Welcome to the YouTopian Journey. Each week I will be sharing unique wisdom as well as a more in-depth overview of the artwork that is featured on the Instagram @youtopianjourney. This is week we discuss the question why create?
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THE ODDS ARE AGAINST YOU
“The industrial economy laid claim to our bodies. The knowledge economy laid claim to our minds. Now the creative economy is laying claim to our souls. Like the farmer with the proverbial pig, we use everything except the squeal. The squeal is when we realize what’s happening to us.”-William Deresiewicz, The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech
The act of creation is the most powerful act of an individual. Empires have been launched from this act. Companies founded. Barriers and limits broken. And the best part? We all possess this power. It is within us, an inner yearning to create. A call to answer. Some talent to share with the world. Some skill that is uniquely our own, where we can transform a thought into an action that not only benefits ourselves, but society at large.
Surely, we can do something with this urge. Certainly, there must be a way to transform thought to action and profit from this. We must be able to be rewarded from our mind, talents, and unique vision.
Yes, but not in the way that you think.
One of the major mistakes that I see in the creative world is the need to create something solely for the purpose of monetization. Not some long-term monetization that comes from hard work, setbacks, luck and growth, but instant monetization. The various platforms available allow us to instantly share our creations to the world.
There is no need to incubate great ideas anymore.
There is no need to practice a craft.
There is no reason to face rejection and setbacks.
There is no desire to seek out the wise and learn from them.
There is only the desire for fast money and even faster notoriety.
Thus, countless people have started newsletters, launched channels, written scripts, and started companies for the sole purpose of making a quick buck.
And why not?
This is the age of the creator economy! We can start anything from the comfort of our own home and quickly make a living from our work.
Living a laptop lifestyle from some exotic location.
Being your own boss.
Making more money than you can imagine from doing what you love.
Having an army of fans support your work for a price that you set.
If you simply build it, they will come, and you will be immediately rich and successful.
Yet research shows that this isn’t the case. The odds are not in the favor of the creators. In fact, the odds are against them.
As a serial entrepreneur (I.E. serial failure), I can tell you firsthand that being a founder is extremely difficult and that failure is much more common than success. According to Small Business Trends, only 2 in 5 startups are profitable, and other startups will either break even (1 in 3) or continue to lose money (1 in 3). On average, 90% of startups fail. I personally think it is closer to 99%.
Some other dire facts:
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 97.5% of YouTubers don't make enough to reach the U.S. poverty line, $12,140.
The average self-published author will sell only 250 books or less, with revenue totaling less than $500.
Spotify pays out an average $0.003 per stream, which means for every thousand streams, you can expect $3-$5.
I can continue on with screenwriting (which I also have experience with), art, podcasts, etc., but you should understand the following:
Being a creator is great if you are in the 1% that actually makes it. Otherwise, it is a rather terrible position to be in.
And we are all in the 99%. The same sinking ship on the endless ocean of creativity.
“We are a doomed race, chained to a sinking ship, as the whole thing is a bad joke, let us, at any rate, do our part; mitigate the sufferings of our fellow-prisoners.”-Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
But don’t worry! The large tech companies that profit from creators are understanding their plight. They have launched internal initiatives with key executives to help creators profit more from their work and give them even more power. Investors and venture capitalists are writing smaller checks for pre-seed capital to give founders a true shot at success. Hollywood has started to become even more inclusive and open the doors so that more bright minds can enter the studio system and create entertaining and meaningful content. Blogs are exploring ways to share even more advertising revenue with creatives. Amazon is looking into promoting more independent writers and showcasing their work via free promotions, giving them a chance to have a piece of the creator pie.
Absolutely not. The only thing the big companies care about is whether or not they can profit from you. And with the creator economy in full swing, the world will be even more crowded, competitive, and harder for creators to make a living.
Yet this should not stop creators from the act of creation. In fact, it should only embolden them.
Why? Why should one even attempt to create knowing that their chance of success is so low? What is the point where everyone is a brand, and every person is being transformed into a content factory?
Because great creations provide something far more intrinsically valuable than financial gain. They change the creator in ways that they cannot begin to fathom. One creative endeavor leads to another, and previously unseen paths and opportunities begin to become known.
They even have a possibility to impact and change society!
But only if the individual takes action in spite of the challenges. Only if the desire to create is met, regardless of the obstacles. Only if one has the courage!
“Whereas moral courage is the righting of wrongs, creative courage, in contrast, is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built.”-Rollo May, The Courage to Create
True creators create because they are consumed by an idea, not the thirst for immediate financial gain. This idea is something that cannot be contained with the mind. It must be crafted and released into the world. This is the soul of the creator, one that drives them to go against the grain, take action, and damn the opinion of what the public may think.
"If you are possessed by an idea, you find it expressed everywhere, you even smell it."-Thomas Mann
Now is the time.
