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Permission, intrinsic value, the act of creation, and making art: Insights from one wine-soaked conversation that changed everything.

It was that time in the evening when the wine and champagne had softened everyone’s edges and everything seemed to melt together a bit. We were seated at a round table laden with vegan brownie crumbs, and a lot of chairs had been abandoned in favor of the dance floor.

My friend Marie and I were among the lingerers at the table. She turned to me and asked one of the best conversation-igniting questions I’ve ever heard:

“What are you most excited about right now?”

It was October, almost exactly a month after my first book, Money: A Love Story, had launched.

And I was thoroughly knackered. Tuckered out. Tired. Spent. I felt creatively dried up and like I might never want to make anything ever again. It was kind of depressing.

I paused way longer than I was proud of, wracking my brain, hoping to land on a shred of enthusiasm about something other than sleeping.

“What I should say,” I thought, “is that I’m excited about the book launch.”

But that would have been a lie. The truth was, I was sick of talking and thinking about that book. I felt like it was all I’d been doing for months.

I sat and waited for a true answer to emerge.

“The truth is,” I finally said, “what I’m really excited about is planning our wedding.”

She could feel the somewhat apologetic tone in my voice. I should be out there marketing the book more. I should be doing more speaking gigs. I should be strategizing the next steps in my writing career.

But all I really wanted to do was flip through bridal magazines and Pin to my heart’s content.

In response, Marie began to wax eloquent about the nature of creativity, her slightly sleepy, wine-soaked voice punctuated a couple of times by my asking “What?!,” prompting her to lean over and speak directly into my ear in order to be heard over the band.

Marie reminded me that when it comes to creativity there’s no hierarchy. It doesn’t matter whether you’re throwing your whole heart and soul into making pasta sauce or into writing a New York Times bestseller.

She assured me that no act of creation is better than another. A well-executed, intimate dinner party is just as valuable as a seven-figure launch if it’s a true expression of who you are.

The act of passionate creation itself is what gives an endeavor merit — not its value in the marketplace.

Yes, I know that we all need to make money and that making money depends on whether or not someone will buy what we make.

But something’s (or someone’s) inherent value has nothing to do with how much cash someone is willing to part with in order to capture some piece of it.

twitter_standingMaking art is an intrinsically valuable act. Period. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Today your art might be a strawberry rhubarb pie. Tomorrow it might be a painting that will hang in the Guggenheim someday. And the day after that it might be the way you fluff and arrange your throw pillows.

The point is, just make art.

Marie was my angel of permission that night.

As I left the party I felt a profound sense of calm. Her words had been a salve to my soul.

twitter_standingWHEN IT COMES TO CREATIVITY, THERE IS NO HIERARCHY. ~MARIE FORLEO (CLICK TO TWEET)

Give yourself permission to create the things that are an expression of your soul. People will buy some of them. And some of them won’t ever be for sale.

The value is in the making. The value is in the enthusiasm. The value is in expressing who you are through the act of creation.

What are you most excited about making? What are you ready to give yourself permission to make, even if it may not have obvious value in the marketplace?

Leave a comment below—I want to hear about your art!

  • Pamela Lewis says:

    Currently I’m excited to create new personal living environments for my housemate and I. This had led to letting go of many things that I’ve been clinging to and decisions on creative projects/hobbies. Feeling lighter every day making so much space to be creative outside of my work, including the creation of a delicious noodle-less lasagna. Life is sweet!

  • So agree with this sentiment Kate. Enjoyment purely for its own sake is enough! I have booked my friend and I into a mandala workshop in the morning and that is how we will spend our Friday. Just for fun! We’ve been so excited all week – great synchronicity as usual. Loved your wedding photos. Congratulations to you and Mike love xx

  • Tiffni says:

    I started designing t-shirts with sayings that describe the different facets of me and that i am sure relate to others. I had been feeling discouraged because they are not selling like I hoped. Of course my brain snapped into “they must suck” “no one likes them” “maybe I’m not really creative”. This helped me remember that I design them because it makes me feel good to do it. I would LOVE to sell them and I think I will…but in the mean time – I just need to create. My other forms of art: baking, getting dressed, cleaning my house–and some poetry! Thanks for posting this!!!

  • Jessica Rodgers says:

    I’m 21 weeks pregnant and I haven’t really been documenting my pregnancy, but I just thought of creating a weekly email to send to my family (who live in a different state) that showcases my progress, how I’m feeling and how big my belly is getting! My mom loves the idea and she can’t wait to get the first email. I’m thinking I’m going to work on it this weekend and I’m super excited to do it! Gunna get the creative juices flowing :)

  • Thank you for writing so honestly Kate. It’s so refreshing and this post made me value my own non-business related creative acts more. Thank you so much!

