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Declan Wilson

Three Important Reminders for Struggling Creatives

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Declan Wilson
Declan Wilson
 2021-05-12

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A part of me worries I’ll never amount to anything.

I know I’m not the only creative who fears this.

At best, we’ll all live long enough to see a few small wins. Then, like stars at dawn, we’ll fade away into obscurity.

We know this paradox all too well:

Creatives face rejection and ambiguity more often than success, what keeps us creating is the hope our work will amount to something.

Entrepreneurs, writers, even the bodega clerk, we all have dreams of success.

Success, the one with money and fame and acknowledgment, is rare — that’s why we feel small, unnoticed.

We meddle and tinker but nothing pans out which is even worse than failure.

Failure, at the very least, tells us we aimed for something high, we aimed for something worthwhile.

We can learn from failure.

We can build from failure.

When our work is met with obliviousness, when it’s unappreciated, unnoticed, and unacknowledged, our perceived chance of leaving a dent in the universe looks bleak.

And yet we create anyway.

We make. We try. We do.

Most of the time we toil in uncertainty. But keep going, something strange and wonderful might be right around the corner.

Lottery of Life

People who purchase lottery tickets know they are throwing away money.

They don’t expect to win. But that’s not what they’re buying tickets.

It’s the anticipation of winning they crave. It’s what keeps them coming back for more.

In a way, we’re all lottery players.

We want to feel as if we’re playing a small role in a larger game.

As long as we procure a ticket, we have a chance.

But we can’t sit around waiting for our ticket to win.

Hitting the lottery is rare, the determinants of success are out of our control.

So we change the game.

Instead of hoping for the big win, we build off of smaller ones.

Instead of wasting away resources, we invest in ourselves.

Instead of hiding, we go out and take what life throws at us.

We stay patient.

Life isn’t the lottery, it’s Monopoly.

The Dip

Seth Godin famously coined the idea of The Dip.

His premise is simple, success doesn’t happen right out of the gate. It happens after the low point, where most people quit.

Few, however, persevere and come out of The Dip to see success.

I’ve quit many times in The Dip.

For me, however, I don’t quit. Rather my passion and interest fade away, like extinguishing a candle by removing all the oxygen.

Eventually, the flame goes out.

Who we were at the beginning of a new business venture or a new book project or a new painting is not the same person we are today.

Creative projects can span years of our life and what we envisioned at the beginning is not what we want now.

5 years ago, all I wanted was to leave my full-time job and become a famous entrepreneur.

Today, I want to sit quietly at my desk and type a few words for people to read.

If you’re in The Dip, make a decision. Are you going to quit and move on? Or are you going to stick with it?

Don’t let your flame slowly burn out. Cut the wick or let it guide you forward.

Waiting to Pop

I want to be one of those people who say success doesn’t matter but rather it’s the journey that counts.

Of course success matters.

Nobody paints a picture only to bury it in the ground.

We want to be noticed. We want to be appreciated. We want our work to pop.

But we can’t sit around waiting to pop. We have to show up and put in the effort.

At a low point in my life, I barely managed to make anything.

I couldn’t muster enough energy to create something new.

Then one day, I decided I wanted to change.

Now I wake up at 6:30, pour myself a strong cup of coffee, and sit down to write.

I wake up excited and say to myself:

“This one might be it. This one might pop. This one might change my life.”

All too often “this one” amounts to little more than a few claps and comments. But the anticipation keeps me going.

If you want to change your life, change your life.

Don’t wait to pop.

Summary

My message is simple: Keep going. Something strange and wonderful might happen.

Quit when you need to.

See where your curiosity takes you.

But whatever you do, don’t give up hope.

Keep going.