How Do You Keep the Fire Alive for Your Creative Passion, Even When You Don’t Make Any Money at It?

My husband was just about to push the “place order” button on Amazon when he turned to me, fear in his eyes.

“I just don’t know if I can justify the cost,” he said.

We had spent the past few days going back and forth over this big purchase, but now that it was go time I could tell he was freaking out.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well…it’s just that I’m not making any money at this, so…”

And that’s when I knew we were right back at square one.

The back story is that in the past year my husband has gotten into photography. Like, really  gotten into it. And from the moment he started taking pictures, something extremely cool started happening. He went through a total transformation. Once he got a camera in his hands he started going to new places, making amazing friends on social media who translated to real-life photography buddies, and opening up to life in a way he never had before.

That’s the power of tapping into your own creative force.

I’ve seen it happen many times with my clients, and of course, with myself.

For example, one of my friends on Twitter told me that I seem to be a completely different person from the depressed, anxious, alcoholic me that was portrayed in my memoir, Between the Shadow and Lo. He asked me if there was one single thing that I could point to as the cause of my total transformation.

Simple, I said. I started writing again.

Every creative person knows this about themselves at some level: In order to be truly happy, we need to be creating. But so many of us get stuck where my husband was the other day. We don’t know how we could ever “make any money” from being a poet, a writer, a painter, a photographer, a sculptor, or any of a dozen other highly creative pursuits that make our souls sing. So…we shove that dream back in the closet. We focus our energies instead on getting a solid job in the corporate world and try to forget how badly we want to write. How desperately we want to create something that makes us feel alive.

I’ll tell you the secret to solving this conflict: You’ve got to give up the money piece of it. I’m not saying that you’ll never make any money at your creative pursuits, but I am saying that, in the beginning, it’s going to be way easier if you just let go of that expectation, keep your day job, but also resolve to make creating art a priority in your life.

I talk about this a bit in my book The INFJ Writer, detailing how most writers assume they need to be like Stephen King and write six hours or more a day. But the truth is that most writers work at something else while they pursue their writing at the same time. I have writer clients who are also teachers, librarians, graphic designers, nurses, and nonprofit administrators. Yes, it is possible to do what you need to do to pay the bills and also set aside time—whether that’s in the evenings, the early mornings, or the weekends—to also do the thing you love.

What’s most important is that you realize how vital your own creative force is to your life, and that you fully understand that in order to be a happy, healthy human being, you need to be making things that you love on a regular basis.

That’s the only way you’re ever going to get true transformation in your life.

And if you’re wondering how you’re going to manage to make any time in your already busy life for creativity—if you’re already feeling the slimy tentacles of the procrastination monster creeping around you—then I have another solution for you.

For those of you who read this blog regularly you know that I often team up with Jacob Nordby, author of Blessed Are the Weird, to teach writers and other creative folk how to go deep and bring what they find there out into the light. Jacob runs a fantastic program called Creative UnBootcamp, expressly designed to get people writing, reading, talking, and sharing about the creative life they want for themselves.

Creative UnBootcamp is an intensive 4-week online course with Thursday evening classes (that are recorded so you can always play it back later if you miss one), a private Facebook group, and even a bonus class taught by yours truly on Creativity for Highly Sensitive People. It starts on October 19 and the early bird tuition ends tomorrow (September 30), so jump on this if you’re serious about committing to your creativity this fall. I highly recommend Jacob as a teacher and a guide. He’s open and kind with a huge heart, and he’s also an introvert so he definitely “gets it” about feeling overwhelmed or anxious when it comes to taking the plunge with your creative life.

I’ve done Creative UnBootcamp with Jacob before and I can’t wait to do it again. I’ll be listening in on every class this fall and using the insights to jump start my own creativity.

I really hope to see you there!

Lauren Sapala is the author of Between the Shadow and Lo, an autobiographical novel based on her experiences as an alcoholic. She is also the author of The INFJ Writer, a writing guide made specifically for sensitive intuitive writers. She currently lives in San Francisco.

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  • Reply Paulibe Hetrick 29 September, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    Lauren, I am Pauline Hetrick and I am a screenwriter. I have a screenplay titled Heart of Valor. It is a romantic story of a reforming alcoholic who gets black-balled from her reporters job with a big paper. The only job she can find is with a supermarket tabloid and her first job is unearthing the story about a very macho, gung-ho Marine who moonlights as a sucessful romance writer. In the process of interviewing him incognito as a clerk in a seven eleven-type store in Base near his quarters, she discovers the reason for her drinking is when she lies to get a story. And that is exactly what she is doing now. But with one problem. She has fallen in love with her subject. My problem is I’m not sure what she would go through in starting to sliding back to her old lifestyle. Her near misses. I want this part of the story to be as accurate as I can make it. I have set up scenes that have her outside a upscale then corner bar almost going in finally leaving avojg liqyior store and buying a bottle. Could this happen? I xan’t Find anyone to ask questions. Can you help me?

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 5 October, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Hi Pauline 🙂

      Well, in my opinion, anything can happen in a story. Sometimes the most helpful question is not, “Could this happen?” Instead, I urge my clients to ask, “DOES this happen to MY character?” You have to talk to the character. You have to ask them what happens. They will let you know. And sometimes, the things your character tells you happened to them seem implausible at first. You just have to keep working with them and with the story to let everything ripen and come together in its own time.

  • Reply beantown_man 1 October, 2017 at 1:51 am

    very nice article.

    did you husband eventually buy the equipment? very important to know.

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