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4 Lessons Learned About the Myth of Creative Success Staying true to their passion is challenging but essential for creatives navigating the contemporary economy.

By Daniel McCarthy Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In the creative industry, the thing that motivates us directly affects what we're going to create. My team at Musicbed felt so strongly about this topic that we made it the subject of a new feature-length documentary called MAKE, which we've just released on Vimeo on Demand.

Through the film, we explore how a creative in our modern world can stay true to their passion. Chasing dollars, likes, followers and awards can be an easy trap for any creative to fall into, with consequences that will affect everything we produce as artists.

Because nobody wants to learn the hard way, I want to share four things I've learned about creative success that affect us all.

1. Comparison is a trap.

Today, we're all connected. As soon as a designer puts their work on Dribbble, or a filmmaker uploads their short to Vimeo, the potential for a million eyes with a million different opinions is unleashed on the product. We are constantly watching what everyone else is making, and constantly aware of what everyone thinks about our own work. With this unlimited exposure to critique and to other people's opinion, it's easier than ever to do something for the wrong reason.

Related: When It Makes Sense to Turn a Passion Project Into a Nonprofit

The passion to create is essentially human, and as soon as we lose sight of it as the key motivation for our lives, we're left chasing something that is inevitably going to let us down. Make something because you're passionate about it. It's as simple as that. Your best work will come from a place of passion for the craft. The followers, likes and dollars will just be a by-product -- not the reason.

2. The creative process is a cycle.

Passion. Success. Collapse. Start Over.

It's like clockwork, and it applies to anyone who's made a career for themselves in the creative industry. Think about why you began doing whatever it is you love -- you started because you liked doing it. As soon as someone is successful in their craft, they try to imitate that success by following a formula and trying to hit it big again. Their work suffers, because without knowing it, they've already begun making something other than for the reason of making it. It inevitably leads to a collapse in their professional or personal life. The lucky ones find a healthy, but difficult, road back to where they started.

Why not break the cycle? As soon as you gain success from something you've done, acknowledge it and move on. Don't allow the success of the present become a trap for your future.

Related: Not Every Creation or Passion Project Should Be a Business

3. We need voices, not echoes.

Whenever we release a film on Vimeo or YouTube, the number-one comment we receive is "What did you shoot this on?' People are more concerned about how we made something than why we made it. They're asking the wrong questions. They believe that there's a safe trajectory to success, and they see it in other people's work. What we need in the creative industry are voices, not echoes. You create your voice by trying new things and making something that comes from your heart, not following someone else's path. It's about finding your own place in this world, no matter how difficult that may be.

Echoes are safe. You see something you like, and imitate it. It's a formula. Where's the fun in that?

4. Fulfillment is found in the process, not the prize.

Ask yourself this question: What is the "thing" that will happen that will tell you "you've made it?"

I think we are subconsciously asking ourselves this question on a regular basis, and maybe we don't need to ask it, or better yet, maybe we don't need to answer it. Like I said before, the need to create is utterly human. If we believe there's a finish line, or a prize at the end, how horrific will it be when you finally get there and realize that you are unfulfilled?

Related: It's Your Passion. Now, Here's How to Make It Your Business

Maybe this is counterintuitive, but I believe that true creative fulfillment is found in the process, not in the prize. If you live in the moment, and see the process as the reward, then there's nothing left but to sit back and enjoy the journey.

Daniel McCarthy

Founder and CEO of Musicbed and Filmsupply

Daniel McCarthy is the founder and CEO of Musicbed and Filmsupply. With a diverse background in filmmaking, marketing, design and music, McCarthy has built Musicbed into a leading site for licensing relevant music to filmmakers, brands, ad agencies and TV studios. Earlier this year, he launched Filmsupply to revolutionize the stock footage industry with premium 4K content from some of the world’s top filmmakers.

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