Unleash your creative genius without the excuses.

austin-woman-creative-passion -- Photo by Hrant Khachatryan

By Jenny Hoff. Photo by Hrant Khachatryan

Pursuing a creative passion is easy. Becoming successful at it is not. That fear of failure coupled with the very real need to pay the bills is what keeps so many talented people from using their creativity in a productive way. But most people who successfully write a book, produce an album or create a film have a real job, a real family and real responsibilities.

“It’s about making the time and not finding the time, because you’re never going to find it,” says Leila Sales, an Austin-based author who has published eight young adult novels. “Make dates with yourself. Schedule your writing time, and get it on your calendar.”

Sales worked in the publishing industry as an editor for Penguin Random House in New York City for 12 years while she wrote her own books. Most of the authors she worked with had all kinds of full-time jobs, from lawyers to scientists. Some used their jobs as an idea for a book; others used writing a book as a chance to escape their day jobs. Some creative pursuits may require classes to learn the basics, but most simply require a time commitment and the discipline to keep forging ahead, even when it gets difficult.

“It’s about actually wanting to sit down in front of your computer and exist in this story rather than just fantasize about the finished product and what your life will be like when you’re a published author,” says Sales. “It requires saying no to some other things that you might want to do.”

In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield likens the art of creation to going to war. A soldier doesn’t have a choice—they must strap on their boots and head out to the battlefield. The same with an aspiring author, actor, musician, creator. Pressfield says it’s important to recognize there will be an inner resistance telling you that you can’t do it, there will be fear, there will even be some misery, but carving out the time and finding things to inspire you is what matters.

Sales wrote her first book and tried to get it published at 11 years old. She spent the next 15 years writing books and submitting them, only to get rejection letters from agents. However, those early manuscripts were not failures, but rather stepping stones to carve out the voice and style that eventually led her to success as a published author. It’s a journey one can start at any age, even with a family and a full-time job.

The first step is the most important. There are many free online classes for learning some basic skills and getting inspiration, as well as meetups and groups in the Austin area to work side-by-side while practicing a creative pursuit. Making it a pleasurable experience rather than a chore is the key to staying motivated.
“Don’t set unreasonable expectations for yourself,” Sales cautions. “I know I can’t commit to writing 1,000 words every day, so I set days to write two or three times a week. Find joy in the process.”



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