  • Deb says:

    Right now, my biggest creative project is my Life! I’ve gone back to school, I’m in the midst of a move, and spiritually fulfilled and challenged in many ways. So, doing life to the best of my ability is my Art.

    At other times in my life, cooking has been my creative outlet.
    My partner is exploring this avenue, partially due to necessity, partially because he’s naturally artistic. I’ve become his Sous chef, which works fine. I also do the shopping, so I can imagine some dishes that he doesn’t prepare yet, that I can suggest. With his creativity, he does a bang-up job and I get to taste cooking other than my own.

    In addition, I get to keep my biggest priority which is keeping my life “on the rails”.

    This is fun for me. I get to throw myself fully into the main projects like moving and school, and play with cooking ideas – without tiring myself with doing too much!

  • Jeni Gray says:

    Thank you Kate for yet another reminder I like to keep close to my heart. That it is in the experience that we gain the most fulfillment.
    I create two completely different forms of art, and yet I am content to carry on. I must create! Who said that?
    Anyway, always love your insights – and I look forward to your next creation. :)

  • Brandi says:

    Almost a year ago, I started my own consulting business after more than a decade of “slaving away” in a corporate environment. It’s been a wonderful year of balance… working enough to pay the bills, then spending the rest of my time exploring and growing my soul.

    Last week, I faced a client shake-up that would have wrecked me a year ago. Instead, I looked myself in the mirror and thought “this shake up does not have to define me.” And I realized that I had an opportunity to shift my definition of success.

    The creative expressions of my soul’s work have been so meaningful in this past year. And I am SO proud of them… Of course I’m grateful that I’ve had the chance to deliver creative work that I’ve been paid for. But that doesn’t have to be my only measure of success any longer.

  • I am experimenting with the visual arts. Usually, I write poems but lately I’ve been yearning to work with color. Great article! Thank you.

  • Celeste says:

    Soo many things.. This morning I got asked to play the lead role in a film that’s shooting on Saturday. Yesterday I was recruited to guest with a new dance troupe, for a big performance, in two weeks.

    But what am I really excited about making? ****I’m excited about teaching The Superhero Workshops to Activate Your Inner Awesome,*** that I’ve been designing for the past several months.

    I’m excited to plant my vegetable garden and landscape my front yard with the rich compost I aquired yesterday.
    I’m excited to make unicorn hobby horses, products for my business, pick mulberries off the free in my backyard…
    But back to what I’m REALLY excited about. Yes, I’m excited about my WORKSHOP. I’m scared to make it happen, but I’m excited about designing the climbing “leaves of learning vines” and “power stars” that are part of the backdrop.

    Annnd, maybe most of all, I’m excited to take a special friend on ***a private tour of Madam Ganna Walska’s Lotusland*** today. At the moment, that’s what I’m REALLY excited about “making.”

  • Celeste says:

    Oops, mulberry Tree, not free! (Even though picking free berries off my free tree is super soul freeing!) ;)

  • Rene says:

    For the past 9 months or so I have been putting most of my attention on a new career that I started because other people thought I should and I thought it would bring in more money. I’m trying to like it, but what I am really excited about is getting back to my art. I want to manifest enough money ($800) to buy the materials I need to do another art piece….a Swarovski crystal cow skull done in a very kitsch, ‘tattoo-like’, rock-n-roll image of a strong powerful woman (reminiscent of the “We Can Do It” poster of the past or Pink) possibly riding a bucking bronco. Kind of out there, but as my grandmother used to say, “That’s the way they make Rene’s”. You can see the one I have already done and sold on my website. Thanks for reminding me to create!!!!

  • Stacy says:

    Ahh gorgeous…. Such a beautiful reminder from 2 of my favorite people :) thank you for sharing.. <3

  • Inge says:

    Great story, just at the right time. Thank you!
    Two weeks ago I finished version 1 of my website after a year of starting up and B-school in 2013. Life happened and even when I so wanted to build my business with my creativity, it couldn’t get finished. In the meantime (=life) I sorted out all kinds of personal things that helped me be more focussed (like taking up yoga 2pw, eating better, quitting unbalanced work and visiting Ignite last March). But now that my website is up and ‘my shop is open for business’, I feel a bit out of focus again. ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield started to linger around in my head and this week I picked it up: so much wisdom there about Resistance; that is just what I needed to ‘hear’ and now your blog. Finishing my website felt a bit like a finish line two weeks ago, but I am happy that after some insights I can see it as a startingpoint for loads of different creativity. And even the littlest things I can see now as valuable thanks to you and Marie :-)! P.S. You and Mike looked great at your weddingday! I wish you all blessings.

