Is it possible to feel creativity satisfied, or is this concept that we’re all chasing after some sort of intangible myth? Better yet, is this concept something that’s driving us to attain a higher level of performance within our craft or is it the source of discouragement upon realizing that we’ll never be good enough for ourselves?
My new favorite site to read is The Great Discontent – a site which features industry leading creatives and asks them real questions in every sense of the word. I find this site notably intriguing for two main reasons. The first being that almost every person they interview I’ve found myself previously interested in for one reason or another. The second reason is because of the questions they ask. Particularly this one: “Are you satisfied creatively?”
This question resonates with me on a number of different levels. Primarily because you can ask this question to just about anyone and they’ll typically answer “no” regardless of how creatively accomplished they really are. It’s a truly personal question that forces you to humbly look at your life and wonder, “am I really the best I can be?”
The times I feel most creatively satisfied is when I first see something I’ve created out in the wild. Whether it’s launching a site, getting a print piece hot off the press, or publishing an article – those are the moments that I feel most fulfilled in my career. It’s really the culmination of seeing my work fully come together rather than the act of actually creating the work (though that certainly provides a lot of satisfaction as well). Unfortunately, these moments don’t last too long. It’s only a matter of hours until I see someone else’s work that makes me think “I wish I made that”, or “I wish I was that good”. Being able to easily see others work that inspires you is a great thing. Sadly, it seems as though our brains are programed to turn that inspiration into comparison, which often leads to that unfulfilled, creatively unsatisfied feeling.
To be completely honest, I take comfort in the fact that most answers given on The Great Discontent interviews surrounding this question are simply (and sometimes not-so-simply), “no”. It reminds me that fulfillment of this concept, in the traditional sense, is likely unattainable. The fact is, there are many practical reasons why many of us are continually feeling unsatisfied creatively. I think the root, however, goes much deeper than those reasons. My personal opinion is that many of us feel this way due to a constant comparison to others. Though some people say that the feeling of being unsatisfied creatively drives them to become smarter, faster and stronger, I think that most of us would agree that it’s actually quite daunting. It’s this daunting feeling that pushes us to measure ourselves against our peers and covet their talents and project opportunities. Surely nothing good can come from that.
As someone who struggles with never feeling consistently satisfied from a creative stand point, I’ve finally decided that my perspective on this concept needs to change. The fact is, my life can’t fully revolve around being “creative”, or my work in general. I’ve got a family and other responsibilities outside of my career that, quite frankly, take much higher priority than achieving this ultimate artistic goal. So I’ve decided it’s time to look at my current creative rankings from a different point of view. My goal in this is to never define my standards of creative satisfaction by the work of someone else, but rather, to look at my life as a whole and reflect on how I’m doing with all things considered.
The danger that lies within comparison to others is the inevitable trap that it comes with. When you’re motive is simply an effort to keep up with everyone else, you start to lose the personal character within your work that only you can create. You cheat yourself and end up becoming yet another clone who has followed a trend down it’s rabbit hole. I assure you, there is very little satisfaction found here.
I think that an important part of life should be personal growth and maturity in everything you do. If we lose our desire to grow, and stop maturing all together, then there’s really no reason to get out of bed in the morning. However, the idea of chasing after this ideology that leaves us feeling empty, is simply futile. Especially, when in reality, if we’re doing what we love and pouring our hearts into our work, then we’re likely a lot closer to this fulfillment then we even realize.