Hey Hey Creatives!
Have you ever asked yourself why you do what you do? What is the driving force behind your actions? It’s a quite common subject around self-development space, profound and existential, helping to find a purpose in life. I am an artist, so I’d like to make a twist and ask this question from the perspective of a creative. Why do you create? And why, you ask, this question might be important?
This post is divided into two parts. As I was writing I realized that there is so much I want to tell… I want to be real with you and share my thoughts, struggles, and reasons behind exploring this topic. In the first part, you can read about my own personal “why” and get insight into unedited entries from my journal. I write from the point of view of someone who wants to make a living as an artist. This fact might change the way I approach things and might differ from a person who creates art aside as a hobby. Both perspectives are absolutely valuable and interesting. In the second part, I will share with you the answers of six other creators I reached to. Some of them, like myself, intend to be professionals, others make art for different reasons. I hope you will find here something that connects with you and helps you on your own journey.
For so many artists I’ve been talking to creating comes naturally, they don’t think much about it. It’s just something they love, something they must do, like breathing. So many of them picked up a pencil or a crayon as children and just never put it down. There is no questioning. Iain McCaig, an excellent artist, writer, and filmmaker, when asked this question said “Why do I do it? Because I must! I can’t imagine myself not doing it. If I didn’t do it, I would explode!”. I’m not one of those artists and I know that I’m not the only one. I started to draw much later in life while exploring and finding my path. Knowing the answer was not so crucial for me at the beginning of the journey, but became very important along the way. Why? Let me answer with the words of Simon Sinek from his book “Start with Why”.
“Happiness comes from WHAT we do. Fulfillment comes from WHY we do it.”Simon Sinek – Start with Why
Drawing makes me happy and I enjoy so much the process of creation, which often puts me in this elusive state of flow. But… the dream to learn how to paint quickly transformed into a desire to become a professional artist. I know that many of you are on this journey as well. To make this dream come true and sustain daily hard work, deal with inner struggles, and rejections, I need a vision. Something that makes me want to wake up every morning with intention and purpose keeping me on track in the long term against all odds. This purpose lies behind my “why”.
I reach to this concept especially during the moments when I really doubt myself and question the sense of the things I do. My “why” is the core of everything, the foundation I build upon and hold on to. Being an artist and pursuing this path as a professional is like walking through the wild jungle. The track is uncertain, there is no clear route, no ready-made formula, or designed map to success. It’s an adventure full of unexpected events, different obstacles to cross, and challenges to face… Now, don’t take me wrong, it’s an absolutely rewarding and beautiful journey, worth all the struggle. In the end, we do what we love which is a dream of so many! This is a privilege. But, like all the magical endeavors, pursuing it comes with a price and it’s definitely not easy. That’s why we need to have some powerful weapons in our pockets that we reach towards in moments of need, to keep us walking.
I must admit that I had many crises along the way. Actually, I am in a minor one right now. To be honest, I’ve never imagined that at age 30 I still won’t be able to sustain myself. Being able to support me financially became something really important to me. I want freedom in all senses, and autonomy is freedom. In those moments, when nothing else seems to work I turn to my WHY behind everything I do. Why did I get into art in the first place? Why do I try so hard to make a living out of it? Can’t I just find a job that sustains me and do the art aside in my free time? The answer is… no. Because only drawing, writing, painting, and telling stories make sense to me and make me feel alive. I want to make something more with it and expand beyond myself. Yet, to keep feeling passionate about it in a long run and keep going forward when things got thought, I need to remember why I’m doing it and what is my mission.
