I’m talking to a novelist.
I’d already read her last book, which was achingly beautiful and said something that felt important. It was a story that hadn’t been told before. At least not in the way she told it.
The novel took her eight years to complete. And it has been very successful. So now the pressure is on to produce the next one, only much more quickly.
Other people seem to write effortlessly, she says. Which is why she wants to work with a coach.
“I want to know if it could be easy for me.”
As a coach, I believe in honesty above all else.
I want to work with this writer. She is brilliant, and I feel I can help. But I don’t want that relationship to start with a lie.
So I say no, I can’t make it easy.
Writing is hard.
Making art is hard.
Making fresh and exciting music is daunting.
Telling a story in a different way is difficult, whatever your medium.
Designing something that has never been seen before, finding new solutions to old problems, launching a business.. All of these things are hard.
Most creative work is challenging.
That’s why it feels so great, when we finally do get a project over the line. But in between the euphoric start and the relieved finish, there’s the messy middle.
There are days when we just don’t want to begin. Times when the fear, the doubts, that chorus of inner critics just feels too loud and overwhelming. When that gap between our ideas and our execution feels so wide it will never be bridged.
So why do we keep on?
Because humans are meant to create, not just consume.
Because it makes us feel alive.
Because every so often we’ll get into flow. The hours fly by like minutes, and we surprise ourselves with what we’ve made.
Creativity is hard.
But it doesn’t need to be painful. We don’t have to suffer or starve for our art.
So I talk to the novelist about her writing routines. Her creative habits.
In that eight years she’d often had weeks, months of not writing, of feeling guilty and angry, depressed and resentful that she’d abandoned her story, or that it wouldn’t leave her alone.
On days when she did write, there was often only an hour or two of concentrated work, but hours more of putting off starting that work, of answering emails, getting lost in the digital deluge, playing pointless computer games. Time when she did nothing she really wanted to do, nothing that rested or fed or inspired her.
There were long stretches when she ate badly, didn’t move at all, and didn’t allow herself to see friends or have fun until she’d reached her word quota.
There were stiff shoulders and sleepless nights, and a relationship that nearly died of neglect in the process.
This is where we begin.
Not in making our work easy, but in building routines and habits that are sustainable, that support us and help us get into that joyful flow state more often.
We make space for our creative work, but also to take care of ourselves and our loved ones.
We make time for fun and friends and new experiences that feed our inspiration.
And we might also need to do paid work, if our creativity isn’t yet ready to pay the bills.
We go find the others.
Our tribe. Our audience. Our clients and buyers. The people who love our work, and want us to make more.
Creatives who are on their own creative journeys, who can make the path less lonely.
Guides and mentors who’ve been there before us, and are able to light the way.
None of this is easy.
But it’s worthwhile. It’s satisfying. And it’s perfectly possible, for all of us.
It’s what we need. And it’s who we are.
In the words of Glennon Doyle: We can do hard things.
And if you want support on your journey, you know where I am!