Home » “How did I get here?” Short essay on the challenges of living a creative life

“How did I get here?” Short essay on the challenges of living a creative life

The clock is ticking at my desk.

I know it’s simply a measure for keeping time, but sometimes, on these slower days, it seems to be a metaphor for a larger moving picture at play: my creative life ticking away.

How did I get here? 10 years past the decision to chase music composition. 5 years post-college degree. 2 years post-masters.

Zero published works to show for it. A mountain of student loan debt (looking at you, masters degree.) Working full-time to cover my ass financially – leaving little time to simmer down and get “creative” on some musical works.

Tick, Tock, Tick

I love music.

I am dreaming that I get to a place in my life where I can cut through the noise to write more.

But it’s never been that easy for me.

One would think after 10 years I would’ve mastered the discipline of sitting down but I have yet to do so.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on me, and addressing all the reasons I don’t sit down to write.

Here’s my top 4:

1.) Economic status

I am doing well financially. For perhaps the first time in my adult life, I have the job with health insurance and benefits, I work 8a-5p Monday-Friday and I enjoy the hell out of my lunch break that allows me to go home to hang with my dogs.

It wasn’t always this way. Before my masters I worked 2 part time jobs and HUSTLED to make ends meet. After my masters I spent 9 months applying for jobs. 9 MONTHS. There were times when something as simple as getting a haircut, or eating nutritious food was a luxury I couldn’t always afford.

Even now, my paycheck gets wiped out pretty fast. Between my student loans, rent, groceries, and putting away for savings, I don’t have a lot of wiggle room to just sit back and watch the wealth pile up. To feel comfortable financially to live my best life. I still live in the fear that I will be financially ruined in a moments notice: losing my car, losing my job, a health crisis, etc.

In addition to the fear, I feel like I’m constantly doing everything other than writing music. From chasing a sell with a side hustle, to grocery shopping, to keeping my kitchen clean, to crafting a post – I’ve noticed in the wake I’ve set music completely on the back burner.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that we must meet our basic needs before we can really do anything else. I spent years cultivating my current situation so that I can meet my basic needs and write – but I have room to grow from that fear. I still find it easy to get caught in the spiral of, “can I afford to write?” or “should I work on my side hustle?”

Economic status is base of pyramid. If you are struggling with finances – don’t beat yourself up for not writing more. Get your basic needs met and then get to a place where you can write.

2.) Personal Development

Which brings me to personal development. In addition to the panic of “can I afford to write?” I struggle with many fears when it comes to creating music. These fear stems from a myriad of areas in my life that need attention and care and healing.

I began a journey in personal development roughly 2 years ago. I can say with 100% certainty that personal development has saved my life. It pulled me out of depression, it showed me how accountable I am for my life, it allowed me to see the impact of my decisions and dreams and helped me take control of my life. And while it’s done all of these amazing things for my mental health – I still have room to grow as far as my creative efforts are concerned.

If you fear creating but feel called to create – you are not alone. There are dozens of resources to turn to that can help you on your creative path. (And if you need a starting place, shoot me a comment below.)

I know I will grow in this area with time, but for now it’s a hurdle I’m still learning to jump.

3.) Perfection

I am the type of person that got As in college. I want everything to not only look perfect, but be perfect. I agonized so much over handing in my dissertation for my master’s that I ended up spending around 50 quid (~$75) on the binding, and delivery boxes for my damn work. I received huge compliments on it – but did it really help my marks for the work?

Probably not.

My point is – in addition to combating fear, I am also working on not needing to agonize/strive for perfection all the damn time.

My new mantras are: I can write and share a piece that isn’t perfect. I can share my process and learn from criticism. I can be open to the feedback of those around me and decipher it to inform my next edit of the piece or next work. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be created.

I struggle in this area of letting perfection go. But I know in time I’ll get there.

4.) Imposture Syndrome

Which brings me to my last largest obstacle with creating: imposture syndrome.

Imposture syndrome is the idea that you aren’t who “they” think you are. You are actually an undeserving imposture that is ready to fail at any moment. And in said failure you will be “discovered” by your peers and cast out of the group for being a fraud.

It sounds totally crazy if you’ve never experienced it. But for me, it’s alive and well. And it shows up in many areas of my life, most notably in music, whenever I go to write. “You’re not actually a composer. You don’t actually know what you are doing. If you share this piece everyone will know you’re not supposed to be here. That you can’t claim this title.”

Since beginning personal development I’ve been able to identify and address my imposture syndrome and practice affirmations that bind me to the present and affirm my skills.

But like the previous roadblocks, I know I have room to grow in this area. I’ll get there in time.

Tick, tick, tick

Time.

These are my for largest roadblocks that keep me from writing. I know there is work to be done in each of these areas – and that the work will get done – in time.

If you identified with any of them, know that you aren’t alone. Leave a comment if you need help in any one of these areas and I will do my best to guide you in the right direction. We are in this together and we have room to grow!

Pärting words:

I’ll leave you with this: Arvo Pärt

One of my biggest sources of inspiration in music composition is Arvo Pärt. And while I love Fratres and Spiegel im Spiegel just as much as the next person- the main reason I draw inspiration from him is his story. He took a multi-year hiatus from writing before he showed back on the scene with arguably some of his greatest works. In that time he explored the roots of western music and emerged with a new sense of direction in his music.

I like to dream that the current hiatus I’m in is merely part the journey to becoming a better composer. That, coupled with the culmination of self-care, personal development and continuing education.

I have faith that these practices will allow me to grow and produce works that will be my best many years from now too.

One comment

  1. TinkerElle says:

    This was such a genuine article that we all feel but have hard time acknowledging and verbalizing. Being a musician is a total lifestyle and a life journey, not just a career path. Sending you lots of love and blessings for your fulfilling future!!! 🙂

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