Keeping the creative spark alive

Since March, I have been on 81 podcasts, assuming I have not miscounted. In every one, they ask me how I became a writer, and I’ve answered a lot of different ways, but the one I keep coming back to is that I never knew that wasn’t what you were supposed to do.

When I was young, everybody was going to be a director, or a writer, or an actor.

I just assumed that when I hit 40 everybody would have done that thing. It didn’t cross my mind for one second that wouldn’t happen.

I was intimidated, frankly, because there was so much talent around me.

Then, life happened, and I looked back 20 years later and realized that just because you wanted to do something didn’t mean that wasn’t what happened.

I tell people that the great separator is time and effort.

When you’re at the starting line, there are millions of people around you, but as you keep doing work, people fall off, until you’re one of a very few, a select group, that has kept the creative spark.

You have no idea how rare that gift is until you sit back 20 years after high school and think about all the people who wanted to do something creative with their lives, and how few actually ended up doing it.

There are lots of other aspiring creatives, but so few make it to the mountain top with their spark intact that it’s almost a miracle it ever happens at all.

I’m not saying they aren’t happy. Many of my friends who stopped doing creative work are very happy, but they aren’t doing the creative thing they set out to do when we were wee babies.

They aren’t doing the thing that intimidated me about them for so long.

People more talented that you will fall away. People who boast more will go away. People who you think are guaranteed to win will go off and do something else. Hotshot creators will burn bright, burn fast, and burn away. I’ve seen it all while I’ve been slowly doing the work day after day.

My work has never been perfect. Far from it, but I’ve learned from it every step of the way, and kept going. Showing up and making better the best work you’re capable of is really the secret to the whole game. It’s not one or the other. Making one great product doesn’t give you a career. Showing up without making something doesn’t make a career. Showing up and doing great work consistently makes a career, especially if you can keep showing it to more and more people.

At the end of the day, you will be alone on a mountain, and you’ll look around at other mountains and see the other people who climbed the summit, and you will bond with them instantly, because they were the survivors.

In this work, most of it is about surviving with the creative spark still inside you, protecting it fiercely, and outlasting other people.

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