  • Tiffany says:

    Kate, this is so beautiful! I’m going to give myself permission to really sink in and enjoy my two little creations – my sons. My oldest is 2 and I’m due any day now with my second and I am so excited about cuddles, laughs, messy diapers and achy tummies. I get so many messages every day about about being of service on a greater scale that I sometimes begin to feel like I’m not doing “enough” by just wanting to be a mama. Well I’m releasing that now and I’m just going to throw myself wholeheartedly into being the mama that I want to be!

    Thank you Kate!! <3

  • Serafina says:

    I am most excited to be painting with crystal infused paint on Yoga mats. I just recently did my first one and I LOVE it! Now there are so many more to paint!

    And for my second book to be edited and published and that whole process. :)

    Thanks for your insights and Beautiful writing Kate.

  • Nicole says:

    This is so true! It’s nice to have permission to work on whichever project is the most exciting and uplifting that day, whether it pays the bills or not. Thank you, Kate!

  • Jess says:

    Yes yes yes!! Thank you so much for posting this, Kate.

    I spent so long thinking that my dancing was selfish and added no value to the world – it’s why I quit when I was 19 and went about other career paths. I’m now – at 31 yrs old – finally owning the value in it and owning myself as a dancer. The last 5 years or so of emerging back into this path have been so transforming and so rewarding. I still get a little surprised when someone tells me that a performance or dance video I did was inspiring or valuable to them, and I’m still trying to find ways to make it all more financially abundant…. but! I trust that it’s all for a purpose. And it makes me happy.

    I often think of my little cousins who love to dance. I hope that they get this message of owning the value in art sooner than I did, so that the world can become a place where everyone is dancing their dance fully.

    xoxo

  • Michelle R. says:

    Ooo-wheeee, Mama! I’ll tell ya what I’m most excited about right now – I just EXCEEDED my target to date for the rough draft of my first manuscript. I don’t have a contract for this book (yet), so setting and keeping the schedule is all on me. I’m planning to have this draft in the can by my 40th birthday in September and what’s even better? It’s called “Permission Granted,” a title I’ve been nursing along, composing the manuscript in my head, for the past couple years – I’ve finally found the strength to manifest it, with nods of gratitude to you, Danielle LaPorte, Marie Forleo, Leonie Dawson, Tanya Geisler, Dana Machacek, and many other ladies of great wisdom. YES YES YES YES YES!!!!

  • Rebecca says:

    Oh, this really really hit home for me. I’ve been directing a movie on and off this summer (due to budget reasons and, mainly, keeping a day job going) and maintaining the momentum and passion has been such a challenge. This movie is my dream and yet so often I get completely burnt out from the scheduling, the organizing, the hours and hours put in, and especially from talking about it, trying to promote my work (we’re always trying to raise more money). The best solution seems to be to take even an hour or two off when I need it to mess around on Pinterest, plan a great dinner, play piano a bit, or just do a quick, crappy sketch in my journal. Just doing something different rewires me and reminds me that creating is creating – it all feels good (and it’s exactly what I’m meant to do). Thanks for the great reminder!

  • Kim P says:

    I’m most excited about rekindling my passion for aerial performance work (poles, fabrics, hoops) which makes me feel like the strongest, most gorgeous woman on earth.

    And our new home business, which will be a stream of residual income, which will
    Grow as we help OTHERS become healthier and wealthier.

    I’m excited about LIFE!!!

    • Kate says:

      I love that you do aerial! That’s something I’m so wanting to try. And congrats on your new business!

  • Timely – as usually happens when I take the moments to read your blog – I have let a manuscript sit idly, lonely at my desk for months after a rejection from a publishing company. And though I am understanding of what you speak Kate; I had forgotten – let that inherent knowing slip away to the norms of society and have been pouting I suppose: let the blog dwither and die; let my enthusiasm wane – so….here we go. Off to a weekend with my accountability partner/friend to be rejuvenated and send my words off to be found and treasured…..best get making that banana bread that friend loves as an offering of her assistance….thanks Kate

  • Lisa says:

    If everything I make is art, and all art is a result of creativity, then every thought I have is creativity. Then what is the point in trying to be more creative, or how to make great art? I already am. I already do. I can not avoid it. What makes me exited is when other people find value in my creativity too.

  • Lisa says:

    Loved this post, Kate. Talk about perfect timing! With all of the social pressure to be super busy and think B.I.G., it can feel counter-intuitive to really listen to your heart and allow oneself the freedom to be in the now. It is a gorgeous day here in NH and I am most excited about discovering new blossoms and raspberries in my pocket garden! … Loved the wedding photos that are Instagram. Congrats to you and Mike!

