Note: This post is part of the “5 Cups of Creativity” series. For previous posts in the series, click here.
One of my favorite activities to do with my son Ben is geocaching , which is a worldwide scavenger hunt requiring only the Geocaching smartphone app or a GPS device. I live in St. Peters, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. There are literally thousands of “caches” hidden around our city. Most caches consist of a small container with a log where you sign your name, and often you can take a small trinket and leave one in exchange.
Geocaching is all about the joy of finding something that is hidden. But it’s a lost cause unless you know where to find the treasure. That’s why using the Geocaching app or GPS is so critical.
While no one would attempt to go geocaching without a GPS device, many of us do take this approach when it comes to our creative lives. We want to make a difference, we want create something meaningful, we want to serve others … but we don’t really have a clear direction or the right tools that will lead us there. The result is that we sometimes feel stressed out, confused, and overcommitted.
That’s why I’ll be spending the next few months writing about the 5 Cups of Creativity, a framework that will help us get a handle on the complex, confusing, and often downright mystifying topic of creativity. In this post, we’ll dive into the first “cup” of creativity, which is Clarity. Why do I consider this the first “cup”? Because if you don’t have a sense of clarity in your creative life, you’ll only operate at a fraction of your potential.
Do You Have Creative Clarity?
Before we go any further, let’s take a little test. (I’m a college prof … tests are part of my DNA.) Here are a few questions to help you determine if you lack clarity in your life.
- If you are overcommitted and feel stressed all the time … you might not have creative clarity.
- If you can’t say no to other people … you might not have creative clarity.
- If you feel confused about your direction in life … you might not have creative clarity.
- If you feel paralyzed by too many options … you might not have creative clarity.
- If you are afraid to truly be yourself, afraid of disappointing other people, or afraid of not fitting into the mold others have put you in … you might not have creative clarity.
If you relate to any of these statements (and I do sometimes), keep reading to find out how to get more clarity in your life.
What Exactly is Creative Clarity?
I define creativity as “doing what you were born to do.” In order to be creative, you must 1) know what you were born to do—your purpose, and 2) take action toward fulfilling that purpose. When you have creative clarity, it just means that you know your purpose and what you must do to fulfill it.
Anytime we feel confused in our creative lives—or really, life in general—it’s because we are unclear on one of these two points. When you don’t know your purpose, you’re missing the “why” of life. When you don’t know what actions to take to fulfill your purpose, you’re missing the “what” and “how” of life.
So in essence, clarity is knowing where you want to go, and how to get there.
The River Banks of Clarity
I’m from Missouri, and when I was kid, I spent a lot of time canoeing with my family. When you’re in a canoe, you try to avoid the river banks (unless you’re stopping for lunch). Why? Because you can easily get hung up on gravel, tree roots, and unseen obstacles lurking just under the water.
On the other hand, the banks give direction and shape to the water. They provide boundaries that produce a current, making it possible for the canoe to travel downstream.
Just like the banks of a river, clarity gives direction, shape, and momentum to your creative life. Clarity gives you boundaries that take away options so you can truly focus on the direction you need to go. The reason we often feel stressed out, confused, and overcommitted is because we have no boundaries in our lives.
I have known many highly gifted people who don’t have any “banks” in their lives. They are confused about who they are and what they want to accomplish. As a result, they are trying to be all things to all people. But you can’t make everyone happy (nor should you try). A lack of clarity results in confusion that makes you constantly frustrated, spinning your wheels, going from one thing to the next without making much progress.
When you have creative clarity, it greatly narrows your options so you can use your time and talents in a way that give you much more joy and produces greater results.
Don’t Treat Your Creative Life Like a Fortune Cookie
Let’s be honest: it’s hard to get clarity when there are so many options and possibilities. As artists, we are driven by curiosity and sometimes find it hard focus. It’s hard to ask the tough questions and make decisions about our future. Change is hard, sometimes we’re just downright afraid of success.
Sometimes we approach life like a fortune cookie, just hoping that when we crack it open, a good fortune will fall out. But your creative life is too important to leave to chance.
Don’t let others set the agenda for your creative life. Take initiative, take responsibility, and take the reigns of your future. Over the next few posts, we’ll be looking at specific areas in our lives where we need clarity.
If you feel frustrated, overcommitted, or even paralyzed in your creative life, stay tuned! I believe these posts on Clarity (as part of the larger series on the 5 Cups of Creativity) will be a big help.
What is the hardest thing about trying to get clear about your creative direction?
Originally Published at KentSanders.net
Photo: Getty Images