“If we want to feel an undying passion for our work, if we want to feel we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves, we all need to know our WHY.”Simon Sinek – Find your Why
Let me tell you a little story. This might sound dramatic but I’ve reached to art in the darkest moments of my life. As I’ve mentioned I’m not one of those artists who started to draw at a very young age. I was creative, I loved to make things with my hands and I was ok with art at school, but it was never my main hobby or passion. I was much more into sport and music, dreaming about becoming a professional basketball player and a drummer in a rock band at the same time:) But then things changed quite drastically. I got sick and sport was not an option anymore. The music somehow faded away too, like the rest of the things. It seemed like the whole world around was gone. Only me, eating disorders and depression. Darkness. I really don’t remember much from those moments, it’s all very blurry, but art was there, and it became my safe harbor. At that time I’ve discovered works of XIX century painters (strangely enough, we’ve never learned about them at school) and then something moved in me profoundly. I remember almost crying when seeing paintings of Bouguereau or Pre-Raphaelites. It’s hard to explain but since then, the only thing that mattered was to learn how to draw well and ultimately paint in oils, becoming better and better. I’ve been reading a lot of biographical books of artists, fascinated by their lives and minds. heir reality and the way they saw the world really connected with me. This desire to learn, grow and improve suddenly appeared and it became my driving force. Force so strong that over the years helped me to fight eating disorders and depression once for all. I got a purpose and I’ve become obsessed with learning and improving. At that moment art gave me the will to make everything in my power to fight with my demons and keep moving forward.
My very first drawings from 2012 were pretty dark
It was my “why” back then, for over a decade. That’s how long it took to get my health back on track. Art was my Guardian, keeping me from drowning, and since then I knew that I want to pursue this path. What is my “why” now? How has it changed over the years and why do I keep creating? Let me share with you some recent, raw, and unedited entries from my journal, where I always turn to when looking for answers…
28.08.2021, Madrid, Spain
Ufff another month when I couldn’t earn anything. I feel discouraged… Why do I keep on this track? I wonder… Is it just because drawing it’s the only thing I know? Sometimes I feel I just don’t want to do it anymore. It’s so hard… I mean trying to make a living out of it. I am an adult now and at age 30 I still can’t even completely sustain myself. I want freedom and independence…. I’ve been in a cage, dependent on others for too long. Was art just a childish, naive dream? Was I being irrational? Damn it, I refuse to believe that! I just can’t stop anyway, even if I’d like to. It became an inseparable part of me… Ok, so let’s dig deeper. Remind yourself why do you create Marta and what is your driving force?
(long pause thinking. The first word that comes to mind is “Magic”)
Art and Magic are like synonyms for me. Creating something from nothing? Giving life to characters and worlds in your head? Telling stories with lines, shapes, and colors? It sounds pretty much like Magic to me. I’ve always wanted it in my life. I think it’s just wonderful spending your days thinking about new ideas, searching for characters, and imagining their worlds, fears, and desires. Solving drawing “problems” in your head while cooking, walking, or taking shower. I’d rather live in those fantastical realms than in tangled reality. Those worlds are indeed my safe harbors. Planes in time and space where I love to spend my time the most. I fell into anorexia and bulimia as a young teenager and woke up as an adult. It’s so strange and bizarre at times. I must say that I don’t see many happy adults around. I would like to take people with me, spread this Magic around, make them dream, explore, and wonder…
Additionally pursuing art still makes me a better person, this hasn’t changed. It always was helping me to grow and it keeps doing so. Art teaches me patience, self-discipline, perseverance, all necessary to execute the ideas, continuously expanding my imagination. It humbles me, exposing my weaknesses so I’m constantly looking for ways to improve.
Art gives me peace of mind, purpose every day. It’s… simple. Even when the world around is in chaos, as it’s been for the last 1.5 years during the pandemic, it’s always there, waiting, inviting, helping me to survive through difficult times. It keeps me sane. It grounds me.
