Are you stuck in an endless struggle trying to build your creative business? Do you feel like you’ll never be successful because you don’t have the time, energy, resources and connections to get the right people to notice you? Do you want to build a creative life that works for you? Do you want to work from a space of creative joy, not suffering? Do you want to be fairly and abundantly paid for the creative work you do?
As the heroes in our own creative lives, the traditional storytelling template of the hero’s journey gives us hope at the end of the tunnel. The reality is the creative industries are not designed for the creator’s reward and success, only the enjoyment and benefit for everyone else.
In this episode, I am starting a conversation that I hope you will take out into the wider world about how it is more than time to rewrite the narrative of the hero’s journey and make it work for creators. I’ll be explaining what I feel is missing from the original template and how we can use it to support ourselves and other creatives to ensure and enhance our success. If you’re working as an independent creator or have a dream to make it big as a maker, you do not want to miss this episode!
To find out how to work with me visit www.camillafellasarnold.com/creativepower
For episode transcripts visit: https://camillafellasarnold.com/category/podcast/
Full explanation of The Hero’s Journey by Matthew Winkler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hhk4N9A0oCA
Contact me to work 1:1 or get on the waitlist for my group programmes at firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to Creative Power! Today I’m going to start a conversation with you that I hope you will take out into the wider world and continue this conversation with other people. Because the more people who start talking about this the more we can start to change the narrative.
And that narrative is the hero’s journey and how I think it needs a bit of a rewrite.
Let me give you some backstory as to how the conversation even came about. This last week I have been thinking about World Creativity and Innovation Week that’s coming up in a couple of months as I wanted to mark the occasion. I’ve decided… or to be honest, been inspired and guided to organise an online conference – a summit if you will.
Woo! Putting it out there. Yep, I’ve said it, taking ownership of it. I’m publicly committing to it. I’m going to hold a summit!
Not going to lie, shitting myself a little bit but I’ve just jumped off the metaphorical building in saying it out loud to you today. But I’ll simply have to find my wings on the way down because it’s happening.
So as I was thinking about the overarching theme of the summit. Who I’m going to be targeting, the audience I’m aiming to have and what journey I want to take them on throughout the summit. I started to get activated, I suppose is the best way to describe it, thinking about what it’s like out there for creatives. For freelancers, self-employed, sole traders… for anyone who’s independently creating. It’s tough out there and it’s also lonely.
Now I think talking about the creative loneliness that we experience is a whole other topic for another day so I’m going to save that. but I was thinking about this summit and what I want to achieve with it.
I thought about how hard it can be to foster a sense of community, of camaraderie when we’re all stuck at home working on our own computers. Yes we have zoom, yes we have phones but it’s still not got the same feel about it. There’s not the same buzz or vibe as you get when you’re in some kind of studio environment. It’s…. lonely.
And this is exactly what we’re sold to as the story of the life of a creative. Society dangles this carrot in front of us that essentially says, do the thing! Be creative! We will applaud and love you for it! You will be rewarded! Go through all the pain and suffering for your art for us to enjoy and you’ll come out the other side famous and rich!
However, the experience of working as a creative is much different. Because for many, it’s a struggle. A struggle to be seen, heard, valued. Only the select gifted or connected few are the ones that seem to make it.
For the rest of us, it’s feast and famine with cash flow, fighting for work, horrendously underpaid and then the overwhelm of wearing all the different hats that come with being an independent creator. Not all the hats fit, they don’t suit you, you simply don’t like them but you’re stuck wearing them. Because if you don’t do all your social media, admin, marketing, publicity outreach, website design and create the work… no one else will, right?
That’s the story we’ve been sold and it reflects the hero’s journey.
In 25 words or less, if you don’t know, the hero’s journey is a storytelling template. It’s a template that shows the journey a hero will take in a story and observes the common landmark moments in the journey. There are a few variations of it and creators will use some or all parts of it but the general gist is, the main protagonist in the story is more than likely to hit quite a few of those waymarkers.
