Recently, I spent a weekend dreaming, creating, and talking, and it was very much needed. Most of it may never be seen, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. You need to take time to create just for you, before giving yourself to others. Self-care isn’t just a buzzword; it’s essential to the creative life.
The important thing is that I, for once, didn’t push the scary thoughts away and instead focused on where they were leading me and what the mix of emotions meant.
As a Type A creative who always feels like I could be doing better, it’s difficult to let yourself embrace the unknown.
One of the most helpful acts I did that weekend was answer the questions at the end of the Artisan Soul. I was tempted to ignore them and put the book back on the bookshelf until I wanted to read it again, but forced myself to do the messy work it entailed.
I’m not going to share all the questions here, because one, you should buy the book and dive into all of it, and two, it’s not my work to share.
But a number of them revolved around finding your voice, changing your perspective to realize that we’re called out by God for a life of intention and purpose, and discovering the type of world you want to create.
One of the best parts of the list is this: make a commitment to either stop doing it or do it to the best of your ability. In the busyness of life, it’s so tempting to rush through our work and not dedicate the time to properly complete every task we’re given.
Of course, there’s a fine line between this and never starting or finishing anything because we’re too focused on perfection. Instead of searching for perfection, complete every task with the fervor needed to complete it well, and strive for progress. Then release it into the world because you’re a strong, brilliant creative who has the ability to create something amazing while ignoring the desire for impossible perfection.
While crafting my own responses to these questions, I began seeing this as a manifesto reflecting my creative life and what I want to accomplish throughout my career.
While manifesto may seem like too strong of a word for this, I’m going with it. It’s not just what you see the bad guys writing in a season of 24. Your personal manifesto aligns your beliefs with action and gives you a foundation for your work. It’s your entire being brought into a concise series of statements.
This isn’t always an easy exercise. Thinking of what you want to do can be easy, but getting it on paper and finding a way to bring it into your creative life is the difficult part.
What Sets Your Soul on Fire?
One of my favorite quotes is by Jennifer Lee, the director of Frozen (among other movies). She’s quoted as saying, “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
When writing your personal manifesto, consider the parts of your life that set your soul on fire. This is in both your career and personal life. Each informs the other, and can help you find what you’re meant to do in a time of questioning and transition.
In order to create your personal manifesto that will guide your creative ways, answer these questions.
I encourage you to not make this a quick exercise, either. Take the time to sit in these questions and feel the emotions that come, whether it’s because you can’t find the way to what you want to do or if you know what you need to do but aren’t sure if you can do it.
Whatever it is, sit in it. Don’t push the feelings down. Channel your inner Brene Brown and go into the wilderness to discover who you are and what you were created to do.
What Makes You Feel Alive?
This is both inside and outside your work. We all have to do things we don’t love and that’s always going to be a part of life (and a character-shaper) but make sure to focus on the parts of life that make you feel alive.
Whether it’s engaging with clients, writing about certain topics, designing, photography… write it down and be prepared to make steps in the right direction.
What Tasks Do You Put Off? Which Do You Tackle First?
Going back to how we all have things we don’t enjoy. The goal is to focus on what we enjoy, but at times it can be hard to figure that out. To help you find the answer to this, consider the tasks you put off because you don’t enjoy them. Those are what likely don’t fuel you.
Then, focus on what you tackle first every day. The tasks you love so much that you can’t help but always focus on them. This is what provides insight into how you operate and what could help create a strong future.
Once you find what you enjoy, it’s time to dig deeper, because these questions won’t necessarily provide obvious answers.
Rather, you can gain insight from looking at what you do and don’t enjoy. If you enjoy working with customers, it could mean you enjoy communicating and problem-solving. If you love getting lost in the design process, it could mean you love being creative, regardless of what the medium may be.
Beyond Roles or Skills, What Do You Want to Be Known For?
Now we’re going even deeper. What is it that you want to be known for, beyond actual roles or skills? This is one of those questions that may be hard to answer, but once you do it’s like a lightbulb going off. Knowing this informs the career and personal choices you make, the types of jobs you create, and the projects you take on.
Once I determined that I wanted to be known as a “connector”, it was easy to figure out how I could help others. I want to connect like-minded creatives, wherever and however that might be. My goal became building resources, like this podcast, that helps creatives live their most creative, fulfilled, and challenged selves.
This answer may not come right away. If it doesn’t, take time regularly to assess how you work, what you enjoy, and what you want to accomplish throughout your life. It’ll happen. We just need to do the work to get us there. It’s all a part of the process.
What Are the Adjectives That Describe You?
The time I spent in radio was one of the most informative periods of my life so far. One of the lessons we were taught was to determine the 20% you want to come across during your show and to amplify it. You want to be real, but in the limited time on-air talent gets, you want to make sure you’re able to be cohesive. Even though I spent very little time actually on air (it probably amounts to less than 10 minutes, I was always behind the scenes), this 20% rule has informed my career as I look to how I was to be perceived.
Yes, this can be taken too far and it can become a way out rather than a way through, but when done right it can help center you on what really matters: how you’re going to help others through your gifts and talents.
In order to find your 20%, consider 3–5 adjectives that describe you. This could be anything, and be honest. We can’t move forward if we don’t address where we’re currently at.
Then keep that list — you’ll need it.
What Are Adjectives You Want to Describe You?
Next, we’re going to look at the future. What are the 3–5 adjectives you want to describe you? Consider how you want to be known, and draw from that. It could be words that already describe you, but this is meant to be a type of goal-setting. If you were able to determine how you want to be known, draw from that.
Once you have your adjectives, look at these two lists like a Venn diagram. Where is there overlap, and where could you improve? Because you were (hopefully) honest about where you are, you now have the foundation for some goals.
Take the words you need to improve upon and consider what you need to do to become someone that inhabits each adjective. If you want to become braver, then consider what actions you need to take, like starting a new side gig, applying for that job you don’t think you’re qualified for, or going out on your own. If you want to become more confident in your abilities, put yourself in situations where you can use your skills. (This also relates to bravery, because consistent bravery will increase your confidence.)
By working through this in everyday life, from work to relationships to other life experiences, you can grow into the person you want to become. It’s definitely not always going to be smooth, but, as I’ve said many times, it will always be worth it.
These five questions will help you craft your manifesto. To review, they’re:
- What tasks and topics make you feel alive?
- What tasks do you put off? Which do you tackle first?
- Beyond actual roles or skills, what do you want to be known for?
- What are 3 to 5 adjectives that describe you?
- What are 3 to 5 adjectives you want to describe you?
Write your manifesto, and place it where you’ll see it frequently. Reread it monthly as a type of monthly review so you can track your progress. As humans we’re always evolving, so if at some point you sense yourself heading in a different direction, repeat the process. Don’t feel locked into your manifesto they way it is right now. It’s a living document that is open to change.
As a caveat, though: if you want to change it because it scares you or it seems too difficult or if you’re feeling stuck, don’t. These are the symptoms of challenging growth, and it’s a good thing. Embrace the feelings, take time to acknowledge that they’re valid, then find your way through.
This week, I encourage you to take the time to realign who you are, what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. It makes all the difference.
This isn’t easy work. It’s going to be painful at times, and there’s definitely going to be some questioning. But that’s why it’s so valuable. When we’re aligned with our core beliefs and our goals, we’re better able to serve ourselves and those around us.
The hard parts of life are the preparation, so why would we skip out?