What does it mean to prostitute one's creativity?
If there is a need for money and one has a talent, it is easy to fall into the trap of using that talent to earn the money. It is the quickest path from point A to point B. The problem is that repeated use of one's talent in this way, harnesses that talent, restricts it, so that when it comes time to use it for what it was intended, it is somewhat crippled. When one fritters away a powerful gift, there are dire consequences to the creative spirit. When one uses one's creative energy as a means to make money, it is often through strength of will, instead of passion, that creative energy is then transformed into something to be controlled and summoned at our beck and call.
Creativity doesn't respond well to this type of management. It becomes slave to our taskmaster. Rather than a source of inspiration, as it was meant to be, our creativity is reduced to flicker whose flame burns less brightly and with less heat. In the end, it is our loss when this happens. We mistakenly think that after week upon week, month upon month, and year upon year of treating our talents this way, we can simply shift gears, and return to our old way of thinking. Not so. At least, not at first. No, there must be a fundamental shift in our way of seeing our talents and ourselves. We must dedicate ourselves to turning things around, to reviving our once-inspired selves. This comes only with practice and hard work. We must make a commitment to honor the Muse once again and listen to it regularly, least we lose touch with it altogether.
Oliver Wendall Holmes was right we he wrote that, “Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them.”
Self-sabotage masquerades as many things: being disorganized, managing one's time poorly, being too task-oriented and unwilling to look at the larger picture, constantly responding to crises, making poor choices, acting out when things don't go well, choosing escapist activities rather than creative ones, thinking that talking about something is the same as doing it, getting caught up in other people's lives, not being willing to say no, not placing value on your talent and the need to express it, etc. Kind of painful to look at, let alone acknowledge.
But there is a way out.
First, we must forgive ourselves for time wasted. Second, we must make a solid commitment to change our behavior. This may take weeks, even months or longer. Finally, we need to make a plan to stop selling our talent to the highest bidder. We deserve better than that. In addition, we are depriving others of our gifts. Where would the world be without the talents of its people? Daily life is enhanced one hundred fold by the gifts, talents, and inventions of countless people—people who listened to their hearts and followed their dreams.
What are we waiting for?
There is a strong tendency among many of us to put things off and procrastinate. "There's always tomorrow," we say. "I'll have more time then or I'll be more inspired if I wait until this or that happens." "When I make a little more money or after I retire, I'll pursue my dreams". The problem with this type of thinking is that first, there are no guarantees we'll be here tomorrow. And second, the longer we put our dreams on hold, the less time we have to pursue them. Like a muscle that isn't exercised, our talents can only wait so long before they begin to atrophy.
I don't disagree with the school of thinking that says, it's never too late.Timing is important, and sometimes circumstances shift in a way that greatly improves our chances of living creative lives. But, sometimes things change in a way that only makes that pursuit more difficult. Personally, I would rather live as though today is all I have, so why not turn things around right now?
Fear rules many of our activities and thoughts.
We play out scenarios and often imagine the worst, and then base our decisions on that. Instead, we need to pull back and imagine only good outcomes. We need to train the mind to visualize things as we want them to be, rather than what we fear they might turn out to be. This is a daily practice, the importance of which cannot be emphasized enough. We cannot waiver from this. If we do, we must gently pull ourselves back.
The world is full of distractions, all of which pull us to attend to them. It's so much easier to be a leaf in the wind or a passenger in life, then to take responsibility for where we are going. We have to get back in the driver's seat and take charge of our destiny. The only thing limiting us is what we believe about ourselves. I know from personal experience, the less responsibility you are willing to take for what happens to you, the more you will perpetuate that experience, over and over until you get the message. Pain is the messenger; pain is a great teacher. Many of us have to wait until our backs are against the wall before we are willing to change things.
We can either ride the wave or be pummeled by it.
I know, because I have forgotten this simple truth many times, and wondered why life was suddenly so hard. It's because I didn't listen to my inner Voice. Instead, I simply forged on ahead with my agenda without thinking and without regard to the future consequences. It seems so obvious, but at times so difficult to grasp.
There are certain natural laws at work in the universe, and the sooner we learn what they are the better our lives will be. The laws often go against logic. Instead, we have to live by our faith and sometime take steps that seem at best, totally irrational. Our fears try and stop us using logical arguments. Sometimes the people around us, who also may be out of touch with their own inner Voice, may try and talk us out of doing something we're being guided to do .Ideally, to counter this, we'll have supportive people around us, cheering us on. But it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes, it feels as though we're being tested, as one challenge after another, comes into our lives. It's easy to waiver then, but it's exactly at those times when we must listen to our inner guidance and remain true to ourselves.
Guilt is a great saboteur. It stops even the best of us from moving forward with our dreams. We think expressing our talent and living our dreams is selfish. But other people need us, we plead. What about their needs, we whine. If I don't put them first, they won't love me or they'll be hurt. I sincerely doubt it. Living a creative life doesn't necessarily mean ignoring others and their needs, it simply means living a life that includes both—living a life that strikes a balance between being there for others and being there for ourselves, without guilt, without hesitation.
Setting up boundaries is a necessary step in this process. Inform others of your plans to do something for yourself, be it writing, painting, taking a class, starting a business, etc. Build the rest of your life around that, not the other way around. Determine how many hours per week you want to devote to creative projects. Notice I said want, not should or can or might be able. Book that time into your schedule or calendar, and then fill in the spaces around it with the rest of your responsibilities. A different approach, I assure you. Notice what happens when you begin to think this way. A subtle shift occurs in your priorities when you become engaged in making your dreams a reality. The rest of your life magically begins to support your efforts. When you add value to an activity, those around respond by giving it value as well. Perhaps some of them will even want to know your secret. They may want some of what you have, and you will be able to pass along your own wisdom and help someone else to listen to his or her heart.
So in the end, the process of expressing your talent, living your dreams, and being true to yourself, is the least selfish thing you can do. Because as each one of us frees ourselves from the self-imposed shackles of self-denial, we are that much closer to showing someone else the way to freedom.