I’m not going to give you a detailed run down of the hero’s journey in this episode (I will link to an explanation in the show notes). If you feel interested in hearing a breakdown by me in a future episode though, do get in touch and let me know and I’ll make it as a bonus episode.
But back to my point, we’ve been convinced that as creators, we also will go on this hero’s journey and yet, many independent creators never reach ‘the end’ of the journey and get to reap the rewards.
Now the hero’s journey is split into three main parts – act one, the departure where the hero leaves life as they know it for their adventure. Act two, the main bulk of a story is the initiation where they meet their trials on the road and this will have the story climax. Act three is the return where the ordeal is over, the battle is won and they return to a more ‘normal’ life even if it doesn’t look the same as before.
As creators though, we often get stuck in act two, the initiation. We spend our years treading water through those trials and tribulations with the vague promise of hope and reward at the end but sadly, it doesn’t arrive.
And here’s where I want to home in on what’s wrong with the hero’s narrative.
Before act two, before the hero crosses the threshold on their adventure or quest, they have a meeting with a mentor, a goddess, guide or some kind of meeting that gives them something that will support them on their journey.
Think of Galadriel giving Frodo a phial of light in Lord of the Rings for instance. He doesn’t know when it will be useful but gladly takes the aid and uses it in his darkest hour (sorry for the terrible pun there!)
Here’s the kicker though – that’s all she gives him. She gives him this phial of light without much detail of when or where to use it, she just hopes or knows that he will remember to use it when the time is right. And then she leaves him to it.
Now I’m picking out one story off the top of my head but you’ll find this happen all over. The one in the know, the guide, the goddess, the mentor, gives the hero a token and a vague comment to indicate how it can be used and then… well, off you trot all on your own to figure it out.
And it’s the same with the creative process. We’re left to fend for ourselves. We go to say, college or university and have teachers, trainers, mentors guiding us. Helping us hone our craft, shape our future and then in the blink of an eye it’s over and you’ve got to figure it out for yourself.
It’s exactly where I think the hero’s journey narrative needs a rewrite. It’s what I am trying to build in my own coaching practice with people I work with too.
Why should we go it alone? Because doing it alone, struggling as a freelancer or independent creator for years means you don’t have the support or knowledge to shortcut the trials and tribulations. Now I realise there’s a good argument for lessons learned helps us grow and I agree it is true.
When the trials, when the suffering lasts our entire lifetime and the payoff only comes when we’re dead and gone, something is wrong with the picture. Wrong with the industry, wrong with society’s mentality.
Think about how many artists, writers etc that you’ve heard of that only became famous after they died. Sold barely any paintings and now their work sells for millions apiece.
Who does this narrative serve?
Everyone except the creator themselves.
I’m mindful that this could be starting to sound like a rant and I’ll be honest, I suppose it partly is although I’m trying to be eloquent about it. I’m angry about this. I’m passionate about it. I want us to change this. I want to know what it looks like when the creatives of the world are fully supported, fully valued, working from a place of joy, not suffering.
Human beings are social creatures. We are not meant to do this alone and yet, we sanction the narrative.
Okay Camilla you might be thinking… I hear you, this resonates with me. What can we do about it?
Know this, change starts at an individual level. If 100% of the country didn’t head out of the door to vote then one vote would swing it either way. So when we all sanction this, when we all stay focused on our individual struggles as creatives and say nothing then… nothing changes.
So I invite you to continue this conversation elsewhere. Share this episode with your creative friends and keep talking about it. Let’s make some noise about it. Because I’ll be honest, I don’t have all the answers but I can see the problem and I’m willing to speak up about it.
For me, a lot of it comes down to working on our own mindset. I’ve personally spent a lot of time working on my limiting beliefs around being a starving or suffering artist. I’ve faced the fears head-on and dug deep to find my own internal authority and sense of self-worth and value. And I’m a very different kind of creator now.
Today I am confident in my skills, expertise and abilities. I am confident in how much to charge for the work I do and the support I offer. I am unafraid to share my creativity and voice with the world.
