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Being a successful creative

Many will probably think that being a successful creative is something that depends on an end product and the response of the outside world. However, I will claim that being a successful creative has everything to do with the process and less with the outcome.

Being a successful creative

Let's just get the formalities in place right away: These words are written by someone who is by no means himself either fully or half there yet. None of my poems have been published to date, and outside of Hvide Sande absolutely no one knows who I am. Even my few finished canvases have not yet contributed significantly to the family's support. From a commercial point of view, my creative work is quite mediocre and anything but successful.

Opt out of what appeals to your vanity and ego just because it comes with other people's praise and recognition, and opt for what matches the image of the person you want to be, regardless of whether others are able to see the point or not.

When I still allow myself to write about being a successful creative, it is partly because I think that others can benefit from the experiences I have gained over the past few years, partly because I am somewhat skeptical of our usual definition of precisely the concept of success.

A successful creative, by the way, not just in the classic, artistic disciplines—poetry, music, visual arts, theater—but also including stuff like entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship; all that which is not yet, but which you envision and set out to create.

Many probably think of being a successful creative as being recognized; in particular being recognized by other recognized people. Some might also argue that being a successful creative can be measured in financial prosperity, although the myth of the starving artist is still alive and well.

I'll argue that we should first of all think of being a successful creative as having the freedom to create; the freedom to play and experiment, and the freedom to tear weeks out of the calendar where you decide for yourself what you bury your hands in.

That the freedom to create most often presupposes a certain degree of money and recognition—money, anyway—is another matter. The balancing act is difficult, and we often end up sacrificing freedom when money and/or recognition become ends in themselves.

But being a successful creative is not the same as having commercial success.

It may sound both egocentric and backwards, but in reality it is less decisive if others validate your work and your intention. The important thing is that you find a role and a way of doing things that makes sense to you. That you stay focused and build momentum.

In a world where attention is hard currency and everyone wants to sell you their own ideas, it is ultimately necessary that you prioritize your own choices and opt-outs, and weigh every single decision you make against your own overall narrative.

Don't choose other things that may give a nice, immediate gain, but will undermine the self-image and the integrity you are working to create in the long run. Or drawn up even more sharply: Opt out of what appeals to your vanity and ego just because it comes with other people's praise and recognition, and opt for what matches the image of the person you want to be, regardless of whether others are able to see the point or not.

Make no mistake: choosing a creative life path and career can be a relentless game.

Maybe Winston Churchill said it best, when he stated that "success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."

If you have ambitions to create something that really moves something, you often have to do it despite what other people and common sense dictates. At your own expense and on your own initiative. On top of that, you have to keep going despite rejection after rejection after rejection, because the vast majority of other people just don't understand what you're up to.

The tricks is never let that be an excuse to just give up.

Also, don't take age, lack of time, or lack of financial leeway as a welcome excuse. The road to hell is paved with poor excuses, and let me tell you: Once you've felt the itch and experienced the urge to live out your creativity, you'll never be able to completely suppress it again.

But why should you?

Neither you nor I may ever have a real commercial breakthrough. Especially among artists, the majority have to earn their money elsewhere.

On the other hand, this does not mean that success is not within reach. If you accept the definition of being a successful creative as having the freedom to create; the freedom to play and experiment, and the freedom to tear weeks out of the calendar, where it is you yourself who gets to decide what you bury your hands in, you definitely have that success within reach.

Maybe it's just half an hour every morning, or an hour every evening when the rest of the family has gone to bed. That is the starting point for me, as I also have a couple of girls, and a necessary basic turnover in my small business I have to prioritize.

All the more reason to enjoy the hours in the studio, and the creative play you do achieve; maybe not the world on a weekly basis, but a world of difference, added up and accumulated over years.


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