Introducing: Living the Questions

Christina Care
8 min readJan 7, 2024

First episode: On the Lone Genius Myth…

Hello! It’s been a while and I hope you are well and your 2024 has started in the best possible way. As for me, I wanted to share something new I’ve been cooking up in my absence.

I’ve been grappling with a question. The pervasive narrative around art and creativity has meant that we’ve seen creative practice as something akin to magic, or madness. With these unruly forces comes a darkness/struggle that we treat as a necessary prerequisite in order for the Real Work of creativity to occur. Why?

Of course, creating can help us process pain and darkness. Pain often gets us started. But it doesn’t seem likely that it will motivate me out of bed, day after day, for potentially decades to come, in order to get the work done. I’m going to need more than just pain. After all, how can we expect anyone to create in a sustained way, over the course of a whole lifetime, if that process — if the practice itself — is always rooted in struggle?

Is there still no other way?

I believe there is. My new newsletter, Living the Questions, is my attempt to unpack that other way. An experiment in creating a beautiful life through creating beauty. In living the questions, as best as I can. Because the one certainty I have is that new questions will continue to arise, no matter what stage of the journey I’m in. This is worth unpacking and demystifying.

We deserve goodness, and balance. This won’t be straightforward, but we can share what we know to keep ourselves on the path.

Being a creative person is hard. But the act of telling a story through any medium is an act of connection with our fellow human. If you’re here, maybe you’re asking similar questions as I am. Maybe you too are living the questions. And if so…

Let’s connect.

Subscribe to get full access to the newsletter and website.

Otherwise, enjoy the preview of the first instalment below! And I hope you’ll consider joining me over on Living the Questions.

‘I’ve done it,’ my partner declared. ‘I’ve solved writing. No more writing.’

This is a joke between us. Facing down the struggle of a blank page day after day, we come to the end of our writing session and declare that we’ve cracked it. We wrote, and we’ve solved writing forever. It’s our kind of black humour: we know the work is never done. The writing is never really over. Tomorrow, the blank page will haunt us again.

This is what it means to live as a creative. The desire to create and make new things hangs like a spectre over everything else we choose to do in our day.

But it’s a complex state of affairs. On the one hand, we love telling stories, it thrills us and compels us and we feel better for it. It gives our lives purpose. It’s our vocation, you might say.

On the other hand, it’s really bloody difficult to do and we can be really good at finding just about anything else to do before we sit down and get it done. If we’ve ever not writing, the questions inevitably arise: Am I doing it wrong? Have I failed? Am I a faker, a poser? Am I deluding myself? Will I ever actually make anything worthwhile? Am I wasting my time? And so on and so forth.

What triggers this spiral?

There is the long-held idea that artists are mysterious loners who sit in a distant turrets or abandoned warehouses, working day and night, never sleeping or eating, sacrificing all comfort and good living for their work.

I call this the ‘Lone Genius Myth’.

But the fact is that most of us don’t live like this. And why should we? The idea of having countless hours to do nothing but make art might be appealing, but so few people actually have that opportunity. The myth also suggests that we become synonymous with our craft — our entire identity is subsumed by it.

This is black and white thinking, and privilege, starting us in on thoughts that if we aren’t chained to the desk or the canvas, or if we don’t have hours of craft time, or if we don’t have the right setup, or whatever else, then we can’t ‘really’ be doing the art making. To me, the alarm bells start ringing here.

Subscribe for more instalments here.

What’s the danger of the Lone Genius Myth?

Last year, I ran a workshop series for a group of writers. Ahead of our session, I surveyed the group of 30-odd folks on what they felt got in the way of their practice — what prevented them identifying themselves as writers. Reasons they cited included…

  • Not having published a full length novel
  • Not having made money from writing
  • Not having an agent
  • Not writing every single day

Okay, on the surface some of that sounds reasonable.

However, the group were there because they’d all won a prestigious award for being London-based writers from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many of these people were still writing regularly, improving daily in some way, and were very much on the path. In that light, aren’t some of these points quite harsh?

The high bar for self-acceptance calls to mind the following quote from Ursula Le Guin:

“[Artistry has] religion at its foundation: it is the idea that the artist must sacrifice himself for his art.”

Ursula Le Guin

Sacrifice. Yes. We don’t talk about sacrifice in the same way in other arenas of activity.

