What does creative success really need? 5 lessons from 50 creatives

by Joanna Pieters | Follow her on Facebook here

Today, I’m sharing the 50th episode of The Creative Life Show podcast. That’s 50 episodes of wonderful conversations exploring creative success, and what it means to be creative in today’s world.

If you’ve been a regular listener from the start, THANK YOU. It’s meant so much to have your reviews and emails telling me how much you’ve loved it.

If you’ve discovered it more recently, or haven’t got round to listening yet, then JOIN US! I have SO MANY wonderful stories shared by extraordinary, thoughtful, dynamic creative souls.

We’ve had huge stars, such as American choreographer Mia Michaels and British composer Roxanna Panufnik.

And I’ve also had guests for whom creative success is nothing to do with global acclaim, but who just want to do extraordinary and interesting work.

We’ve had writers and artists, curators and corporate mavericks, people from dance, theatre and comedy.

But what it’s shown to me is that we’re all battling with the challenges of being vulnerable and regular rejection. We all face the challenges that life throws at us. Sometimes that’s by taking control, and sometimes by learning to let go.

But creative work brings a joy that keeps us going. Despite the challenges, it’s something we return to again and again. That’s because it also brings us joy and rewards that come from nothing else.

Here are five lessons on creative success from 50 episodes, and 50 extraordinary creative practitioners.

1. Sometimes courage is simply a matter of keeping going

We’ve had raw tales of imposter syndromeSuzy Greaves of Psychologies magazine revealed how she nearly gave up writing all together when her first book manuscript was commissioned, then rejected. Painter Norman Perryman talked about just putting one foot in front of the next while caring for two young sons and his dying wife. Carrie Brummer of Artist Strong shared how a near-death experience led her art and career in a whole new direction.

The stories have revealed extraordinary strength and resilience. Kerry Nicholls defeated all her critics when an unexpected pregnancy didn’t shatter her dream of becoming a choreographer in demand all over the world. It took Sophie Sabbage a diagnosis of terminal cancer to become the writer she’d always wanted to be, in a truly joyful episode.

2. Your tribe can change everything

Some of my favourite conversations have been about how creatives have built a community that has lifted and empowered them. Filmmaker Elena Rossini went on to make her internationally acclaimed documentary, The Illusionists, supported by fans round the world, after TV execs offered to find her a man to make it for her. 

Photographer Laura Dodsworth has been challenging our perceptions of the human body with two (now three) extraordinary books, which happened through of the community of supporters she built. Noah Scalin went from bored graphic designer to acclaimed creativity consultant and artist when he started to share his daily work. Moose Allain moved to the coast with the idea of doing ‘serious art’, and found himself growing a tribe on Twitter that can’t get enough of his quirky, fun doodles.

3. Creativity happens everywhere

We’ve tiptoed into private studio and corporate life, too. One-time ad-man and author Roger Mavity shared how jobs at the top of some of Britain’s most prestigious companies didn’t dampen his natural mischief making, while Darren Henley answered the question: how DO you run the Arts Council of England and still write 30 books? President Obama’s first appointee to the National Council on the Arts, Aaron Dworkin, shared the importance of remaining an outsider, or a catalyst to make new things happen.

4. We have the answers within us

Calling on our deep inner knowledge of ourselves can be the release and the permission to follow our dreams.

Katherine Coleman recalled the moment she discovered glass engraving, nearly inadvertently abandoned her children, and started her path to global recognition. The founder of Retronaut historical photo site Wolfgang Wild took us back to his childhood, fascinated by the idea of time-travel, while novelist Jessica Duchen recalled scribbling frantically in the school playground. Michaela Chung shares how she turned her fascination with introversion into a thriving business, and Monica Michelle shows how sheer creative drive remains a constant through a life plagued by chronic illness.

5. Never stop learning

It’s clear that my guests never stop learning or developing their own skills. Some of them have shared wonderful tips and advice.

Two of the most-loved episodes have been how we talk about ourselves and our work. Caroline Goyder – whose TEDx talk has been watched nearly 6 million times – came on to share on how we can talk about our work without squirming in our boots. Emma Stroud busted all our secret fears that we might be boring, as well as the story of how she rescued her own show from near-disaster.

Brain health expert Jenny Brockis came to talk about how we can get more focus in our work, and Michael Nicholas joined me to explore how we can make better decisions. Anabel Roche Rodriguez helped explode the myths of the ‘starving artist’, and what to say when you’re asked to work for free.

There are so many more episodes, too, I haven’t mentioned, with wonderful stories. Come and listen to illustrator Alice Stevenson on beating self-doubt, artist and social activist Amrit Singh on creating with joy, creative travel business entrepreneur Geetika Agrawal, dancer-turned-branding expert Jonathan Tilley… Find the whole list here.

And episode 50 is… the wonderful Anna Kunnecke

That all brings me to this week. I hadn’t planned it as a special one, because I adore all my guests. But Anna Kunnecke is someone whose work speaks to me particularly. Anna’s description of herself is as writer, ADD mother of 5, coach to extraordinary women, heathen mystic; and she’s spent time as an actor, florist, voice-over artist and business consultant. So many hats, so many creative possibilities, but joining it all together, a deep empathy for the world around us, with its beauty and its challenges.

Come here to listen to our whole conversation.

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