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  • Writer's pictureKralingen

Storytelling, Creative Anxiety, and the Two Paths to Success

If you want to be successful in life, there are basically two paths you can follow. One is the ambitious path where you push yourself: 'Work Hard, Play Hard'. The other is the introverted path where you pull success towards you: 'Be Like Water', to quote Bruce Lee. Both require hard work to reach. Yet only the latter brings you the kind of peace that heals and prevents depression and burnout, and alleviates creative anxieties. Let's explore.

Most people that fall into a (creative) 'dark night of the soul' are intelligent and successful. Often they have everything their heart desires in career, friends and family life. They pushed themselves hard to get there. And exactly that pushing that has given them so much success, is now working against them. I'm no exception and I'm sure most of you have worked hard to achieve your goals as well. It's what we consider normal and although it is changing, this is still the current societal paradigm. I'm not saying that working hard is bad. In fact, no one has ever achieved success without tons of hard work. But both you and I are on these pages for a reason: we're trying to figure out how to stay as healthy as possible creatively and how to preferably not to burn out making our art. We need to understand it is not only our lifestyle that lands us in bad places. It's also not the pushing itself. It's the expectations that come with it.

We land in creative and artistic hot water when either internal expectations are too high (you push yourself too hard) or external pressure is too high (you get pushed by others or - traumatic - circumstances). This creates the stress that dis-balances the hormones and makes your body pull the handbrake.

In other words, it's not your busy life per sé that causes creative anxieties. It's the heightened expectations. You have to accept that you can't control everything. Ultimately it is not your success that counts but your ability to handle yourself when you haven't reach it out... and maybe consider that you've put the bar a little too high. Remember that some of the greatest artistic achievements did come from someone pushing real, real hard. But only when you have a calm mind during this push and manage to relax into the fray. And most creative successes are actually not the result of huge 'pushes' but of the Kaizen method: a thousand tiny steps.

The attitude 'work hard. play hard' can make us strong, but also inflexible and rigid. Surrendering to an 'eb-and-flow' of energies, and deciding not to push yourself too hard, will in most cases be much more beneficial. You don't have to 'crunch' yourself to become successful, borrowing a term from the gaming industry (with its many, many burnout cases...).

I have found that following the flow, being like 'water' in your acceptance of what life throws at you, ultimately makes you much more successful in the long run. Now mind you... going with the flow does not mean inaction or a decrease in toughness. If anything, it's the opposite. It stands for a heightened awareness and connection with your surroundings that make taking action a much easier and effective thing to do. It literally feels like Kung Fu: the mastery of one's self. I am aware that many of you reading this are pumped up, ready to go and become a fantastic artist. You may probably still resist the 'flow' and choose the 'push', which is all right. 'Work hard, play hard' is a fun attitude for a time when you feel you should be brash. There is nothing wrong with it and I know I loved being in that state! Yet, the state of flow is fantastic. And my friends, family, colleagues, career... hell even my bank account agrees wholeheartedly. Don't resist the flow. Try to anticipate it instead. Be like water if you truly want to become one with the universal creative energy. Love, as always,


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