Have you been telling yourself the truth? Have you been offering your whole self to the roles in your life?

This is certainly no indictment of your character. If that were the case, I’d be at the top of the list of suspects. We’re not talking about dishonesty. We’re talking about doing life, creating daily, from your whole self, which must include your heart.

Many of us have been doing life from our heads. The irony is that the logical path often causes us more confusion than clarity. “No man,” wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter, “for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”

Prior to speaking and performing for a living, I took a logical, linear approach to work. My dad’s example proved to me that if you put your mind to something and do the work, you can accomplish anything. While there’s some truth to that, it’s a trap if your heart’s never in it, too.

To only do what makes sense is the choice of a people without choices, a people with little if any freedoms. If you live in America or many other parts of the world, that’s not you. You have more choices than you can count and the freedom to explore them to your heart’s content. One of the most important choices you will make in life is to explore where you are right now, in the job you currently possess, within the relationships you currently have, at the places you regularly visit. Within your current context lies more creative opportunities than you probably ever realized. There are no dead end streets for the truly creative.

To grind your sparks and spark your grind . . .


As Edgar Lee Masters concludes in Spoon River Anthology: To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,

But life without meaning is the torture

Of restlessness and vague desire —

It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

Being a constant creator begins by unlocking what is in your heart, right here, right now. You might have been playing that role for such a long time that it seems absurd to think you could actually do something different, something truly creative and heartfelt. But there is no question you can. Because as this change occurs inside you, it changes the appearance of the world around you. Yes, this is true even for a job you consider far from your heart.

The infusion of your whole self into any environment in which you find yourself will change how you see that environment.

To this day I still marvel that there were regular hints — sparks I’d continually tucked away — that were trying to converge and ignite a fire in me that was so close to what I already did. But now I speak instead of representing people who speak, and promote my own authentic brand and passions rather than others’.

Although I was forced out of my day job, I’d much rather have uncovered my creative potential without that heartache, stress, and utter embarrassment. I’m going to assume you feel the same. Don’t buy the notion that you have to journey beyond your current context to find the greater creativity you’re looking for. Greater creative potential is within you, in your whole self. Therein lies your power. Don’t go looking for another field until you’ve taken an authentic swing where you are.

Your current roles are your reality.

I find that many a dreamer is prone to undervalue and even neglect his reality in favor of future hope and wonder. But escaping one’s current roles — even if only in a mental or emotional way — is a much more painful and potentially catastrophic move than learning to see them in a different light and approach them with a more creative hand.

A common mistake many hard-core Igniters make is that they are too quick to condemn the present. They believe that if an idea isn’t easy to apply or widely accepted in their current circumstances, the circumstances are the problem. Instead of embedding themselves deeply and grinding their circumstances out, many Igniters simply look for new circumstances. This was the modus operandi of the artists I met in Southern California in my early days of immersion into the art world. They felt that the world in which they lived — including the friends and family around them, their instructors, their cities, their churches, the owners of the businesses they visited, and the fellow customers visiting those businesses — just didn’t get it, just didn’t understand or appreciate the importance of their creations. They would begin to withdraw, they became self-absorbed and sometimes even depressed. They involuntarily stated to migrate toward fulfilling the cliché of the “starving artist.” “Why didn’t the world understand their creations?” they’d ask.

They liked to point to van Gogh, who received very little recognition while alive, as their proof that this sort of misunderstanding happens often with very creative people.

The fact is, van Gogh is the exception. Especially in today’s hyper connected world.

If you’ve something inventive to offer and you can’t find an audience, the issue is usually the offering or the offerer, not the audience. It’s usually a problem of either being detached from who you are or detached from where you are. That means that either your creations aren’t original, or they aren’t relevant. Sometimes it’s both.

Whether you’re an Igniter or a Grinder, embrace your current reality because, frankly, it’s the only reality you have. This doesn’t mean you have to like it. It also doesn’t mean you have to accept it as it is. Many realities throughout history needed to change; they desperately needed a creator to come in and not only envision a new reality but begin digging the foundation with his or her own hands. This sort of change never happens from a detached stance. It always happens when creators dive headfirst and heart-first into their current realities and dirty their hands.

Excerpted from The Spark and the Grind: Ignite the Power of Disciplined Creativity by Erik Wahl, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Art is Freedom, LLC, 2017.

Originally published at medium.com