My Epic Struggle with Creativity (and How I Finally Ended It)
Are any of you out there struggling with creativity? Is it not fun anymore? Maybe even frustrating as hell? Does it leave you wondering, “Maybe I was never meant to do this shit in the first place”?
Trust me, you’re not alone.
Here’s something most people don’t know about me: even though I’m a professional filmmaker, I’ve been struggling with creativity all my life.
Maybe “struggle” isn’t the right word. It’s been more like a “vicious, hair-pulling, bloody battle” with creativity.
But I’ve finally gotten past it. Thank the lord, finally. And just like my struggle with sticking to a workout routine, it wasn’t anything wrong with me. It was just a simple mindset change.
To explain, I’m gonna have to dive into my past real quick (cue flashback music):
When I first got into filmmaking, it started off being purely, 100% fun. It was thrilling, exciting, and energizing. I got so into it that I couldn’t sleep. Hours flew by like they were seconds.
I fell head over heels in love with the pure joy of creation.
But as I made more videos and got better and better at it, something strange happened. Something switched inside of me.
Suddenly, filmmaking stopped being this fun, joyful thing. It started stressing me out.
Everything I made just wasn’t good enough. I felt so much pressure. I felt like I was constantly running out of time. I felt frustrated cause I wanted my work to be “up there”, but it was always “down here”.
I couldn’t even enjoy awesome movies because it made me jealous. Every minute that I didn’t spend working on film, I felt guilty. Like I was falling behind in some invisible race.
But worse then all the above, I began to doubt myself. I convinced myself that I was never meant to be a creative in the first place. That I was just a big sham.
For the past 8 years, every short film I made was just another opportunity to get stressed out, hate my work, hate myself, and doubt my entire purpose in life.
It was #@!%king awful. I wouldn’t wish this hell on my worst enemy.
My relationship with filmmaking had started off so beautifully, but somehow it turned completely destructive and abusive. WTF?
I did everything I could to fix it, but nothing helped.
I read every book on creativity out there. I tried stream-of-consciousness exercises. I got into meditation.
I tried to brute-force my way through it by just working harder. By spending hours and hours holed up, forcing my creativity to work. Forcing myself to enjoy the creative process again (Guess what? It didn’t work).
After years of struggling with this, I was depressed, beaten down, and utterly exhausted. So I finally threw in the towel.
In 2010, I took an indefinite hiatus from personal filmmaking. I traveled the world. Explored new hobbies. Had breathtaking new experiences. It was the most amazing year of my life.
But something was missing. I still had the urge to create.
I thought maybe my problem was just with filmmaking so I decided to try something completely different: making music.
At first, it was just like falling in love with filmmaking all over again: thrilling, fun, hours feeling like seconds.
But then the unthinkable happened. This new relationship with music followed the exact same pattern as filmmaking. Something switched in me. And fun turned into misery.
WHAT THE *%#!ING HELL?!? Now I knew something was seriously f*cked up. I didn’t just have a problem with filmmaking. I had a problem with CREATIVITY in general.
Utterly freaked out and questioning everything I thought I knew about myself, I took a hiatus from music too.
I just stopped. Ceased all creative activity. And spent the past month just reading, thinking, and reflecting.
And then I finally realized something. Something freaking BIG.
I realized something about myself that I didn’t want to admit, but it was the truth:
I had stopped making films for the pure joy of creation, and instead, started making them to become famous. To become “successful”. To become someone important.
Whoa. Really? Me??
This ran contrary to everything I believed in (chasing status = shitty life goal). It disgusted me. But it was the brutal, honest truth and I just never admitted it to myself.
And it explained everything. Like why filmmaking suddenly switched on me.
It’s cause at some point, I got it in my head, “Hey, you know what? You’re getting pretty good at this. Maybe you could become the next Spielberg!” And that was the beginning of the end.
From that point on, every film I made became a career move.
That’s why I constantly felt stressed out and under pressure. Why other movies became competition instead of inspiration. Why I always felt like I was running out of time.
It stopped being fun because I was now doing it for the wrong reasons.
HOLY F#*@ING SHIT! When I realized this, everything changed. The past 8 years of creative confusion suddenly became crystal clear.
There wasn’t anything wrong with me. My creativity wasn’t broken. I wasn’t a sham.
I just got my motivations mixed up. I stopped creating for the pure joy of it and started creating to win the approval of others.
And as soon as I admitted this to myself…I was finally able to let go of it.
I realized how stupid it was. How counter-productive it was to my creativity. My happiness. And yes, even my sanity.
And once I realized it…*poof*…just like that, it was gone. Like a 10 ton boulder had finally been lifted off me.
That was 2 weeks ago, and since then, my relationship with creativity has pulled a complete 180.
I’m no longer creating because I need to “make it”. Or cause I want to impress other people. I’m creating because it’s f*cking fun as hell.
If you’re struggling with the same creative problems I had, take a moment to ask yourself some questions:
Why are you really creating? Be brutally honest with yourself. Are you doing it for you? Or for others?
Do you remember why you got into creativity in the first place? Maybe it was the thrill of picking up your first paintbrush. Or the excitement of listening back to your first song.
Whatever it was…is that the reason you’re still creating now? And if not…shouldn’t it be?
I finally remember the entire reason I got into creativity in the first place: for the pure joy of creation. Nothing else.
And that’ll be the only motivation behind my creativity from now on.
And who knows? Maybe it’ll lead me to fame and “greatness” after all. Or to making a masterpiece that changes the world. Or not. Either way, I don’t really care.
All I know is that after 8 years of confusion, I’ve finally fixed my relationship with creativity. And all I had to do was realize one thing:
Creativity should never be a means to an end. It should be the end, in and of itself.
Wow. I feel like I’ve just closed a confusing, painful chapter in my life. Seriously, I can’t express how hard this whole damn thing was. It felt good to finally put this all out there. And behind me. Thanks for reading along.
If you know someone who’s going through a similar struggle with creativity, please help me share this post and get it out there. Jesus, I wish I could’ve read something like this years ago. It would’ve saved me so much grief.
And if you’re that someone who’s struggling with this right now, please contact me. Leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail right now – don’t even think about it! I know how shitty it was to try and deal with this alone. Don’t be stupid like me.
Thanks to Natalie for helping me create the photo above. We definitely had a blast making it (how’s that for the pure joy of creation, huh?)
And in case you were wondering, right now I’m exploring my creativity through music, photography, and writing. I’m still on that filmmaking hiatus (over a year and a half now) but I’m not gonna lie. I’m starting to get that itch again. I might be coming back soon…I’ll keep you updated….