Creative goals are usually about completing specific projects by a specific time.
For example – “I want to finish the first draft of my new novel by the end of the year” or “I want to take a course in Ikebana and create my first six sculptures by the end of the summer”.
In our creative lives we can have any number of these goals, and though individually they might be worthwhile projects and landmarks, none of them compare to the single goal that surpasses all others.
This is the only creative goal any of us ever need.
In fact, it isn’t a goal at all, not in the traditional sense we defined above.
Our ultimate goal is not a place, or a destination we arrive at, but the state of mind and being we’re in as we travel.
It’s about the person we are, the artist we are, and how we’re creating our life.
To reach this state, all you need to do are two things.
1. Keep creating.
Create your heart work – the work that means most to you, the art that calls you desperately and urgently from deep within to be brought into the world.
2. With everything you create, indeed with everything you do, be mindful of this simple guiding lantern of a question:
Is what I’m doing right now supporting my creative life, and adding to my enjoyment and development as an artist, and as a person?
If the answer is yes, then keep doing it, and do more things like it.
Fill your life with them, immerse yourself in them. These are exactly what you need to be happily, creatively you.
If the answer is no, find ways of reducing this activity, or even better, eliminating it completely.
Do the same for other activities like it that don’t support and nurture your development as an artist, and a person. You don’t need them, they’re holding you back, they’re slowly killing your creativity.
By doing this, by keep creating, and holding this simple question aloft like a soft lantern in the thick black night to guide you, you’ll be living your ultimate creative goal – your best possible creative life. Only even better.
That’s as complicated as goals need to be.
What happens when you start asking this question, and following the light of your lantern, is you tend to find you need to stop being a painter and instead become a sculptor.
I’m not talking literally about your chosen art forms.
What I mean is when you start asking your guiding question, you’ll probably find you’ll answer “no” far more than “yes”.
By the time we wake up and realise where we are in our lives – and how far it is from where we want to be – we are not like a painter with a pure untainted white canvas and a perfect set of brushes, ready to make only the most beautiful, colourful and expressive brush strokes in the painting of our life.
Instead we are more like the sculptor with a huge hunk of granite.
We have this raw mass of solid stuff in front of us, all around us, staring us down and consuming us. The last thing we need to do is add more granite.
Instead we need to pare away all the excess – gently, steadily, determinedly chipping away at all the rock that covers what we really need and what really matters – so we can reveal only the beautiful sculpture that’s always been waiting there for us underneath.
As important as what we leave is what we remove. And so, sculptors we must become.
The sculpture itself of course is not a single project. It’s your creative life.
And when you use the “lantern question” is does cover your whole life, not just when you’re making art.
For example, if you’re eating a delicious, healthy home cooked meal with your family, and ask the question – “Is what I’m doing right now supporting my creative life ,and adding to my enjoyment and development as an artist, and as a person” – the answer is yes.
You’re providing your body with nutritious food, and you’re stimulating your senses of sight, taste, scent, touch. You’re engaged in an enjoyable, social, sensory activity that’s beneficial to your life on many levels.
Compare that to grabbing a fast food takeaway and ramming it down your throat it while you race to an appointment, already late, and I think the difference is more than obvious.
Taking a walk in nature to disconnect from daily stresses, writing a daily gratitude page, reading a range of books and articles, engaging with a creative community, spending time with family and good friends, are all examples of following the lantern and having in your life activities that are not in themselves about directly making art, but are all supportive of a creative and happy life.
They’re all big (creative) yeses.
Start to think about some of the daily activities in your life. Start asking the question. Start holding up the lantern.
Then put on your overalls, bravely take up your tools, and let the sculpting begin.
It’s not going to be a instant quick fix, or an overnight transformation, but the more you follow what matters to you and what supports your creative life, and the more you let go of those things that clutter and hinder it and hold you back, the more you’ll be living that ultimate goal.
Holding aloft your lantern while you sculpt your beautiful creative life is the only goal you’ll ever need.
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