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.
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.
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!