This is for the creatives in the room. And no, I don’t just mean artists or designers – I mean anyone who longs to step away from your desk job to PLAY, use your imagination, and put something new into the world. If you have an unsatisfied creative itch that you’ve been struggling to align with your career, this post is for you.
You see, as a self-professed “theatre kid,” I’ve spent a significant chunk of my adult life trying to figure out how my identity as a creative person intersects with my career.
In college, I bounced around from acting and singing, to costume design, to directing. I loved them all, but none of them really stuck as a firm path to follow. And the truth is, I had other interests outside of my strictly creative pursuits: I double majored in Psychology because I was fascinated with how people think, and I was part of a group called Students Educating and Empowering for Diversity (SEED), which fueled my passion for social justice.
When I graduated from college, I had no idea how to begin pursuing a creative career. And if we’re being really honest, I also had a healthy dose of fear about the instability of such a path.
So as a floundering young adult trying to find my way, I followed the path of least resistance and signed up for an Americorps program called City Year, to run social justice service programs with youth.
After about three years of working in nonprofits, however, I was on the edge of burnout. I realized that not only was my job not giving me the opportunity to fully work in my zone of genius, but I also felt a large hole in my life where the arts had once been. Thus began a long journey to discover my ideal career and figure out how to bring creative expression back into my life.
Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Having a job in the arts does not equal creative fulfillment.
In my last job I was running education programs for a girl empowerment theatre company. Initially it felt like a dream job: the perfect melding of my interests in people, social justice, and the arts. But at the end of the day, I was ultimately helping other people to reach creative fulfillment – and I still wasn’t making the time to invest in my own creative well-being.
2. Sometimes the pursuit of an income takes the fun out of the creative process.
Finding the right balance of doing work for income and doing work for play is essential.
Personally, I’ve come to realize that I don’t need or want my artistic pursuits to be my primary source of income. I have other things that I enjoy doing to earn a living, as long as I’m taking care of my creative needs on the side.
Even for people who do choose to make a living with their creative pursuits – whether you’re a musician, a furniture maker, or a graphic designer – it’s critical that you’re making time to play in addition to the work that you do for money. This playtime will feed back into your paid work and, more importantly, will feed your soul even when the paid work does not.
3. I’m a Renaissance Soul, and that’s ok.
Margaret Lobenstine, who coined the term in her book by the same name, describes a Renaissance Soul as a person who thrives on a variety of interests and redefines the accepted meaning of success.
On one end of the spectrum, people might choose a single career or a portfolio of jobs that allow them to use different parts of their brain and change focus throughout the day or week. On the other end of the spectrum are people who choose to focus one area for several years before switching gears completely (going from lawyer to entrepreneur, for example). Still others land somewhere in between the two. It’s all about recognizing what works best for your particular needs.
For me, it’s about understanding what kinds of things enable me to thrive during my workday and balancing them with a rotation of extracurriculars that tap into my different areas of interest (currently: knitting, watercoloring, and learning French).
These days, I’ve begun to find a much better balance in my life, though it’s still a work in progress. By day, I coach individuals and teams to harness their creative potential. By night, I practice creative self-care and build my creative community.
What brings you creative fulfillment?
Dena Adriance is a transformational coach and consultant, supporting both individuals and teams to discover their zone of genius and harness creative potential. You can learn more about Dena and her work at denaadriance.com, or check out her podcast, Everyday Creative People, on your favorite podcast player.