If You Love What You Do, Will You Love It ALL the Time?

Yesterday I went to an art store on my Artist’s Way Artist Date.

I found myself in tears over a 28″ x something stretched canvas that made me remember how much I’ve always wanted to try oil painting. I walked away from it quickly and then turned to go back to see what else there was to “see.”

I remembered my old boyfriend who was a “real” artist (Julia Cameron says shadow artists like to hang out with real artists and project their creativity onto their partners. Um. Here!).

I remembered how he had painted a picture of the girl he was cheating on me with and tried to pretend that it was just a gift for a friend.

On a similar piece of canvas.

I remembered how he had made me a painting a long time before I and I hadn’t liked it and didn’t know what to do about it. He never did give it to me, and I never did know how to handle it.

Double ouch.

And then the tears spiked again over a beautiful “artist’s marker pad” that was a perfect vehicle for the diagrams I’ve been wanting to do. (I brought it home.)

As I walked through the aisles of the art store, I was reminded of all the delicious art tools I already own, but that have been untouched for so long.

I wondered why I stopped doing the watercolors that delighted me so much once upon a time. Did I stop simply because I stopped traveling overseas so often? Had I lost the connection because I’d given up urban design work? Did it just start to feel too much like work?

All around the store I found reminders of my past creative endeavors (fabric dyeing, rug making, drafting and tracing, portfolios, yummy art supply containers) and so many possible future adventures. I thought about how I couldn’t afford to buy all the supplies so there was no point in learning a new craft.

But I also considered how much I love learning the tools of my craft — whatever it is — designing, drafting, drawing, coaching, website making — I am such the perpetual student. A true renaissance soul (or “scanner“). And how I wished I could just simply be a perpetual student (oh, wait a minute, I kind of already am) with a patron who wanted to sponsor all my wild ideas and wonderful projects (well, not so much that part, at least not yet).

Whilst all this transpired, I continued a conversation I’ve been having with myself for the past few days.

If I love what I do, will I love it ALL the time?

Will it ALWAYS feel easy and like I can’t wait to leap out of bed in the morning?

My screenwriting teacher often spoke of the pain of writing, the loneliness of it. That it would feel like swimming in a vast sea, just trying to get to the next “tent pole” in a script as if it were a buoy you could grab hold of to save you from drowning.

There are days when writing feels like a wretched chore. When it feels like I’ll never (ever) succeed at it, that my work will never be any good, and my ideas are not clever or brilliant enough.

But if they are my ideas, are they not enough? Isn’t it enough to write what I’ve been given, unleash my creativity as far as I can and hope for the best?

Plus, as a hand analyst, I’ve come to embrace the truth that our “hard stuff” — our Life Lesson — is the secret to breaking through in our lives. I look for where my fear comes up biggest and loudest, and go there. Is that always going to feel easy and flowing and delightful? I doubt it.

At the same time, there are days when writing feels like the most precious gift I’ve ever experienced.

A freedom to put words on the page and become one with them in the most amazing discovery of story and flow and ideas and energy that I’ve ever seen.

I figure there are good days and there are hard days.

What do you think?


In the spirit of Havi Brooks’ “Comment Zen,” I have this request:

Since I am exploring how to be more transparent, raw, vulnerable, and in my full, messy delicious creative energy in my posts, here’s what I would love to hear:

  • Your thoughts about this same subject in your OWN life. <— This is my favorite!
  • If my writing sparks something for you.
  • About your own stories, ideas, musings, and wonderings.

And I would love to skip:

  • You feeling like you need to take care of me, give me useful suggestions, or other well-meaning but unsolicited advice.

Thank you!


What’s Jenna Up To?

~> March 8th, 2011. My Artist’s Way Accountability & Support Group continues. We’ve just gotten started if you’re wishing you had jumped in. Details.

~> March 26th, 2011. First broadcast of my brand new Radio Lightworker radio show on Big Dreams. Stay tuned for details!

~> April 29th & 30th, 2011. My next Voice Your Vision retreat will be held in Berkeley, California. Specific registration details to be announced. A special savings will be available if you’ve already had your hands analyzed.