The time to dare. To experiment. To tinker away. This is a time to strive. To test yourself. To spend hours working away with a limited chance of rewarding profit, but still having the discipline to continue on. To see if you really have what it takes in you to be a true creator. You cannot be bothered with the metrics. You cannot worry about the subscriber count or the views or the comments. You must be laser focused on your task, putting forth your best effort each and every time.
Do not focus on the outcome but rather the creative act!
“If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin. Even though the result may gladden the whole world, that cannot help the hero; for he knows the result only when the whole thing is over, and that is not how he became a hero, but by virtue of the fact that he began.”-Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
The road will not be easy. There won’t even be a road. It will be up to you to forge it and forging your own path is difficult. This is in itself an act of creation, the act of creating your own life and destination.
This act of creation is downright dangerous. It is long and lonely. It separates you from society, making you a target among your peers. It takes you into the deep swamplands of your soul and into the inner labyrinth of confusion and despair. It opens up doors to many inner destructors, which includes anxiety and doubt, ever present companions on your journey.
And we must contend with these feelings and companions as we continue to create. Eventually, this creative process will yield something much more fruitful than our creations. It provides us the ultimate act of creation.
The ability to create our future and ourselves. To mold ourselves in a manner that we see fit, not according to what society is preaching. To define ourselves through our creative acts.
“When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his sinews and bones to hard work, expose his body to hunger, put him to poverty, place obstacles in the paths of his deeds, so as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature, and improve wherever he is incompetent. ”-Meng Tzu
CREATION IS A HUMAN NEED
“Man must create his own essence: it is in throwing himself into the world, suffering there, struggling there, that he gradually defines himself. And the definition always remains open ended.”-Jean-Paul Sartre
Creation is a genuine human need.
And this need must be fulfilled!
“I’ve had great ambitions and boundless dreams, but so has the delivery boy or the seamstress, because everyone has dreams. What distinguishes certain of us is our capacity for fulfilling them, or our destiny that they be fulfilled.”-Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
We all possess this need to create and we all have an individual responsibility to fulfill it. This need transcends barriers and boundaries. When one looks at world history, we can see that the history of our species is a history of creation. From cave paintings in Lascaux, France, that date back 17,000 years to the latest Netflix film, it is in our DNA to create. The inability to fulfill this need results in sick souls, especially as we must create our lives and our futures.
However, the multitude dulls this need, either out of fear or in the face of difficulties. They silence this need with shopping or social media. They give in to their doubts and fears. They agree with their peers and their so called “expertise”. As a result, many don’t seek to create. Instead, they seek to conform and consume. This is not a superior position by any means.
But the dreamers among us? The true creators?
The pilgrims of purpose.
The seekers of significance.
The makers of meaning.
The explorers of existence.
They know that the need to create is just as vital as the need to breathe. This need for creation is enough to keep them motivated during the dark times.
And there will be dark times.
There will be times of doubt and lethargy.
There will be setbacks and doors slamming shut.
There will be the dangers of poverty and failure.
There will be lost opportunities and broken hearts.
There will be delays.
And there will be failures.
Oh yes, many failures. Concepts will fail. Companies will fail. People will fail. Relationships will fail. Ideas will fail. Nothing is promised nor guaranteed. The concept of failure is enough to deter most people from even beginning.
Yet failure is a part of life and is perhaps one of the greatest learning experiences we can have.
“There is nothing that teaches you more than regrouping after failure and moving on. Yet most people are stricken with fear. They fear failure so much that they fail. They are too conditioned, too used to being told what to do. It begins with the family, runs through school and goes into the business world.”-Charles Bukowski, The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship
If creation is such a big part of us but remains so difficult, why even bother? Why go through the pain and the suffering of it all?
Because with creation also comes meaning and joy and persistence. There is genuine human achievement in the face of overwhelming difficulties. And one can exist as both the starving artist as well as the self-made individual, provided they can forge their own path and keep going on the road of their own creation.
“I have had dreams and I have had nightmares, but I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams.”-Jonas Salk
CREATION GIVES US MEANING
“Why are you looking around for help? Do you believe that help will come from outside? What is to come is created in you and from you. Hence look into yourself. Do not compare, do not measure. No other way is like yours. All other ways deceive and tempt you. You must fulfil the way that is in you.” -Carl Jung, The Red Book
Creation is something that is uniquely our own. The vision in your mind appears to you and you alone. No two people are alike, and no two imaginations are ever in sync. This fact makes you a uniquely powerful force, should you want to unleash this creativity, which I truly believe you should.
Because creativity provides a benefit that many don’t even understand, something far more powerful and useful than a financial benefit.
And meaning, true meaning, is difficult to come by. It gives the individual the ability to weather any storm, no matter how harsh. It provides a source of focus and determination that few things, if any, can ever match. This meaning can only be described as magnificent!
Magnificent meaning that can give the individual the power to push past obstacles and challenges. Magnificent meaning that can elevate a person among the pettiness and negativity of the crowd. Magnificent meaning that can put you into a league of your own, among the stars, where you truly belong.
And we need this meaning now more than ever. We need something to keep us focused, some task that gives us purpose, some great challenge that awakens the creative genius inside all of us.
