Notes on Creative Calling

Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life by Chase Jarvis

Yes, I selected another book on creativity. I had other books in queue, but then watched Marie Forleo’s interview with author Chase Jarvis which made this one jump to the top. Jarvis intrigued me because although his themes sounded similar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s in Big Magic, his energy and experiences sounded very different. He photographs intense sports in extreme conditions and interviews heads of major corporations. 

In the interview with Forleo, Jarvis talked about a 4 part process that is the framework of his book - IDEA: Imagine, Design, Execute, and Amplify. I started out this reflection thinking I would outline the four sections, but based on how the first section turned out I realized that would make for a long and uninteresting read. Instead, I’ve decided to share and explore a few lines from the book that resonated with me.

“You’ve got to do the verb to be the noun.” 

Jarvis emphasizes the importance of action throughout the book from encouraging the reader in directives like “start before you’re ready” and “make it till you make it.” For him, identity comes from action, not from using a label. This resonated with me. 

I wrote and published a book eight years ago, but hesitated to call myself an author. Participating in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month - an annual challenge during the month of November to write a 50,000 word story in 30 days) was fun, and turning the story I wrote into a book a cool project. But writing fiction didn’t turn into something that I was excited to wake up and do everyday. I knew I didn’t want to turn that into everyday action.

I photograph. Over ninety percent of the images on this site and in our social media, I've taken. I love capturing moments, pausing to look more closely at the scene happening around me and framing it in creative ways. I curate. I love arranging and organizing things from furniture in my house to images, words, and ideas. I don't just throw the quotes onto the photos that are in the gallery section of our blog. I spend time carefully arranging the words to flow with each other and the image.

These are a few of the things I love to make. What’s your verb? What actions do you enjoy taking and get you excited to create?

“Planning and play aren’t opposites; they complement each other beautifully.”

First off, Jarvis identifies busy as a disease and I respect him for it. We’re all susceptible to it and need to be reminded of the contagion. I also love that he identifies that work and play co-exist. Obviously, we at Flow Circus know and promote this, but love seeing it in print. In this same section (Design), he advocates for adventure and play as a creativity booster to replenish and nurture creative capacity. He suggests “If people ask you why you weren’t at your desk, tell them you were gathering raw material.” Love it! 

Like many books do, he provides suggestions on how to manage time so that work and play can coexist and life doesn’t have to be so hard. In my experience, work scheduling/productivity tools tend to work for a little while. Maybe. He did offer something new - that time management itself is creative. We should look at it as a work in progress of its own. That says to me, that it’s okay to be messy. Something might work for awhile and then it won’t. 

Like any work it progress, it’ll need constant tinkering and revisiting. “I wonder what would happen if…” That’s a question we have participants in our workshops practice asking themselves as they play and experiment with flop balls. It’s a question I’m now going to be asking myself as I think about how I approach planning my daily and weekly schedule. That will take the pressure off the idea that there’s a “right way” to do it, allow me to let go of a method that no longer works, and as a result approach work more playfully.

How does looking at time management as a creative task - one that can only be done by you in your own unique way - change the way you approach it? 

“Be soft and vulnerable in creating; ferocious and bold in sharing.” 

I got the book because I wanted to learn how to “amplify.” As I mentioned, I wrote a book years ago and at that time I had absolutely NO promotion skills. Lately, our social media skills have improved, but we still have room to grow. 

First, he distinguishes between a creator and an influencer. I’ve heard the term influencer and knew we weren’t operating on that level, but didn’t really know if that’s what we wanted to aim for or not (turns out we don’t - good to know). Jarvis identifies the influencer as doing/becoming anything they need to to hold onto their audience whereas the creator holds onto his/her path and the right people come along for the journey. Throughout the book, he stresses the importance of authenticity, finding your “special sauce,” and being “unapologetically you.” His belief is that the right audience will find and follow you based on “what you do, how you do it, and why” if you’re consistent and patient.

But you have to put it out there consistently. With confidence, courage, and enthusiasm. That’s the hard part. Encouraging engagement is the goal on social media, but that means opening oneself up to all kinds of feedback. Writing these blog posts comes easy when I don’t think many people actually read them, but if I knew I’d be “ferociously” sharing them it might create a little more stress.

Where is the resistance coming from? He told the story about how when he was in grad school he never wanted to share his work because it wasn’t what he wanted to be working on and he wasn’t proud of it. That hasn’t been my issue though. I think my biggest challenge to “ferocious and bold” sharing has been an aversion to the “sales-y” people in the world and knowing that everyone else is already inundated in our information-saturated world. I didn’t want to add to it. 

What’s our special sauce? Is there something that we can contribute that adds something of value? I’ve come to realize that we can create needed playfulness and calm for people and we can do that even in the world of social media. That’s what we can share with confidence, courage, and enthusiasm. Now we need to grow the community of people that it resonates with and engage with them more.

What's your special sauce?

Wrap Up: As I anticipated, Creative Calling had similar themes to Big Magic such as we are all creative, creativity is important to well-being, and we all need to just start making stuff. What made it different was how he moved seamlessly between business and creative mindsets which I appreciated but at times felt jarring. For example, he shared how he taught himself to improve his skills as an action sports photographer using his DEAR formula. He studied the work of other photographers and would then Deconstruct - Emulate - Analyze - Repeat. 

I bristle a little at the idea of taking such an methodical, analytical approach to something creative in nature, but wonder how I might benefit from the practice. I think I might do it already subconsciously when I look at other blog posts or look at photographs or watch other speakers, but I wonder what I could learn or how my growth might accelerate by doing it more thoughtfully and deliberately. 

I appreciated it when he looked at time management as a creative practice so I guess it might be helpful to take an analytical lens to creative practices, too. Shifting us out of our usual lenses can help us see things in a fresh way, be more mindful, and take a new approach that might just help get us to a new level of performance. Maybe that’s part of our creative calling.