  1. Hey Jenna,

    Glad you’re back dabbling in art! The unleashing continues.

    I love “many” pursuits – writing, painting, singing, dancing, questioning, exploring, rebelling, debating, traveling. And believe most folks also love “many” pursuits.

    Our society — instead of promoting those many loves — tries to either redirect them into something that makes money (and make no mistake these are incredibly arbitrary) or funnel them down into one. Does a writer need to do more than write? I can only answer for myself.

    Yes. The writing needs to come from somewhere. If I don’t feed that somewhere with life, it will shrivel up and die.

    The potential danger I see today is the promise that you can find just ONE thing you love, do that for work day in and day out and you’ll be a happy camper. It’s like eating your favorite ice cream every day. You may get sick of it because starts to drain all your energy.

    That’s why I’ve got 3 or 4 things going on with my businesses and still others that I do for the sheer challenge of them. Each one feeds the others and me. Interestingly enough, when I started out people tried to guide me into doing just one thing.

    That is the norm.

    I went along with it at first, then returned to my natural state of doing many things.

    Norms are made to be broken. Natural states are meant to be embraced.

    Good topic! Giulietta

    • Giulietta, Thanks for your comments. I love the idea of finding our “one” thing, but I think of it more as the overarching umbrella or lens through which we see things. I think for us Renaissance types we need a meta-lens. If I try to zoom in too close to one super specific thing I get all twitchy.

      LOVE the breaking of norms. Indeed.

      I definitely need to do more than write. Indeed again.

      On the other hand, one thing I’m loving about writing that I’ve never found in any other kind of creative endeavor of mine is a sense of spaciousness and expansion. Gotta love that. I’m such a super achiever that I go into hyper drive way too easily with other things. With everything. But not with creative writing. It’s like a healing place for me. We’ll see how that continues. Or not. :)


  2. I have been struggling with this lately – knowing that I love writing, but not always loving the process. I get frustrated becuase just when I think I’ve planned enough and I am ready to write, I have to return to the drawing board. But, then I realize that my work actually seems to get tighter and more coherent with each change, so I am trying to accept this as part of the process. I also have to remind myself that I am learning and that it takes practice. I want to write like F. Scott Fitzgerald now – I don’t want to wait! But these are the growing pains that all artists must go through – practice and more practice until you reach a level of mastery. God grant me patience!

    • Cindy, thanks for commenting. I know what you mean about wanting to be a master of it NOW. Let’s hang in there together.

  3. Hi Jenna,

    I struggle with the creative process a LOT. So much of being creative means being at my personal edge, which feels risky and uncertain. When I went through my shaman training, I realized creativity felt awful much of the time because I hadn’t enlisted Death as my Ally yet. Having to jump into the unknown, having to risk feeling old hurts from old creative endeavors, having to heal those, and then having to risk creating again, yikes!! Letting the old me and my story die so something new could be born–that’s part of the process for me (and I think for everyone) So, I started getting on a role with my creativity when I made how I felt about it beside the point. My difficult feelings about creating just became an indication of how close I was getting to the good stuff. Even if the thought of getting near my book makes me want to vomit, that’s the perfect time for me to put my behind in the chair and work on it. And then once I do that small daily step, I usually feel good about myself and good about the work. But, man, for me, this whole process is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster that I had to learn not to take too seriously.


    • Thanks, Elaine, for your note. I wrote a post last year that you inspired in part about Death: http://www.highlysensitivesouls.com/blog/?p=2249. I’m glad you reminded me about that part. It does feel like dying to create, and scary, etc.

      I love your points too about how you feel about being creative beside the point and about not taking the emotional roller coaster ride of creativity too seriously. Like I said, I think there’s a notion that if we love what we’re doing that we’ll enjoy it all the time, and I think you are saying: 1) no, we won’t, 2) it doesn’t matter, and 3) don’t worry about it.

      I’m such a Four, I always want to be “in the mood” for whatever it is I’m going to do, LOL. But you are so right, it really doesn’t matter.

      I agree about going right into the stuff at the trickiest parts. It’s very healing to do it anyway, I find.


