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How to Train for the Daily Quest of the Hero Creative

Creatives often depict a hero's journey, but they, too, are on a quest.

Key points

  • Fictional heroes endure their quest once, while artists and creatives battle daily and with interruptions.
  • Developing a ceremony that honors entering the 'special world' of creativity triggers productivity.
  • Unlike our fictional heroes, creatives, artists, and makers must balance real life and their art.
  • Every artist, creative, and maker benefits from knowing they are a hero to themselves and their audience.

In stories, heroes embark on a quest once in a lifetime.

Artists, creatives, and makers go on a quest every time they create.

The heroes in books and movies—heroes that we love, admire, and want to be—go on quests. As Christopher Vogler writes, they initially resist the quest.

"Put yourself in the hero's shoes, and you can see that it's a difficult passage. [From the ordinary safe world to the special world of the quest.] You're being asked to say yes to a great unknown, to an adventure that will be exciting but also dangerous and even life-threatening…. You stand at a threshold of fear, and an understandable reaction would be to hesitate or even refuse the Call, at least temporarily" (2007).

Heroes in stories often believe that they are not qualified for this challenge. They do not yet possess the skills or weapons to do battle. Sometimes, they don't know the challenge, but they need to move on with their lives and enter the special world where they are tested.

They often meet a mentor who trains the hapless hero, or they realize their own shortcomings, flip the confidence switch, and go on to win.

Artists and writers, those creative people who depict the scenes, need not face any physical danger. Like viewers and readers, we remain protected at our desks, easels, and armchairs. In this position of safety, we can watch movies and TV shows and read stories to develop "an understanding that these literary engagements have the potential to create experiences that participate in the ongoing project of making and using knowledge" (Sumara, 2011). How would we fight the dragon or the intruder? We gather strength without lifting a finger.

Our favorite heroes—like Frodo, Harry Potter, Dorothy, and Rocky—possess certain qualities that make them perfect candidates for the challenge.

They enter the special world, and they train. They dedicate themselves to honing their skills—magic, physical endurance—and they get to live this life until they meet their foe, find the treasure, or learn that they have the quality all along; they just need to value their self-confidence.

But writers, artists, and makers in all genres dip into the special world every time they sit down at their keyboard, lined pad, typewriter, sewing machine, canvas, frying pan, or workbench.

This grounding makes the journey of burgeoning creatives even more challenging because no one has bid us farewell or good luck when we embark on this daily quest to make art.

The creative side hustle entertains our thoughts of taking up the quest and announcing to the world, "I am an artist. I must leave you now as I embark on this quest."

But other commitments usually pull us back into the ordinary world. The day job provides health insurance, paid vacations, and a salary.

Those commitments can be family. Young children cry out when they need our help, a family for whom we cook and clean, and others who rely on us to take them to appointments, watch their games, and be there when they need a shoulder to cry on.

We usually work another job to help pay the bills. Nonetheless, we steal hours and minutes to craft a new plot and develop a new protagonist, sketch out a new landscape, and try a new recipe.

And often—while we're working that job—our minds pull us away to the special world that we are crafting, the world that we're dying to capture on paper or in a document so that one day we can finally scream out to our ordinary worlds, "I write stories. Look what I wrote. I'm a writer."

Sure, our family, our closest friends, and even our coworkers often know of our call to create, but unless they, too, engage in some secret quest to make art, they may discount our efforts as a pastime.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with hobbies and pastimes.

But how often do those who create imagine a world where they can devote their full attention to their creations?

For over 20 years, I operated a home decorating workroom, providing interior designers with swags, jabots, pinch-pleated draperies, pillows, Roman shades, and much more. My employees included my husband. People relied on me for their weekly cheques.

But through it all, I held fast to my dream to be a writer. To pen entertaining stories of heroes and their quests.

I wrote novels with characters who faced their demons and challenges, fought their battles, and concluded their tales in victory.

I never considered that I struggled with a similar 'call' to launch on my own quest—to enter the special world of a published author.

When I wrote my dissertation, I discovered that all writers make regular quests. But also, all artists, creatives, and makers enter the extraordinary world of creativity every time they endeavor to create.

Try this:

  • Before you begin a creative session, acknowledge that you are answering the call to make art.
  • Elevate this quest to the status it deserves.
  • Dress in your hero's uniform. Put on the smock, the apron, and Superman's cape.
  • Adopt a ceremony that sets the mood of your endeavor. Light a candle or make a cup of herbal tea.
  • Mediate for two minutes, focusing on your upcoming journey into this special world.
  • At the end of your session, revel in that time away.
  • Take off the uniform and ready your space to prepare for the next quest.

Making art matters.

  • We keep our day jobs.
  • We take care of our families.
  • We struggle.
  • We dream.
  • We think.
  • We paint and sew and write and bake and weed and sand and saw while doing everything else.
  • We have no choice.

Hero creatives go on a quest every time that they create.

We learn to go and come back on this creative quest many, many times, and often multiple times in a day.

Artists, creatives, and makers in all genres toil, task, and battle whenever we can.

Our quest may not matter to any other living soul. But it matters to us.


Sumara, D. (2011) Why Reading Literature in School Still Matters: Imagination, Interpretation, Insight. New York: Routledge.

Vogler, C. (2007), The Writer’s Journey, Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions.

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