Originally Published January 26th, 2019
Over the past two years I’ve spoken with lots of creative types about what draws them to create. A common response is something like, “I felt called to do it”, or “I just felt a need to do the work”.
I can speak from experience. For years I’ve felt drawn to photography. I’ve asked myself over and over—why?
Just because I like it—isn’t good enough for me.
I like music, I like movies, I like annoying my dogs—I don’t feel the same about photography & writing. I feel as if it’s something I should be doing.
I’ve wrestled with it for over ten years.
At times I’ve wanted to sell all my gear and never take a photo again. For whatever reason, I keep coming back. Each time a little more determined to make a serious attempt at being successful. But more importantly, each time feeling a need to do the work.
Where does this need come from?
What is a calling? Ask your mom.
If my mom called today and asked for my help, I would answer the call without question—because I love my mom.
I wouldn’t help her because some day I might make a lot of money and be famous. I would help her because she asked me and it’s the right thing to do.
To me, this is a calling.
To continue with the analogy, if my mom called asking for help and I just hung up—I would feel horrible. The feeling would hang around in the back of my mind—forever. My conscious would beat me senseless. I wouldn’t feel right until I did something about it.
To me, this is a calling.
How do we identify our calling?
Your phone rings—its the marketing department. JK
I’m not gonna get sentimental here and say “There is a still, quiet, angelic voice that whispers in your ear—pushing you to greatness”.
Maybe some of you hear a voice. I don’t hear a voice. For me it’s more of an uncomfortable feeling. Like I’m someplace I’m not supposed to be. Like I forgot to turn the stove off or something.
We all have different experiences—here are some ways to identify your calling:
You have a clear vision.
Some people are just freaking lucky and know from an early age what their calling is. I recently heard a story on a podcast about Eddie Murphy. When he was 5 years old watching television he said to his brother Charlie, “I’m going to be famous.” in which Charlie replied, “What’s famous?”.
Some people just know—it’s obvious to them.
I’m not one of those people.
There is pain or frustration.
I met an art professor recently from out of country. I asked her what type of art she pursued and her response was this:
“In my country, an art teacher & an artists are two different things. Teachers instruct on the fundamentals of creating art—an artist is someone who is in pain, and from that pain, he creates.
Feeling pain is a good way to know you’re being called. If you feel pain, stress, or a slight discomfort from not doing something—chances are high that you need to do it. Duh.
“What finally convinced me to go ahead was simply that I was so unhappy not going ahead. I was developing symptoms. As soon as I sat down and began, I was okay.”
There is Resistance.
If you feel the need to do something, start telling your friends and family.
“Mom, Dad, I want to……”
“Start a Business”
“Go to Nursing School”
“Become a Writer”
“Quit my Job & Travel”
“Rescue Sea Lions”
Chances are they’ll think you’re crazy. Maybe you are crazy? But a good way to know you’re being called is when you experience resistance.
Generally speaking, when you’re on the right path, eventually a road block will pop up to stop you. If you’re following your calling—there will be resistance. It will come in many forms. Accept resistance as a natural part of the process—learn from it.
There is Flow.
Have you ever been so engrossed in an activity that you lost track of time?
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at the bar in my kitchen. My wife Ashley is cooking dinner and watching Friends on the iPad. Somehow I’m able to completely block out all this information.
It’s when we are fully focused on something, so much so that we become unaware of our surroundings, the passing of time, we’re allowing the muse to flow through us.
Flow can help you identify what you’re calling is. Search for activities that allow you to experience flow.
For more info—read my blog Go with the Flow.
Still nothing? Ask yourself these questions:
“If I knew I would die in 3 months, what would I do?”
“What am I more afraid of doing than anything else?”
Who is doing the calling?
I mentioned the muse above—what is the muse? What inspires creativity? Is it our subconscious mind? A higher power—God? Our future selves? When we pursue our calling, who is on the other line?
In Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he calls the muse, The Guy in the Basement.
This is one of my favorite explanations of the muse:
“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.” —Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Inspiration exists, but you have to find it working. —Picasso
Whoever you think the muse is—keep in mind that a calling is all about personal development, finding purpose, and ultimately growing into who you should be.
Consider this thought experiment:
What if the muse is you? What if somehow you are in touch with your future self—your highest divine self.
What if future you is saying, “Hey, get off your butt and do what you’re meant to do!”.
Maybe by following our calling—we can unlock the hidden future potential of our ideal selves.
If you follow your calling—learn, fail, succeed, experience positive growth & development, and become a better version of yourself—aren’t you technically listening to the highest ideal version of yourself?
IDK, try it out.
All great men are play actors of their own ideal. —Nietzche
Why pursue your calling?
I believe everyone has a calling in life.
In pursuing our calling, we will find meaning and purpose.
What other choice do you have?
I can only speak for myself, when I’m not pursuing my calling—I go insane. Maybe I’m just insane.
Whatever you feel called to do—do it like your life depends on it. That’s the best advice I can give.
“If you’re going to try, go all the way.” —Bukowski
The psychology of creativity is something that I’ve always been interested in. I hope to continue writing about this topic and share the things I learn with you—the reader. I hope that these posts have inspired & helped you on your creative journey. Please continue to do your own research!
Thanks for reading!