  4. Bronwyn says:

    Great article, Jenna! I appreciate, as always, your honesty in sharing your own journey. I certainly can relate to the feelings you describe (and have numerous hidden time capsules of unused craft supplies in my own home). I like your perspective on being satisfied with the length of your own creativity. That’s something I’m really trying to focus on myself–appreciating what I have, and seeing it as something unique enough in itself, not measuring myself against anyone else’s achievements or products or worrying about outside approval. I think this is a lifelong struggle for creative types, though, as there is probably an innate part of the creation drive that is about wanting to share one’s work with others, which creates this tension around approval or opinions or status. I do know this, however–I’m so glad you are sharing your work with us! :)

    • Thanks, Bronwyn! Those comparisons and outside approvals are doozies for me. Like I said to Elaine, I’m such a Four, it’s so easy to get trapped in image stuff as a result. Plus my Fame & Fortune in the Arts gift marking makes those Tomato Fears rear their ugly heads. So I just do it anyway, LOL. :)

  5. Dear Jenna,

    This piece just opened my heart.

    I too had a long history of finding creative men to be with and pine for (the actors, the musicians, the film maker). The more I became my own artist, the less I needed to be with someone who was expressing themselves creatively.

    One of the things that fascinates me is this sense that there is work in the world we can’t NOT do, work that is so compelling we have to dive in no matter how challenging, scary, or painful.

    I tried to talk about this in a recent video, but left out the word “can’t” so it ended up being me talking about the work we can’t do. . . which made no sense at all.

    I don’t know that it’s possible to genuinely love every moment of our work, even when it’s creative and soul-inspired, any more than it’s possible to literally love every moment of being a parent, which doesn’t make the experience or the journey any less rich or compelling.

    • Isabel, Thank you so much for your beautiful comment. I love what you said about, “there is work in the world we can’t NOT do, work that is so compelling we have to dive in no matter how challenging, scary, or painful.” That’s what I’m after, for sure.

      Funny about the video. Thanks for sharing that. :)

      Your comparison about loving our work and loving our parenting is well taken. Great insight. I absolutely love being a parent and I love my son, I would never give it up in a million years, but it is also one of the most challenging, complex, amazing, and difficult things I have ever done…

  6. Hi Jenna,

    I am new to your blog but happen to stumble upon your latest post and it totally hits home with me, especially after recently doing the Artist’s Way myself. I have been struggling with the “cross over” towards writing more and find that it is hard to constantly “do” regardless of what the “doing” is. Being productive non stop is just rushing towards the flood.

    Since I have a full time job (which by the way, I actually do enjoy and appreciate), my writing is only done on my off time, and all too often feels like a chore more than an outlet or creative downtime. That is when I have to walk away and remind myself that writing or any endeavor should be for inner pleasure, pursuit and need. Maybe, just maybe, if it feels like a chore, then it is not what I need at the time. I might need to dance or sing instead or just sit still and not be productive after such a long day. This is where the many unfinished projects, untold stories, incomplete paintings and half knitted scarves come into play ;)

    I believe we are meant to do many things which constantly opens our awareness and appreciation, expands our knowledge and skills, as well as builds upon our experiences in various new ways. All, if you will, to channel into the main focus of what we do, however way that is possible. I find that the negative (or critic, if you will) steps in when I force myself into the thinking that doing such things must lead to something important or meaningful: a finished product, a new career, a full time commitment to a hobby, etc.

    Recently, I have allowed myself to go with the flow and pamper my whims. I figure, as long as it is working for me, it is good enough and need not be a piece of work in the end. Also, I tend to flow with the seasons, such that sitting still to write during spring is almost a punishment after the long winter indoors. Instead, I am trying to do more things but also do them in light of writing (the ultimate goal). Maybe by painting an oil painting, it will inspire a new character who paints and I will just have to write about it or simply die!

    Great topic and post! Much food for thought!

    • Lori, I want to click a “Like” button on your comment, thank you. So glad you stumbled upon us here, and I love and appreciate your comments about how if it feels like a chore if might not be the right thing to do at the time. Intriguing points about following your whims and the seasons. Thank you!

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