People who like to run every now and again often like to call themselves ‘runners’ — it’s not their profession, they aren’t professional joggers. They don’t get business cards made or put it on their CV. Most have never done a marathon, or any other race. They haven’t gone to the Olympics and won medals. They just slap their sneakers on and run around near their house. But they still call themselves runners. Why do creative pursuits demand so much more from us, in order to feel legitimate?

Creative pursuits therefore occupy their own special category of endeavour. They have a unique impact on our lives as a result. It comes from this idea of sacrifice, the lone genius who gives up living well in order to create, and ideally, dies young. A perfect concept for an ideal creative who rarely exists in the modern world, and who frankly, I don’t want to be. Is there any way to counteract this outdated idea about sacrifice?

Owning your craft

Let’s start here: Do you call yourself ‘an artist’?

Why? Why not?

If you don’t call yourself an artist, despite being on the path, chances are that this may have something to do with the lone genius myth — ‘being an artist’ is something with almost impossible requirements. To quote Hemingway:

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Ernest Hemingway

Major eye roll.

We know life will not always be good or kind to us. But many of us pursue art-making and creativity as a kindness to our souls — for many, it is a vocation. That’s not hyperbole. Most of us aren’t getting paid or published, we aren’t household names. We’re doing it for other reasons. We have to find those other reasons (as fair or not as this might be).

I’m mixing thoughts on identity and behaviour from people like James Clear and Margaret Atwood, with a dash of the ACT therapy approach, when I say: owning the title makes it more likely you will do the things that artists do. Namely, create.

Calling yourself an artist (or writer, painter, sculptor — whichever word applies) gives you a sense of agency. It helps you think both about what you would do in order to live up to the title you have given yourself, as well as enabling many other aspects of your life to contribute to your craft.

I like this one from Atwood:

“If you see yourself as just an honest craftsperson, you can wipe your nose on your sleeve and no one will find it out of place, but Romantic heroes and heroines, and geniuses, have — in this respect — less freedom.”

Margaret Atwood, On Writers and Writing

In short: Why must the creative act, with its roots in joy and authentic expression, find itself so tied to struggle?

I say it doesn’t need to be. What it needs to be is sustainable, so that joy comes first, the creative expression is good in itself, and we always find value in the work. We are performing the ultimate doublethink: we love this thing, and we’re always remaining tied to it lightly enough not to strangle it, or start hating it.

Yes, we want a routine and momentum, but we also want to know that if we miss a day, or two days, or even a week, our practice does not end . If this is truly my “vocation”, I will never stop creating. But I must be able to get this work done without wanting to toss myself into the deep end whenever doubt or distraction (or just life) gets in the way.

Share Living the Questions with a friend.

A final thought on ‘sustainability’

I think about this word intensely because my goal is to work well, for as long as possible. I prioritise this over, say, short term brilliance. Of course most of us would take overnight success if it was offered. But the reality is that it likely won’t be, and for the majority of us, we need to be able to keep on planting seeds for long enough to give one of them time to bear fruit. There won’t be a magic bullet, a quick fix, or a lightning strike in most of our lifetimes.

This might seem disheartening, but only if you think acknowledgement is the point. We all need some good feedback, we probably aren’t making things we deliberately think are crap. But personally, I don’t want to ever stop writing. I want to do this because I do (most of the time) genuinely love the process. As long as that’s true, I’ll keep going. That doesn’t mean there won’t be frustrations — of course there will. Of course I’m going to want someone to read the output, and tell me it’s good. But I have to find my way back to the process for it to meet the minimum requirements of being worthwhile.

I do that by calling myself a writer, and treating my life as part of the work.

Here’s the quote:

Have patience with everything that has not been resolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms for which you lack the key, and books written in a completely foreign tongue. Do not search for answers that cannot be given to you now because you could not live them. And it is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

I called this newsletter ‘Living the Questions’ precisely because Rilke was right: we’re never going to totally resolve these issues. But we will still have to live them. We have to make a practice of living them, as much as we do the craft itself. They go hand in hand. That’s sustainability. It begins with ownership, and rejecting the idea that our practice is dependant on perfect conditions. It must be possible to create and also to live.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey to unpack the creative process, deal with the obstacles that arise, while sharing knowledge and insights into the writing world as I go.

Connect with me here.



Christina Care

Emerging author, copywriter, editor and digital strategist helping creatives grow their practice. Xoogler.