Here’s something they don’t tell you: there’s enormous guilt in trying to live creatively.

Maybe it’s because we’re continuously told all artists will starve; therefore, if we aren’t sacrificing our mental health and bank accounts on the altar of creativity, we aren’t real artists. We start to make lists: “But look at ________ and _________ and that other guy. They are successful and rich and were able to quit their day jobs.” And then we make other lists, “But I guess we forgot about Mozart/William Blake/Poe/Sammy Davis Jr.”

So we try to bolster ourselves with reading inspiring works on living artistically. And then we can start to really believe that if we aren’t being our “best selves” or “living true creative lives”, then we are just being oxygen thieves. Then, we start to feel guilty because we have a day job, and we aren’t dedicating ourselves to our craft like (that very dangerous) Everybody Else. We can self-flagellate if we aren’t NaNoWriMo-ing or doing daily practice or taking semi-annual artist retreats or being “recognised.” But then we can also feel guilty if we do make/take time to do those things, because then we’re not focusing on other, more important Life things.

And round and round we go on the Guilt and Pressure Train.

But what does it mean to live creatively? Here’s the rub: we all have different versions of what that means. So we can’t compare ourselves to William or Wolfgang, because their creative living is not our creative living. One person might have to move to the Andes and take up ayahuasca and beading skirts. Another might start a painting class and drop out half way. Another might finally do that PhD in Creative Writing.

Really, though, all we can try to do is hop off at the right station for our own specific destination. And if we happen to get distracted and miss our stop, we need to remember not to beat ourselves up about it, because that stop will come around again.