“There is no meaning to life except the meaning man gives his life by the unfolding of his powers.”-Erich Fromm, Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics
The unfolding of these creative powers is in itself a benefit that few realize. When you are focused on the act of creation, life begins to change. Distractions that would hold your attention previously now become nothing. Obstacles that would stop you in your tracks are transformed into steppingstones. Walls that would turn you away are now challenges that can be surmounted.
All because of this meaning. All because of your own unique creations. Creators are masters of meaning. They accept the impossibilities before them and press ahead. They attack silence until it becomes music. They assault the blank page until thousands of words are added. They hammer away at a concept, knowing that each blow they land brings them closer to the vision that they see in their mind. They transform imagination into reality, one step at a time.
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”-Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.
Our challenges and obstacles define us. Our creative powers grow or shirk in the face of such challenges and obstacles. Due to these powers, creators are looked upon as superhuman by others. But the creative individual knows the truth. They know the time, hard work, and sacrifice that is needed to become who they are meant to be. The countless rejections. The limited likes and shares. The months, even years, of being unknown. They know better than anyone the hardship that they must go through. And they know the rewarding feeling that comes with the territory and makes it all worthwhile.
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”-Pablo Picasso
“Become what you are.”-Pindar
Now is not the perfect time to create because of the interconnectivity of the world or the proliferation of technology that makes everything much simpler for us. There are a variety of articles and influencers already preaching that message.
Instead, we must create now because time is fleeting, and time is a creator’s greatest asset. Whether you are transforming thoughts into words on a screen, drawing the images in your mind on a canvas, or creating the five-year plan for your startup, this all requires focus and time.
“Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard.”-Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science
The longer one delays, waiting for the perfect moment to begin and the circumstances to align, the greater the danger. Ideas can become obsolete. Inspiration may never strike. Motivation may never arrive to push you forward. Your creations may become extinct before they have a chance to even be born.
We all need this time before it is devoured by distraction. Before is is gone forever. Before the sands of the hourglass run out. Understand that the moment you begin your creative work is the moment that you take back control of your time (and in some cases, your life). You are able to utilize your time and spend it far more wisely than before. Rather than binging shows, responding to a myriad of notifications, engaging in drama, and wasting away your most precious resource, you instead put the time to use.
The hours are still spent but being spent is not the same as being wasted. The time is not deposited into an endless abyss, but into your creations. And utilizing this time to create, experiment, and improve your creations is the best possible use of your time.
Use your time wisely!
Start this very minute.
Strive to stop delaying what it is that you wish to create and simply begin!
“Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say...for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves.”-Alan Watts
CREATION IS IN ITSELF A REWARD
“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”-Kurt Vonnegut
The act of creating has a very powerful effect. The creative knows this. They realize the many joys that come along with the creative process and these joys burn away the doubts of darkness. They burn away any shame that may result from failures.
Because failure is a shameful thing.
We live in a society where the most shameful and cringe inducing behavior is widely shared and celebrated on social media but failure at something meaningful is derided and shamed.
Shamed for what?
For taking a chance and testing a hypothesis? For having the courage to stand out? For having the fortitude to take not only criticism, but the deafening silence that exists where your praise and compliments should be?
You cannot fall into this trap.
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."-Samuel Beckett
Creators are the warriors of the mind. They have the power to sit down and work at something. The multitude do not understand how difficult this is. Yet this difficulty is also the most rewarding aspect of the process, throwing yourself into something that you know very little about, learning it, practicing, facing rejection, diving back into the work, and pressing on. This process continues on until you end up at a destination that you never thought possible.
Because creation establishes new relationships. It brings you into contact with super fans and supporters, complete strangers who begin to see the light shining within you. Suddenly your work is being shared on their social networks. Introductions are being made. Doors are opened.
Those strangers even have the potential to become friends and advocates for you and your talent. They begin to walk with you on the road that you yourself created to a destination of your choosing.
And that is a feeling that is difficult to put into words. So, as a creator, I put it into my creation (Thank you to Olga Duka of Improve Ventures and Michael DaCosta Babb of Films Angel for the support and friendship, I hope you enjoy the cameos). Creators will know this feeling when they find it.
What is left? What is the next move?
Paint that picture, write that screenplay, start that Substack, build that product, launch that company, and keep creating!
Society needs you and your creations more than you could ever know.
And the best part?
Your life will be better for it. I promise.
“Creation, that is the redemption from suffering, and life’s growing light.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
CRAMP YOUR CRANIUM
I truly believe that the best advantage one can have in this world is to be armed with knowledge. I recently came across The Thinking Bat, a newsletter of timeless wisdom and mental models that will help you think better. If you want to improve your decision-making and problem-solving skills, there is no better newsletter out there. Leave bad decisions behind and upgrade your cognition today! Check it out here and cramp your cranium!
CAN I ASK A FAVOR?
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I’m Shaun Gold and if you are reading this, you are already on your journey. Catch you next week.