How To Pursue The Creative Life, Even When It’s Hard

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This morning I saw the sunrise.

It pretty much killed me. I couldn’t be less of a morning person if I tried.

Nonetheless, I stumbled downstairs at 5.30am, made coffee, wrapped myself in a blanket.

And then I wrote.

I did this, because for weeks now I have tried to write in and around the distractions of the day, the clutter in my mind, the interruptions from those around me, the demands of life. I’ve struggled to write. I’ve struggled to make it a priority. I’ve struggled to believe the creative life is justified in its pursuit, and have believed my time would be better spent elsewhere. I lost the faith, the vision, the love. My writing dwindled, slowly, until it withered completely.

And with that, I felt as though I did too.

I lost motivation, lost joy, lost the feeling of connection with something greater than myself, the life force that feeds my soul. I couldn’t stay like that. I wanted – needed – myself back.

I remembered back to my best writing days, when I first started writing, the days I would crawl out of bed before the rest of the world woke. Bleary, I would write. Not think. Not worry about whether it was good or not, right or not, enough or not. Just write. Here, I would find my treasure, in this lonely hour before the day started, before the first hint of colour caressed the sky, before my girls would stumble in with eyes half closed and crawl into my lap, signalling my time was up – which was always okay, for I’d nurtured creativity, and creativity had nurtured me in return. I felt full, complete, content, inspired for the day ahead.

Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic writes that we need to consider our creativity as something we fall in love with, something we consider ourselves as having an affair with – not because she advocates affairs, but because she uses the example of how people who have extramarital affairs always manage to find the time to spend together – even if it means losing sleep or missing meals. She writes, “They will make whatever sacrifices they have to make, and they will blast through any obstacles, in order to be alone with the object of their devotion and obsession – because it matters to them.”

It reminds me of the guy I liked when I was fourteen. We had a clandestine friendship; his parents weren’t so keen on the idea of female friendships and I was by far considered the least favourite girl in his life due to being the most likely to lead him astray. I was actually a pretty innocent fourteen year old – but not the first time, and definitely not the last, I’d been misconceived based on where I came from, not who I was.

So, this guy and I would find ways to hang out together, away from the watchful eyes of the small town we lived in. He was a football player, athletic, and used to get up early and run laps of the oval. By choice. I hated running almost as much as I hated early mornings. But I pretended to like both just to spend some time with him.

I’d set my alarm for some ungodly hour so I’d have time to shower, then take half an hour to decide what to wear, another half hour to do my hair, another half hour to agonise over whether I looked okay, before I’d sneak out the front door as the sun came up. We’d meet at the oval, I’d run a lap to try and make him believe I was sort of fit before I’d die on the grass with exhaustion and watch as he continued to run lap after lap with ease, until he’d come and sit with me and we’d hang out before the world came to life.

He probably could have run all day, just as I could have stayed in bed all day. We both sacrificed in order to spend time together. We both risked in order to spend time together. We both did that because it mattered to us. 

Our creative pursuits matter to us. We need to find them within us, find what it is that gets us out of bed in the morning, even when mornings are our nemesis. We need to find the passion of our hearts, pursue it, grab hold of it, let nothing come in the way of it. We need to treat our creative pursuits like lovers, to make time for them, to sacrifice for them, to selfishly indulge in them, sometimes at the expense of our family and friends and social lives and demands of life we must learn to ignore.

Those demands will always be there, but if we allow them to steal our time away from our creative pursuits, we will live, but we will not be alive. Our creative pursuits bring us joy, they bring us meaning, they bring us life. They bring us to ourselves.

This morning felt as though I reunited with an old love. One who had never given up on me. Who called me back, who reminded me of the importance of my creative heart and mind. Who brought me back to myself.

The pursuit of a creative life won’t always be easy.

But I know, for me, there is no other way.

Photo courtesy Evan Clark via

6 thoughts on “How To Pursue The Creative Life, Even When It’s Hard

  1. Yes, I too loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. She has been a huge inspiration to me, and now you are also. Your creativity is divine, as it is in all of us, making contact with ‘it’ indeed makes us feel whole and with purpose.

    1. So true Barbara! I feel so incomplete when I detach from my creative self. Restless, irritable, hard to live with. It’s so important to remember we were designed to be creative beings, and to deny that is to deny our true selves.

  2. “Those demands will always be there, but if we allow them to steal our time away from our creative pursuits, we will live, but we will not be alive. Our creative pursuits bring us joy, they bring us meaning, they bring us life. They bring us to ourselves.” This is SO true! Finding that quiet, free-from-distractions, time is difficult even in retirement. I have piles of unfinished writings/scribbles that have been sacrificed to ‘those demands’. As writers of any kind we need to acknowledge the importance of what we do and the space (time) in which to do it instead of fitting it in around the needs of others.

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so thankful you found my words and they have been of benefit to your heart. Wishing you all the best on your journey x

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