Each job carries its own kind of stress. Some jobs are physically taxing, exhausting to bone and muscle, while leaving the mind relatively free. Some jobs are intellectually demanding, forcing a state of deep thought, deep focus, which carries its own physical toll. Some are emotionally overwhelming, demanding empathy, demanding an open heart and mind, even when the heart is bruised and the mind is bleeding.
Creativity, as much as it is thought of as a desirable trait in a job, carries its own burdens – primarily emotional, but depending upon your medium and process it can be physically and intellectually taxing as well. Creativity means putting yourself into your work – not just in the sense of pursuing it wholeheartedly and with all of your skill enthusiasm, but additionally investing it with aspects of who you are as a person. What I’m trying to say is, creativity makes you vulnerable, because any judgment on what you produce becomes, very directly, a judgment on you, on who you are as a person.
There are ways to do it safely, to constrain your creativity to specific tasks, certain areas where you can be confident of success and confident, moreover, that someone will appreciate you doing your job well. This is the kind of creativity that’s found in most office settings. It’s fulfilling, to a certain degree, and it’s safe, and whether you’re doing a good job or not, whether your creative product as a person is seen as valuable or not, depends on one or two people. It’s enough for some people, but…
There’s an ocean out there. Some people are happy working at the docks, if they can find work there – others, either because they can’t find the work they seek or because they can’t stand the work they get, set out to sea, on rafts if they have to. When you’re out there all alone, it becomes clear how insignificant you are. When you’re out there, doing the best work that you can, pouring yourself into your creative work, and no one seems to notice, it hurts at first. But the ocean is vast, and maybe you just haven’t found where the fish are yet.
The thing about being adrift is that, beyond somehow scraping up enough freshwater to survive, you don’t have to care. In the ocean, it is okay to be insignificant, because we all are. In the ocean, it’s okay to pour your heart into messages in bottles, because no one can break them, no one can say that you did it wrong. You can create without caring. At first it hurts that no one is there to care, but then it feels refreshing.
You may be adrift, alone, anonymous – but there’s freedom there as well. And, when it’s time to go back to land, no one will have seen the things you have seen. Maybe they’ll care or maybe they won’t, but you’ll always have the ocean in you, telling you that it’s okay to just flow where the tides will.