The Puzzle of Your Creative Life

The Puzzle of your creative life

Portland has a large, growing creative population. It’s a good place to observe and understand creative people.

I live here. I’m one of those creative people. I’ve been watching creative Portlanders since 2002 and I’ve discovered a big challenge which all of these creative folks face.

I call it The Puzzle of Your Creative Life.

The Puzzle goes like this:

How can I lead the fulfilling, creative life I’m called to live and also earn enough money along the way ?

I like to imagine that when a creative person is born The Puzzle is given to them along with their gift of creativity.

Every creative person I know faces The Puzzle.

Every artist. Every musician no matter how well known. Investment bankers who secretly like to paint. Much of the food service industry. School teachers who like to rock out with their chalk out. Creative freelancers. Everyone at the hip craft fair. Stay-at-home parents. Writers who sometimes wish they were writing something else. Photographers, too. Private music instructors. Independent fashion designers. The cool cashier at the grocery store and many of the cool deli counter people. Librarians with Etsy shops.

It’s a big group. You can’t always tell just by looking at a person.

Of course it’s not just a Portland thing. Creative people everywhere face the same puzzle*.

Every answer has trade-offs.

The Puzzle isn’t easy to solve, many people struggle, and no solution is perfect. Everyone finds their own answer, their own mix of work, life, money, and creativity.

Do you answer your creative calling to become an artist, musician, writer, start a creative business, or freelance as a creative professional ? Or do you choose another career path, doing something else ? How do you stay fulfilled as a creative person, if you don’t pursue a creative career ?

Your solution to The Puzzle might change over time, as your priorities or situation change.

The Puzzle re-frames what success means for creative people; shifting focus away from celebrity, financial stability, the glorification of artistic poverty, and other measures of creative success. Success isn’t the money. It isn’t doing art or music as your full-time job. It isn’t legions of fans. It’s just you, trying to strike a balance.

Best of all The Puzzle is inclusive. If you’ve struggled with it, you’re one of us. It doesn’t matter what you do as your job, you’re in the same tent with all of the other creative people. Your day job isn’t a sign you’re failing as a musician. Working at a bank doesn’t revoke your artistic license. You can be a working rock star in your 20s and a real estate agent in your 40s.

Ultimately success is about finding the balance that works for you. Solving your own puzzle.

My work at Secret Knowledge is about helping creative people solve The Puzzle. Figuring out how best to do that is My Puzzle.

*In an interesting turn, many creative people move to Portland thinking that living in this place, surrounded by so many creative people, will solve The Puzzle, only to find The Puzzle lives here too !

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Secret Knowledge - Teaching Artists