And for my part in rewriting the narrative of the hero’s journey, I have chosen to become a mentor and guide for others. And I include all of my learnings and the mindset shifting into my support process for those I work with.
If you’re looking to create with confidence and build a life that works for you. If you’re wanting to work from a space of creative joy not suffering. If you want to get fairly and abundantly paid for what you do and you’re ready to change who you are BEING in the world, I’ll meet you at the threshold.
And crucially, I’m not going to give you a gift and leave you to figure it out for yourself. You see, I learnt one of my zones of genius is in companionship. I’m the Anna to your Elsa, the John Watson to your Sherlock Holmes. I walk the journey with the people I work with and on the days they can’t hold their big vision, I hold it for them and help them walk true north.
This is what I think is needed within the hero’s journey. The ongoing support. Not just here for a moment with a quick fix and then left to fend for yourself. We need to rip up the old story that makes us think we have to go this alone because the truth is, we don’t.
Let’s talk about Arthurian legend for a minute. King Arthur of Camelot doesn’t act alone. He has Merlin AND the Knights of the Round Table. As a king, he knows that he needs expert knowledge from Merlin and the support of the knights to go out and win battles. He couldn’t do it alone so surrounded himself with those that could help him get there.
Frodo has an entire fellowship helping him get the ring to Mordor. Harry Potter has Hermione and Ron as his constant companions. Alice has multiple guides as she goes into wonderland – the white rabbit, Cheshire cat and the hatter for instance.
It doesn’t mean for a moment that there aren’t tests on the road. But it’s easier when the load is shared. When someone is supporting you carry the burden and can see the wood for the trees when you can’t, it makes the journey easier and quicker. With a mentor or guide, with companionship and encouragement, it means those dreams are attainable within our lifetimes, not just distant hopes or wishful thinking.
And the more of us that activate ourselves and start working to change this narrative, the more change we’ll see on the ground. But the change starts within us as individuals first.
Creativity is a lonely business, so we’ve been told. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s look for new solutions. Let’s rewrite that hero’s narrative so that the creative hero doesn’t go on the journey alone. That the independent creators can work together, can support each other and change the industry to work on our terms. That talent is recognised and rewarded regardless of your background. That you have the opportunity to bring your dreams to life even if you don’t have privilege or connections. Together, we are stronger.
So in practical terms, what can we do?
I think the first step is to start talking about this. Let’s raise awareness that this is even a problem we can change. Continue this conversation with me, with other creatives. You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter – search for Camilla Fellas Arnold and I’ll show up so tell me your thoughts and let’s get this moving.
Then look at your current situation. Are you stuck in the endless struggle? Having access to support that can take the load off is going to make a massive difference. Take stock of what you do in your creative practise that isn’t a hat you enjoy wearing. Can you outsource, delegate or drop it entirely? Do you need to change the way you subconsciously approach this and need support in doing so?
I know funds can be an issue so getting a virtual assistant might not be the most accessible option today but what about bartering and trading skills? We’re a resourceful, inventive bunch, we can always come up with unique ways to help each other out that gets us where we want and need to be.
If you need more in-depth support and guidance, find yourself a mentor or coach (like me) instead of trying to figure everything out alone. They have an objectivity to your goals and dreams that we often struggle to have for ourselves. We can’t see the wood for the trees for a reason, it’s our stuff and we’re emotionally invested in it so an outside perspective can help you get some more perspective for yourself.
As an aside, at the moment, I do have limited spaces to take on some 1:1 clients if you’re really ready to take this on and get where you want to be so if you’re interested, do get in touch. I’ll add a link in the show notes. If 1:1 is not for you, my group programmes will be launching soon so feel free to let me know and I’ll add you to the waitlist and we can start walking this journey together. I’ve got you. We’ve got this.
The world needs us creators and made us think we had to suffer for the privilege for too long. Let’s change this narrative and write a new hero’s journey that works for us.