  • Jackie says:

    This is so freeing! ‘Angel of permission’ is right. Your writing and insight is beautiful, Kate; thank you so much for your sharing heart.
    Lately, have wanted to get a scarf started, but always felt I had something else I ‘should’ be doing instead of knitting. I believe that scarf will be started today!

  • Dominique says:

    Hi Kate,

    Love this post! It’s such an encouragement to me at the moment, and where my heart has been this year. I’ve been creating more and more throughout my weeks, something I have been putting off for a long time. I recently started a Vlog(I’ve been wanting to do so for 5+years), and it feels so good and it’s feeding my soul.

    Anyway, thank you for your encouragement today. :)

  • Uncle Beefy says:

    AH! Such a perfect post, Kate! I’ve been creatively stuck for some time for a variety of reasons but one of those has *definitely* been getting caught up in ‘commodity’ over ‘creativity’. And this post made the “a-ha” lightbulb go off! I can already feel the lightness come over in just being creative for the sake of it. In fact, I just busted out some watercolors to paint some postcards to send to my mom (who we recently had to have placed in a memory care facility) and what could be a better expression of creativity. Thanks for the gift, Kate! (And happy wedding planning!) xx

  • Natanya says:

    Yay for this post! We need more updates like this one that spreads the permission around the world. I totes agree – there is value in all of what we do, not just the stuff that sells or gets recognized by award givers. I’ve been struggling with this lately and it’s refreshing to hear your take.

    I’m excited about creating my scrapbook finding my rhythm with getting images and words onto those pages. I want to make the everyday a sacred keepsake that I can look back on. How to cool to have documentation of my life’s journey. I’m getting more and more excited about it just writing this comment! xo

  • Melissa says:

    This post made my day, Kate, thank you so much for sharing your insights. I always struggle with not feeling “creative” enough, but creativity can be found in the little things we do everyday and doesn’t have to be financially lucrative. It’s about perspective.

    I’m excited about creating a healthy, warm and inviting home for my husband and I in our two-bedroom apartment, and also re-kindling my romance with hand-drawn art by painting :).

  • Stacey Kelly says:

    ahhh this post was a breathe of fresh air to me Kate! Thank you so much. I needed that “permission” to do the things that feed my soul even if its not “revenue generating activity”. I’m in a different season, a season of figuring things out, figuring me out and until it(revenue generating activity)comes from a place overflowing with authenticity I don’t have the energy for it right now. I’m a stay at home mom with # 2 on the way and I’M NESTING and I want to feel OK and validated in this season.

    Your an amazing human Kate and I love your charismatic smile!

    Cheers!

    Stacey

  • Thank you so much for this post Kate, it really struck a chord with me. I’m an artist (printmaking) and have recently started a blog on natural health and living a slower, more conscious life. Neither of them are very successful in a business/financial sense but I just LOVE creating. I’m recovering from a long term illness and I think it’s a way of expressing stuff. Sometimes I find it hard as no one really `gets` what I do and don’t really see the value in it. Your words have helped me to see there is value in it, even if I don’t make any money- thank you :))

    I love reading your posts, congratulations on your wedding too, you looked so happy ! xx

  • Andrea St. Clair says:

    Kate!

    How did you know I needed this post? You rock.

    Becoming an artist was liberating, allowing me to explore sides of myself long repressed in order to fit in and not lose my family. I did not hink about the risks of me being poor. I wanted to heal and have my art help others do the same. I have not yet met the financial success I long for. There are so many reasons I can list like the disadvantages of crippling student loans and the systematic disenfranchisement of transgender [people of color], but when do those become just excuses.

    The older I get I have found it important to consciously remind myself that my art has value beyond the low to little pay I have been able to amass. My writing, performances and photography have touched numerous lives.

    My latest photography piece, “Smile, You’re Beautiful” was selected for a gallery exhibit in NYC, making my debut on the art gallery scene. I am really excited about this as I see it ushering more recognition to my work and what it stands for; promoting cultural and aesthetic diversity of viewpoints, experience and expression for the realization of equality. I am looking forward to moving along to complete the the other pieces from which “Smile, You’re Beautiful” emerged.

    Again, great post Kate!

