Long Haul Creativity

Getting clear on your goals and vision can take time.

Sometimes way more time than we would care to believe.

There is the time it takes to gestate an idea, go through all the labour of bringing it to birth, and nurturing it through it’s fledgling steps to full maturity which – if anything like actual child raising, we are talking at least eighteen years – is very likely a lifetime’s work.

But our culture presses us to chase the ‘fun, fast and easy’, expecting to see quick and massive returns on our investment, not to mention all the fame that comes with that kind of success.
So when our creative project doesn’t seem to fit this mould, we wonder why, becoming tempted to give up.

‘Because, who’s got that kind of time?’

However as a parent, I am aware that so much of my child-rearing training them, helping them to find their place in the world and launching them into adulthoodis really about playing the long game.

Even milestones such as sleep and toilet training, can take far longer than we hope or expect (sometimes in stark contrast to our friends children), – because their success depends on so many factors.
Your child’s growth prior to this point – all the unseen work of loving them, reassuring them, letting them know that they are accepted (to name a few) – and the way that every person is different, will mean that regardless what method we may choose to employ, the process will still take the time it takes.

The same is true of creative endeavours.

The conception process of a workable idea, doesn’t always take first time – some people need a good few attempts – and for some, their creative children take a LOT longer to develop.

When we compare ourselves to others, we are usually left feeling dissatisfied – either because we feel smug that our work is running more smoothly, but then subsequently start feeling mounting stress and pressure to keep it up.
OR because as we contemplate why it seems so much harder and slower for us, we begin to doubt our ideas, expertise or commitment.
Neither help us move forward.

Yet, as with children, each project has its own unique rate of growth – and from the outside, we aren’t privy to all the hours of patient, internal development work that happened to get it this far.

If we really want to connect to our work, we have to be willing to put in the time and effort for its unique needs, to develop its unique strengths, and navigating around its particular weaknesses.

Good, deep work takes time, patience and commitment – lots of it.

Good, deep work takes time, patience and commitment – lots of it.

What that work looks like for you and I may be very different.
It may mean months, even years of staring out of the window whilst we clarify who we are and what it is about this idea that actually matters to us enough to develop it.
It might mean so much trial and error, getting it wrong repeatedly, as we refine it to uncover the gold we long to see.
We have to be ok with making mistakes and learning from them without judgement, then re-grouping to try something else.
And sometimes we need to let go of our expectations, choosing to allow this project to lead us somewhere unexpected.

My son is nearly eight, autistic and doesn’t talk beyond a couple of words.
Sometimes I am too quick to assume what he wants or needs, without paying close attention to what he is trying to tell me, the result being that we both end up dissatisfied and frustrated.
However, when I am willing to lean into the moment, inhabit his space alongside him, taking the time to connect – we generally both come away happier, and I am often surprised where we have ended up.

This approach is often really hard, and can take a lot more time.
But I love him – and as my goal is not to make him a more convenient child, but to know him more deeply, helping him be all that he is made to be – then the effort and the rewards of discovering more of who this beautiful boy is, are worth all the sleepless nights and difficult moments.
These efforts deepen our relationship, and do become easier and more frequent, as we understand and trust each other better.

So what creative dreams and goals are gently forming on the inside of your heart?

Are they perhaps still in the conception or early, uncertain gestation process – leaving you to navigate the confusing feelings of pain and joy as all your friends seem to be giving birth to their creative babies?

Or are you feeling the frustration that your labour to bring this work into the world, or to raise it to maturity, is taking way more strength and time (and with more stop-start hitches) than you envisioned?
It doesn’t mean that it isn’t a beautiful child, it might just mean that it needs more attention and connection to help it grow to it’s full potential!

Don’t give up.

And don’t lose heart – it is better to allow things to develop slowly, trusting in the unseen process, than trying to birth your vision too early. You don’t want the pain of seeing it die quickly, because it wasn’t strong enough, knowing that it was because you were too afraid to wait.
Besides, most things which have longevity are built on deep, strong foundations which took time to build below the surface – some of the largest burst of growth happen out of sight.

So if you truly love what you do – then love the work for what it really is, rather than some external ideal.

We all want to leave some kind of meaningful legacy, I know I do, and when we commit to the long haul, these dreams have the capacity to take us on an extraordinary journey, with a far richer pay off than we could have asked or imagined.

Will you join me?