Every six months or so I feel a little lost creatively. It leads to a lot of good things, but in the moment it feels disconcerting.
This is something readers write to me about all the time. They want to know what can be done to get them back to where they were. They want a laser-like focus again on the creative pursuits that once thrilled them.
I argue that's not healthy for a few reasons.
First, it's good to move on. Any creative pursuit is more about personal growth and pushing past your own limits, than it is about what is keeping you in one place. Some fear a loss of income if they change focuses. OK, that's fair, but that's commerce, not necessarily art. Commerce is different animal. Art requires you to move on.
You may fear your audience's expectations of you. Will they follow you in your new projects? I'll save you the suspense: some will, some won't. That's not what's important.
Performing on your own terms may mean less commerce in the short term, but it leads to greater satisfaction, and perhaps greater pay days in the long term. How many artists commit suicide or drink/drug themselves to death even with a fat bank account? Too many. Making decisions about art based entirely on commerce is a recipe for regret.
Second, you want something that isn't going to happen: time travel. Not only did you change over the past few months/years, the world did. You changed, because you took in new information and it re-wired your brain accordingly. You can't go back. Also, the audience changed while you weren't looking. You must constantly earn the interest of new audiences as well as yourself.
Being creatively lost is normal, if you're open to new ideas. It's a good sign. Persistence and focus does matter, but when it comes to art, the persistence and focus must be tied to what furthers you as an artist.
This post originally appeared in my personal newsletter.