When Becoming Creative Crushes Your Soul

We’ve been writing a lot lately about the travails of developing and strengthening your creative know-how and capacities. A theme is: developing creativity means pain. Well, yeah. It actually doesn’t have to — but it generally does, because we’re stubborn. We hold onto what makes us uncreative — what makes us repetitive, habitual, comfortable.

If you get so far on your creative journey to feel the sweat of full-scale self-transformation on your brow, rest assured, you are fortunate. The flames of reality are opening you to do better work. Most people shrink from the heat. Don’t do it.

Your best work needs a vessel — and it is preparing you to be that vessel. You’re the proverbial clay in the oven of truth. You’re not ready yet — but if you keep going, the work will make you ready. It will shape you.

Oh yeah, but we get it. That’s us in that painting. That’s blood. That’s suffering. The trick to enduring it all is confidence in the future. Our mentor Joseph Beuys said: “Death keeps me awake.” You’re not dead until you’re dead — and until then, work like hell, and gulp it all in. It will burn everything you don’t need — everything that holds you back — to ashes. And you’ll walk out of those ashes. Here’s another one, just for fun.

Jeff Barnum. Walking Through Flames. Oil on canvas, kinda big. 2008 or so.

Becoming creative requires growing pains. To be awake to the growth is to walk through flames or to wear the flaming crown.

As we said, most people will delay this moment. In that case, it’s not yet their time. We understand what it means to love comfort and certitude, to delay the walk through the flames. In today’s world, you’re told to “feed yourself first” and justify doing so because “this is the world we live in.” Ha. Damn. Sheep. A circus of sheep. But yeah, it’s more comfortable than facing your limits and burning through them.

But if you want to become creative, you must surrender comfort for a constant stirring of restless potency and trade certainty for unresolvable, indefinite, endless unknowing. You must embrace the metamorphosis that begins to work within you, feeling it work its way through your cells like a hot wind.

And if you can do this — we will meet you there.

Leave a Comment