Stoic Principles Every Creative Needs To Thrive

Ancient philosophy and creative work are rarely thought analogous. Maybe they should.

Creative work of any kind—a book, a screenplay, a painting, an album, a business—really comes down to having something to say and a way to say it so people listen. As Ryan Holiday writes in Perennial Seller, “Anyone doing any kind of creative work is attempting to have impact and to survive.” It’s about making something new and hoping people will like it so you can keep doing it. The process can be lonely, intimidating, and filled with self-doubt. Stoicism is a tool ready to help.

Below are 9 Stoic exercises and strategies that will help you find the clarity, effectiveness, and tranquility to do your best work.

[1] Find The Right Scene — The Stoa Poikile which was located at the Ancient Agora of Athens is the famous porch that Stoicism was named after, where the founder of Stoicism, Zeno, and like-minded cohorts gathered each day to discuss philosophy and collaborate ideas for living good lives. Kleon again, “good work isn’t created in a vacuum.” What minds are you connecting with? Who’s in your scene?

[2] Rise And Shine — The creative doesn’t always have a boss over their shoulder, dictating when to be where. The work gets done because you make sure of it. When the alarm sounds, the snooze button shouldn’t even be a consideration. Get up, get to work.

[3] Clarify Your Intentions — What is getting you out of bed every morning? If you can’t answer that immediately, stop and take the time to figure it out. Viktor Frankl said that those who have a why can bear almost any how.

[4] Accurate Self-Assessment — Being delusional and shunning weaknesses might help stumble into fluke successes. Underestimating yourself isn’t sustainable either. Do the analysis. Ask others for their feedback. Know your strengths and be confident in them. Uncover your weaknesses so those can become an asset.

[5] Fuel The Habit Bonfire — Today shapes tomorrow. Regardless of how far along you are in your creative career, you’re either progressing, stagnant, or regressing. Identify the habits that are pushing you forward and keep adding fuel to those fires. Excellence is a habit.

[6] A Work In Progress — Hemingway said that we’re all apprentices in a field where no one is the master. Maintain that attitude even at your height of success. There’s always a new height, something new to learn. The corporate top of the ladder doesn’t exist. That’s why we chose this field.

[7] Seeking Out Shipwrecks — Jorge Luis Borges said whatever happens to the creator must be seen as a resource. Ryan Holiday said The Obstacle Is The Way. Everything is material. If a project flops, learn from it. Shipwrecked, evicted, or house burnt down–use it, turn it into good art.

[8] Dealing With Haters — Seneca said praise is just the clacking of tongues. That’s all the haters are. Know who’s tongues matter so you can call it feedback, and know who’s don’t so you can call it nonsense.

[9] Love The Humble Art — Remember why it started. Before compensation and recognition were in your lexicon, you just loved doing it. You loved the craft. You couldn’t not do it. In success and hardship, let that continue to be true.