  • Michele says:

    I am currently very excited about the homebased business my spouse and I started 4 years ago. We bought a piece of property and started an herb farm, grow everything naturally-no chemicals and make unique culinary herbal products with what we grow.ie.herb infused oils and vinegars, mixed herb blends, dip mixes, loose leaf herbal teas and herb filled eye pillows and hot/cold pack are just a few of our creations:) We travel to festivals and farmer’s markets to sell our creations and love teaching people about the health benefits of herbs. We title ourselves Herbal Enthusiasts and are have so much fun. Our creations have been very well received and are in a couple local food stores all by word of mouth, we believe this is due to our passion about what we are doing and creating. Thanks for your story and the space to share a little of ours!

  • I love this Kate! I launched my first paid eBook recently and was so shocked by the exhaustion/totally-over-it-ness that came with the launch. I’ve really felt the inclination to get back to creative basics; doodling, cooking, re-organising the photos on my wall… I’ve been trying to find a way to talk about the creative process more on my blog; you’ve just re-inspired that desire too. Thank you.

    Ps. Your book has completely my changed my life. I thought you should know :)

  • Bee says:

    Read this post on my trip to work this morning and it brightened up my day.

    For the last year or longer I’ve been cutting off my creativity in areas that did not directly impact my ‘work’. Let me tell you, cutting off my creativity in areas that do not directly impact my ‘work’, was the fastest way I’ve ever found of drying up all the ideas and joy I ever had for my ‘work’.

    The idea that you can’t criticise and create in the same breath is beyond true. But not just in relation to individual projects, “I’ll create this one thing now and criticise this one thing later”. It is true in the balance of our lives. I have found that if you spend more time putting a dampener on your joyful creative ideas – whether its for baking, decorating, dressing, planning trips or drawing – those joyful creative ideas just stop coming to you.

    With that said, I am excited to update my wardrobe, cook and eat great plant based whole food meals and to fill notebooks full of words for no particular reason.

  • Kelsey says:

    I am passionately creating a new online creativity course for mamas. AMEN!!

  • Elaine says:

    I am passionately learning to oil paint and imagine as I age this may continue to be a true love and real value.

    My Mother passed away at Christmas this last year and I asked her dining partner, an accomplished artist, frustrated with assisted living, if she’d be my teacher. So very pleased and happy to have my Mom’s friend as mine now too!

    Very blessed. Loved your creativity today and how you inspire others to be more!

  • Emily says:

    Thank you for this lovely post. I like the idea no hierarchy. Sometimes I feel like I should be working on things more serious when all I want to do is paint or write something that may or may not be a book or blogpost. I am truly inspired to just create whatever and see where it goes now.

  • Tracy says:

    I love hearing your insights and this spoke volumes to me. I am reading your book right now and I am loving it.
    I am writing in my ‘Money Journal’, how I have added value to the day and have found this exercise therapeutic and grounding. People around often comment how time flies and get bummed out by it. I wonder if they took the time to see how they add value in their day.. would it make a difference?
    I think sometimes, I get hung up on the “how-to’s” and the “what does it all mean?”
    So creating with passion and purpose makes perfect sense to get out of your head. xx

  • Reece Sims says:

    Thank you for this post Kate! It’s so serendipitous that you have written about this at this exact time! I actually just wrote about blog, inspired by one of Marie’s Q&A Tuesday videos from last year that talks about how important it is to create for the sake of creating in order to bring more beauty (or kalos) into the world! Very aligned messaging, I would love to hear your thoughts on my article as well!!!

    http://reecesims.com/lovenote-9-part2/

  • Erica says:

    Thank you.

    This post just left me teary-eyed in the middle a coffee shop.

    The universe sends you what you need when you’re listening, right?

    I’m at a crossroads in my business. On one hand I am so excited that my business (and more importantly, MYSELF) is growing more into who I really am. Then there’s a tinge of guilt.

    I believe art is our expression of love and this post rings so true that we can express that anywhere.

    <3

  • Lynn says:

    Kate, thank you for this! I’m currently struggling with balancing the shoulds of creating things for business (and if I even want to do it anymore!) and the wants of creating beautiful dance, a beautiful home, and other things. I’ve been telling myself that I should just do what feels right and screw the shoulds … this backs up that thought perfectly!

    On an unrelated note, I had the opportunity last night to gift a good friend with a copy of Money, a Love Story … she and I are both so excited!

  • Meaghan says:

    Yes! The other day I thought about the word presumption, how I could use more of it in my life.

    Calling myself an author felt like presumption because I’m not published yet. But then I freed the word *presumption* from the negative deep-rooted beliefs I’ve held. And I laughed about it. How presumptuous of me to call myself an author. It sure is. Whoop!

    Presumption: a belief that something is true even though it has not been proved law : an act of accepting that something is true until it is proved not true: willingness to do something without the right or permission to do it (Merriam Webster)

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