Have you ever felt like giving up on your creativity? Are you having a crisis of confidence? Kali Anthony talks about how the Japanese concept of Ikigai, or finding your purpose, might be the inspiration you need to keep going.
If you are any sort of creative person, an existential crisis is only a bad day away. Read some awesome writing, and you want to throw your computer into the ocean. Hear of someone doing better (notionally) than you, and you want to curl into a ball of despair and never write again.
It happens to all to us. The belief that there is no point to what we are writing/creating and that it would be better time management, and a path to an easier life, if we simply gave up.
For me, it started way back in my twenties. You see, (this may come as a wild surprise to my family and friends because I hide it well) I’m an all or nothing type of person. A person of obsessions, grand designs. Extremes, even. There is often little balance to my life (so I’ve been told) and it’s either crazy or… CRAZY.
Back in the day when I didn’t have a family and only myself to rely on, I’d create to my heart’s content. Painting for hours on end—forgoing food. Writing poetry, and filling books with it. Listening to the characters in my head who told their stories, fighting as to who would get written first. I didn’t have a care in the world, and had all the time to indulge myself.
Till one fine day I realised that writing and painting was ALL I wanted to do. I didn’t want to work in my dreary, tough, and sometimes soulless day-job. If I could have given it up then and there, I would have.
There was only one small flaw to this plan…
Whilst I can be an artist at heart, deep down I’m also a practical kind of gal. I like to pay my bills, and socialise, and eat. Financial security is deeply important to me. Cue my first existential crisis.
If I couldn’t be a creative full time, I couldn’t create at all because it wouldn’t earn me money—so I thought—and that made me too sad. So I stopped
For twenty years!
I silenced the voices that whispered about poetry and crazy stories. I quelled the desire to pick up a paintbrush. I was earning money. I was a practical woman on the corporate trajectory. It was great… ish.
It didn’t feed my soul.
My problem was that this life, lacking all creativity, wasn’t fulfilling. Okay, it wasn’t all sackcloth and ashes. I still had fun and I worked hard, but my day-job was just that, a job. It’s only when I recognised that my career wasn’t really doing it for me, i.e. it was satisfying my intellectual brain, but not my creative one, that I had an epiphany.
Maybe I could work and be creative.
So I started writing again. Poetry at first, then I picked up what I began as a fifteen year old on my mother’s Remington typewriter. A novel.
It was exhilarating. It was fulfilling. I made time for my writing every day.
Then time ran out.
My second existential crisis occurred due to a collision of worlds. A new, exceptionally busy job. Working four days a week rather than three. An extremely sick parent. One of my children having trouble at school. It all became a bit much. Something had to give, and for a brief period of time I thought that give, had to be my writing.
Why spend my time writing, when I had so little time to spend?
It was around then that I discovered the Japanese concept of Ikigai.
The word is roughly translated to English as “the reason you get up in the morning” or “the thing that you live for”. At its heart is all about finding your sense of purpose. According to studies, people who have a sense of purpose are healthier, more motivated and more resilient. Plus, they live longer—want to be a centenarian?—and are protected from burn out. Dare I say it, they feel happier with life?
That sounded like a win all round.
I wondered if the concept of Ikigai could help me decide whether to continue with my writing, or whether it would lead me to give it away for good.
The concept asks you to consider a few questions. The answers to those questions gives you the intersection of your passion, your mission, your vocation and your profession and ultimately leads you to your purpose, or reason for being.
To work out your Ikigai, you need to think about your passion/s. It might be your day job. I have a friend who is an architect and her job is her passion. No doubt about it. She loves designing beautiful buildings and spaces. That being said, a person’s passions tend not to be about money or “stuff”, but about what fulfills them. Whilst I liked being financially secure, money certainly didn’t drive me. It was a means to an end.
When coming to my decision as to whether or not to give the writing game away, I asked myself the following questions:
What do you love?
That was easy. Aside from my family, I loved writing.
When I wrote, I was immersed in the ‘flow.’ That bliss where time didn’t matter and lost all meaning.
I also loved making people happy, and feeling better about themselves and life.
What are you good at?
I was good at my day-job, and it involved writing although in a professional capacity. I enjoyed telling my client's story. But as I said earlier, in the main I didn’t find it wildly fulfilling.
Taking it further, my beta readers told me I was good at creative writing. Some days I even believed them. So the answer was clear in the end.
I was good at writing.
What does the world need?
The world needs a lot of things. Life is messy and a drudge, or struggle, a lot of the time. Life and adult-ing is hard.
But as far as I was concerned, the world needed more happy endings. In my opinion, too many happy endings are never enough.
What can you get paid for?
The answer to this was pretty easy. I got paid for writing in my work. Perhaps one day I might get paid for creative writing?
Determining what your purpose is requires you to consider what gets you up in the morning. What makes you feel blissful. What you’d like to do on a weekend if you had nothing else on.
At the end of the process I realised what made me happy, what got me out of bed at 4.30 in the morning, and what transformed me from being a night owl to an early bird, was my writing. Always writing. The putting together of words that could create beautiful pictures and more importantly, feelings.
My day-job paid the bills. My family made my heart happy. But my purpose or fulfillment came from writing.
Through my writing, I felt whole.
I recognised my issue was believing I didn’t have any time, given other pressures in my life. However, discovering that writing was part of my purpose meant I didn’t begrudge the time I gave to it. I realised this time was important to me as an individual.
In recognising writing as my purpose, the realisation came that it wasn’t always enjoyable, but it didn’t have to be. However, having understood what got me out of bed each day also gave me resilience to keep going. It wasn’t a choice, it was something I had to do for my sense of well-being, which made the hard days worth it.
So if you’re having a crisis of confidence, why not consider your purpose? If you realize it’s to write, it might keep you keeping on when the going gets tough.
And if nothing else, it’ll keep those pesky characters quiet!
Kali is a writer of happy endings and a failed domestic goddess. She will work for coffee, wine and chocolate! For more information and to find out what she's doing, you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Have you ever heard of the concept of Ikigai? Ever thought about your purpose for being? Let us know your thoughts here or on social media using the hashtag #FindingPurpose.