30.08.2021 Madrid, Spain
Art is self-exploration. I’m constantly learning something about myself while creating and looking for new ideas. When I started to make my own projects I could discover what actually am I drawn to. What kind of themes and aesthetics really attract me. I’m a very slow and meticulous artist. Completing one bigger drawing takes me between 6-8 weeks, so I must choose wisely where I want to devote this time. At the beginning of my journey, I’ve spent many years just learning, doing different exercises, and mostly studying objects from life. I didn’t allow myself to draw something besides that. But then came a moment, when I began to feel better, more confident with my skills. The only problem was that I didn’t know how I could use them. What do I actually want to tell through my art? What is my artistic voice? So I think I also create in order to find it. I remember how frustrated I was with my imagination. I thought it’s broken! Ideas just didn’t come. But I proved to myself that imagination is like a muscle. The more you practice and train it, the more it grows and develops into something beautiful. So yes, now it’s one of the reasons I create too, to explore and expand my imagination, learning more about myself in the process.
Art is also an exploration of the world around. It definitely teaches me to appreciate life more. Notice the little things. So many times I realized that I didn’t know how the eye really looks like, or an apple, tree, a bird.. until I actually drew it. Hours of observation, immersing yourself in the details of the object you draw… it’s like seeing it for the very first time. It’s really fascinating and many times surprising. Artists really see the world differently… and I love it so much.
03.09.2021, Madrid, Spain
I talked about internal reasons, so let’s expand it and talk about more external mission. Something bigger than just what art gives you. Why not start from the current situation we are in. At the moment of writing this, we are still in the times of covid. This global pandemic made me wonder even more. Is what I’m doing even important? People fight for survival and I’m here in my room-studio drawing all days. For a long time, I felt like this meme going around on the internet…
I believe that this is EXACTLY the time when we need more Magic around and more people who create… as if to balance the destruction that the world is undergoing. People need beauty, hope and a place where they could go, to rest their minds and see differently. I believe that art can give them that. It develops imagination and right now more than ever we need creative solutions.
I must say that life from an adult perspective doesn’t look so colorful like it was observed by the eyes of a dreamer teenager. I see so many people around chasing after money to pay bills and survive. They have jobs that they never wanted, life seems to be created more by the push of society than their own desires. It feels like most just stopped dreaming. With my works, I’d like to incorporate a little bit of Magic again. By my artistic career, I’d like to show (even if only to my close ones, my niche) that it’s possible. It’s possible to be creative, doing what makes you happy, allow yourself to dream, play, and still live a good, fulfilling life. We need more happy people on this planet. “Bring Magic to your life” – This claim came to me first when I was looking for the core of my personal artistic brand. I think that maybe it speaks for itself and there lies my “why” 🙂
There is still a long way in front of me, but I choose to believe that it’s all possible. Instead of keep questioning it, I’d rather focus on looking for ways and ideas on how to get there!
Fulfillment is a right and not a privilege. Every single one of us is entitled to feel fulfilled by the work we do, to wake up feeling inspired to go to work, to feel safe when we’re there and to return home with a sense that we contributed to something larger than ourselves. Fulfillment is not a lottery. It is not a feeling reserved for a lucky few who get to say, “I love what I do.”Simon Sinek – Find your Why
What finding your artistic why can give you?
- Having clear “why” will help you to stay on track further on the journey, after those initial years of drive when you focus just on learning and getting better. It will make you feel more motivated and inspired
- In the moments of taking decisions and choosing paths, your “why” will serve as a compass. It represents your beliefs, values and your mission. It can help taking decisions true to yourself
- Clear mission will make you feel more fulfilled with everything you do
- In the moments of crises, when you question sense of everything you do, your core will keep you grounded and give you purpose to continue agains all odds
- As the saying goes “when there is a will, there will be a way”. When you know your purpose your mind will automatically look for ways and solutions of how to get there, seeing opportunities around.
I try to answer this question at least once a year. See where am I at. It’s interesting to observe if something has changed, am I still on the right track, or if anything new appeared. I highly encourage you to find your own “why”. Go to the core. It may take time and self-discovery, but it could become your biggest weapon along the way.
Recommended books by Simon Sinek. Although they focus rather on entrepreneurship, leadership, and business the concepts can be easily applied to personal journeys.
Start with Why – How great leaders inspire everyone to take action, and why finding your why is so important
Find your Why – A practical guide for discovering your purpose