Instead of enjoying my many pursuits, I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. To borrow from Hamilton, I thought I'd never be satisfied.
And while I'd like to be able to give you five steps for finding your starting place, I can't. I stumbled into mine.
My girlfriends, in separate conversations, kept telling me to write. One would ask if I'd ever considered starting a blog. Another was encouraging me to join a new social media platform called Twitter. Another told me she could see me writing a book. When I would mention these conversations to others, the response was always affirmative.
At first, I dismissed these suggestions. I didn't consider this evidence of a larger calling but instead the sweet compliments of friends. Fear was standing in my way. What I would I do if I tried, and once again discovered that I did not possess any sort of longevity within?
So I linked arms with a friend. She made it easy. She found a website where I could write a blog. She picked a start date and my first topic. After that all I had to do was keep going… and I did. Every week for years, I committed myself to churn out one new piece. And I loved it. I loved it when it was easy and when it was hard. I loved it when I felt compelled to write, and I loved it when I had to wrestle and rewrite until I arrived at something true. Writing afforded me endless creativity, and I love it still.
Writing led me to speaking. Both led to a book. And that book is leading me on a brand new journey- bringing with me all that has come before.
Turns out I didn't need to find the thing I could do perpetually… I needed to find my starting place. My starting place, my place to focus was in words and sentences and paragraphs and em dashes. I love an em dash.
Maybe you love cameras or the paintbrush or the power of your voice to speak life into others. Maybe you love 3 things, or 12, or 27! That's okay. You are not weird or flaky or destined to be unsatisfied. You just need to determine the place you want to begin your journey.
When you are filled with a million ideas, it can be hard to find your starting place. Perhaps these questions can help:
What are all of your closest friends begging you to do?
What creative pursuits have lasted over years?
What pursuit can you begin without waiting for an invitation? Are there tools that allow you to dive in and share your work- bypassing traditional gatekeepers?
What do you have the funding to pursue? Some endeavors are more expensive than others but there are also grants, fellowships, patreon and other ways of gaining funding.
What art form makes you feel most seen? Do you ever sit back and feel extraordinary pride and extraordinary vulnerability over what you've created? Take note of any patterns here.
Roxane Gay is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, New York Times, bestselling author, and currently has a newsletter entitled The Audacity. She has a distinct, powerful and defiant voice that empowers women to speak up, love each other, and demand to be seen in our authentic fullness. Start with Bad Feminist and just keep going through her books. You'll feel like you're reading her journal... and your own.
Last week we talked more about taking the next right step into becoming an entrepreneur, which often means juggling for awhile. Check it out below!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this newsletter does not constitute legal, tax accounting or professional advice, but is designed to provide general information relating to business and commerce.