When it comes to guidance, especially as a creative, it can be difficult to find support because sometimes... people just don't "get" you. They don't get why you quit your job to be a writer or why you dropped out of college to be a painter. They don't get why you spend your evenings and weekends running your ceramics business instead of hanging out with them.
And that's totally okay.
That's why I turn to my entourage of creatives whose work and story I deeply admire.
In other words, I don't do the whole "WWJD" thing.
I do WWNSD: What would Nikki Sixx do?
Let's talk creative icons.
I wanted to write a post like this because of how prevalent my artistic heroes are in my life.
As a creative and an entrepreneur, it can be very difficult to find support from your immediate sphere. This career and lifestyle path is unpredictable, not immediately gratifying, high-risk, low profit, and all-around hard. We keep doing it because of the multitude of upsides: creative expression and freedom, living life on your own terms, breaking rules, getting brunch at 10 a.m. and working at 11 p.m. because you can, and that intense and unmistakable sense of accomplishment you get when you realize, "I did this."
Most people don't get that, though, and that's perfectly okay! No one has an obligation to "get" you or agree with everything you're doing, and they won't.
On an arguably lonesome path, where do you turn for that support?
Those who have gone before you.
Below are a few reasons why it's totally okay, if not necessary, to have those creative icons to turn to.
A creative hero gets what you do.
When my first book went online, I was nervous. It's a nonfiction account about narcissistic abuse that I knew would not sit well with said narcissists. In a small community like the one I came from, it's not hard to put pieces together, but I was careful to be respectful of privacy (changing names, all that). Despite my best effort, my work and credibility were threatened nonetheless by gossip, threats, and hateful comments.
I felt so beaten down. It was like being gaslit all over again: I'm a liar, I just want attention, I'm such a bitch, I'm a terrible writer, I'm trash... the list went on.
Sinking into despair (yes, I'd say despair. I was quite upset), I turned to friends and family. They offered kind words of encouragement and tried to counsel me as best they could, but it wasn't doing it.
I couldn't help but think how unfair it was. How is it that I'm speaking my truth, and ugly truth, trying to help myself and others handle the hell that is emotional abuse, and I'm being pushed to take down my first edition to protect my family from hate?
Then I asked myself, "Did Nikki Sixx have to do that with You're All I Need?"
No. No he freaking didn't.
He literally wrote a song about a drug-induced desire to kill his girlfriend because he thought she was cheating on him.
He literally played it for her at her house and laughed while she cried.
And it became the best ballad Motley ever played (well, according to Bon Jovi).
Nothing. Because that's what artists do. They write about what they go through.
They remind that it's okay to be you.
Being an artist is about expression. Your expressions, emotions, feelings, thoughts, and dreams are completely, 100% yours and cannot be replicated by anyone else. That almost always means standing out from the crowd. You're choosing to swim in a different direction, if you're swimming at all. You might be cycling instead of swimming.
But then you look around and you look to your posse, as I like to call them. You see the hair. You look at their art. You listen to their words.
Why are they where they are? Because they rode the bike while everyone was still flipping their fins.
It's okay to be you. It's okay to feel and think and look the way you do. You're the only one of you, which is a little freaky, but the comfort lies in the fact that all those other individuals have dealt with the same questions and side-eye that you do.
They can be a source of inspiration.
Let's face it: nothing is really original anymore.
Break-up songs are not original. Abstract painting is not original. Heartbreak, happiness, joy, passion... not new.
As artists, I think we know that, and it can be difficult to execute because your brain keeps telling you: "you're not special." "That's nothing new." "Why would anyone care?" "Someone else probably did it better."
That might be true, but-- Your work is undeniably, indisputably original. Unless you are straight up ripping someone off, your work is an authentic original creation that has never been done and can never be done the same way again.
The hard part is getting from that initial spark (the thought, the feeling, the event) and getting to that piece of creation.
You might experience this as writer's block. If not writer's block, maybe something like fraudy feelings or imposter syndrome.
When I experience this, I turn to my favorite writer: Ernest Hemingway.
My dear homie Ernest has a writing style that is unmistakable. It's either short and to-the-point sentences that could be comprehended (if not written by) a child, or he will go on and on and on in the most mundane yet beautiful detail.
He writes about things that almost don't matter sometimes. For instance (making this up, here): why should I care about the grocery list you made in your head as you walked to the liquor store? I shouldn't because it's probably not important to the story, but how often do we go about our lives taking care of little things or doing things that don't matter all that much? A lot.
Those little things, those tiny details that he shares with such conciseness, are what make up life.
As a writer, I love that so much. Not every writer will, but for some reason, I love it. When I'm in a writing slump, I do exactly that: I write the boring things. I describe my clothes or write down step by step how I cooked supper or just let myself think and write down every thought that comes to my head, even if that thought is "this sucks, I don't want to do this anymore. I wonder what the moon phase is. Did I sweep? I think I have dirt on my feet."
They are motivation.
There are so many magnificently creative humans on this planet who can motivate me like any other, and it's honestly difficult to choose an example person, but I think for this section, I'll expound upon my admiration for Rachel Bloom.
Rachel Bloom is an actress and comedian, but I know her as the creator of one of my favorite shows, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The show comically, but tastefully, takes on mental illness, sexism, stereotypes, and a list of other important issues facing women these days. As someone who was called a "crazy ex" herself, I took to the show like a moth to the flame, and that is when I discovered more of Rachel's work.
She is a writer, actress, musician, comedian, and all-around magnificent creative. What does it for me is her mind. Obviously, I don't know her and probably never will. The perception that I have of her, though, is of a woman who says what she thinks, even if it's riddled with "fucks" and sexual innuendo that would make all the folks in the small town I grew up in roll over in their graves.
It's refreshing to see someone just say whatever she wants, and not only that, but speak truth.
It motivates me to keep working, keep speaking up, and to keep listening to my gut. She makes me feel heard, and it aligns with my values to do the same for others. Rachel is a reminder on my Instagram feed to stay true to me.
You see her, and frankly, all creatives, continue making ripples and making shit happen, and it just lights that fire like nothing else.
For me, these are perhaps the best-known or most intensely-admired (by me!) that I chose to feature in this post, but this is by no means the end of my list. There are so many dear friends, up-and-coming artists, and others that aren't actually artists at all that I turn, either literally or just in my head, to help me out, give me advice, or just cheer me on when the road is feeling lonely.
I do recognize that it's important to not put people on a pedestal. I also recognize that the lonesome road is sometimes best walked completely alone, because it's in those moments that you learn a lot about life, your work, and about yourself in general.
For those of you who do pursue creative work, who is your go-to "WW_D?"