Sometimes it’s hard to believe your creative work matters, or that anything matters. Sometimes we just don’t see the meaning in our work, or in our lives. Sometimes we’re overwhelmed by the work that’s required to do something right, or even just to share our work with others.
Mankind is logical to a fault. We’re constantly seeking out meaning, reasons why things are the way they are. We’re so desperate at times to make sense of things that we’ll even cling to faulty conclusions so long as the logic followed makes for a sturdy enough bridge.
If you’ve ever nurtured your creative impulse, but then didn’t feel the love back, it can discourage you — poison you — from continuing your good work. Your creative impulse, your good work, is a part of you. It never goes away, but it can be weakened when you deny it your care.
Your Voice Matters
It isn’t by accident that most everyone understands what you’re talking about when you mention The Poisoned Apple. We all know it was wondrous red and caught in SnowWhite’s throat. It catches, too, in our imaginations for its unspoken parallel.
How often do we let the words we want to say catch in our throats? How often do the words ring in our ears without ever tripping over our tongues for fear of how they will sound to others? How often do we tell ourselves that the little things we say and do have no meaning, no bearing on the world around us?
None of the things you want to say will have meaning for others until you speak. When you care enough to speak, others — specifically the right others — will care enough to listen. The first step is for you to care, for you to believe that you have something to say that is worth saying aloud and then saying it out loud.
If Anything Matters
People have existential crises all the time, questioning whether there is anything in this world that really matters. They fail to realize that simply posing the question of meaning, in itself, creates meaning. The minute any person cares to ask any question is the minute the question and its answer matter.
Consider your loved ones: you love/care about them, they’re mattering to you means that they matter. The Queen cared about being the most beautiful, cared so much she was willing to hound a young girl over it, and so this thing she had no real control over possessed so much meaning that it was able to control her actions. Caring, even wondering, gives a thing meaning.
You’re here because you care about your future/present happiness or your creative projects. You’re reading this because you’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a fairy tale world (maybe even suspecting that you already do). These thoughts are hoping you will speak them aloud, will realize that they’re very existence is evidence of their meaning.
Creating Means Something
Just as thinking a thought has meaning, so too do the actions which rise from that thinking. In fact, creating something compounds the level of meaning. First the thought comes into being and you dance with it awhile in your mind, then you share the thought through words or pictures or movement which invites others to interact and add their own meaning.
Many people stop themselves before they’ve begun because they want every thing they create to mean everything. It only needs to mean a little something to you, everyone else will add plenty of their own meaning. Some positive and some negative, but — given how opinionated the human race is — the only way for people to not react/add meaning to a thing is for them to never see it because you locked it away somewhere.
Just saying the words means that you care about having your own thoughts and opinions and making sure you have all the facts. Just drawing the picture means there are eyes in your head that see the world in a way only you can see it. Just moving your body means you are alive and in control of your faculties and maybe feeling grateful for the simple beauty of being a living, breathing human being.
Create Some Meaning
Everything you think and say and do adds meaning to your existence and the existence of this whole dang planet. Without even trying, without making any conscious effort you create meaning at every turn. Some people are paralyzed by the idea of consciously creating meaning in their life.
It doesn’t take any special skill set to create meaning. It’s as easy as breathing (or holding your breath if you’re so inclined and a child and trying to freak out your parents). You just have to decide to do it.
You just have to think to yourself: I care about my creative work and that is enough to give it meaning. See how easy that is? You might not believe it at first, yet regularly thinking to yourself/reminding yourself what it is you care about will help to dislodge the apple from your throat.
A Hard Day’s Fun
Sure, you could labor for days, months, years even to create the handle that revolutionizes urban bike riding or to write the great American novel to end all great American novels. Still, that’s just people-pleasing in disguise. Don’t we know by now that people-pleasing is a fool’s errand?
Think about how wait-staff can’t get it right: it’s not because they’re bad at waiting tables (bad waiters get good or fired, end of story). It’s that everyone wants something different; waitress versus waiter, stoic versus personable, communication versus friggin’ mind-reading. The harder you’re working at creating meaning, the harder you’re working to please everyone.
Really, what’s the point of torturing yourself to create meaning? Are you looking for an excuse to insult people who don’t like your work because they’re clearly allergic to the full spectrum of human emotion, or do you really believe you can make something so profound that there will be nothing anyone on earth could find to reprove? Remember, creating means something all on its own, get out of your comfort zone, sure, but don’t go killing yourself when you could be pleasing yourself.
For Your Trouble
I know, I know, it’s easy to say “please yourself” until it comes time to try to get your work out there. [Cough, cough] Especially when you’re a writer. [Cough, cough] There just seem to be so many doors with crazy combination locks you’d totally have to Houdini (be a literal inside man) to get through.
Why do industries do that, by the way? Why do they create these closed loops that dang-near refuse to be cracked? Oh, wait, I know, comfort zones.
When you produce something in a closed loop you can get comfortable and even predict new-ish trends that will still feel comfortable. On any given day you care to share your work, somebody isn’t going to feel altogether comfortable with what you’ve created and they’ll probably just ignore it or put it somewhere they won’t have to think about it, like a
trashcan rejection pile. It isn’t personal against you, it’s personal against new.