The Creative Life: Following your Bliss vs. Taking the Sensible Path

This weekend I heard a middle school choral director speak about supporting kids’ creative passions.    

He said, kids often don’t continue with music (or art, photography, writing, etc) because somewhere along the way they are told it’s not sensible, that it’s not a “clear and trusted” practical career path.   

But, he asked, what if a career in the arts is your bliss?

Photo credit: Mallari Sizemore 


Dreams are important. When I was a teenager, I concocted big ideas for my future. One involved me owning horses, a show barn, and 537 acres of land, not because I loved horses, but because apparently riding horses with “your hair whipping away from your face” primes the creative pump. Either way, you get the gist, writing was pretty important to me.


 My diary dreams.

But, now that I’m a parent of kids sitting (precariously) close to the edge of our family nest, I admit the dreamy thing makes me cringe a bit. There’s an element of fear.  

Fear is the thing that can derail a dream.  

And fear can send a parent into the You Need to be Practical speech (you want your kids to be happy, but you also don’t necessarily want them living in your basement at thirty.)  

Except I also know that it’s not my job to define their happy. So, so hard to remember after years of telling them when to sleep, eat, and blow their noses.  

This whole following your bliss thing can be complicated.  Do you take the risk, or stick to the more sensible pursuit?   There’s a character in my YA contemporary, Come Back to Me, named Evan Foster, and Evan believes without question that you should go “balls to the wall” when it comes to your dreams. Now, balls to the wall is an old aviation term that refers to pushing the ball-shaped grip on the throttle all the way forward, i.e. full speed.  

Full speed, like with your hair whipping in the wind and all that.


 I don’t think there’s one answer, or one way to follow your bliss. Sometimes you are not exactly sure of your dream, sometimes all you have is a wispy idea.  

Write those wispy ideas down.  Listen to your heart.   Talk to people who do what you want to do. Take classes. Keep learning.  Continue moving forward.  

If it’s your passion, find a way to keep creating.  

Me? I got a degree in criminal justice, worked in a library (and a whole slew of other odd jobs, like delivering phone books), got married, became a mom (best job ever), worked some more odd jobs (selling makeup, crafts, and gutters—but not all at the same time), and now I’m writing again.  

No, it wasn’t a straight path, and nothing about it felt particularly “clear and trusted.” But still I’m where I wanted to be.  

And I’m picking up some momentum . . . I think there may even be a little hair whipping happening.


What do you think about following your bliss? Do you think you can balance the sensible and your dream? What’s the oddest job you’ve ever had?


Happy Monday!

Oh and I hope you stop by on Valentine’s day–I will be participating in the Indie-Kissing Blog Fest hosted by the INDELIBLES. 🙂

51 thoughts on “The Creative Life: Following your Bliss vs. Taking the Sensible Path

  1. Love this, Coleen. I’m definitely one of those kids who discarded the writer dream (in fact, I’m not even sure it had the chance to root itself as a possible “what do you want to be when you grow up”) even though I loved writing stories. And then, after getting laid off, it came bursting out when I least expected it. Funny how the soul takes care of things the brain has been programmed to ignore.

    Anywho, oddest job for me? Well, my first job was at Wendy’s which isn’t so much odd as kind of fun, but only because of the name. I’m not sure working in fast food could ever qualify as fun. And the number one question I was asked, multiple times per shift? “Are you THE Wendy?” “Yes! Yes I am! Now can I take your order, please!” That was always my answer. 🙂 And no, no I’m not.

    Happy Monday to you, too!


    1. “Funny how the soul takes care of things the brain has been programmed to ignore.” I love this Wendy! And that’s so funny that you’d get asked if you’re the real Wendy. I’m wondering if the real Wendy ever actually stood behind one of the registers!


  2. I always wanted to be a writer, and yes, I got the “be practical” talk – and I’ve never been sorry I listened to my dad. There’s nothing romantic about having to work in fast food while you wait for writing to pay the bills. As it turns out, my “practical” graphic design degree and work experience is serving me well as an indie author, as is my current career in web development. So yes, dreams sometimes need to be put on hold while we establish the practical career, but I totally believe you can have it both ways!


    1. Web development and graphic design–yes two skills that are MAJOR benefits for a writing career these days. Yes practical has its perks. Plus I think that more life experience can enrich creativity, or at least go toward research. Thanks Jennette!


  3. Anything feels right when you have your hair whipping around your head. 😉 My daughter wants to be an author and a marine biologist. My son wants to be a hip-hop dancer and a pizzeria owner. So far, they’re being practical and dreamy. 🙂


  4. Lovely post? Is that your son? I was a big dreamer, some realistic, some not so realistic. I once listened to a big corporate exec who said that when he went to an inner city school and asked the kids about their reams. A large number didn’t have dreams– they were in survival mode. He set up a program of scholarships and dangled a dream before them — if they graduated, he would pay for their college educations. Years later, a very large percentage of those same kids who didn’t have dreams graduated and went to college. He also found that social economics wasn’t the over riding factor, because there were kids in excellent schools who did’t have dreams. He emphasized that “dreaming” is vital to a child’s development. I’ll never forget that.

    I care a wooden coin that says “Fear” on one side and “Faith” on the other side. Can’t tell you just knowing it’s in my purse has reversed my thinking over a situation.


    1. That’s a great story Patricia. In general kids can have such open minds so I imagine that the best dreams could start there. So yes, that definitely sounds vital. Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  5. I love how you keep revamping your blog! Minimalism is very attractive to me…would love to apply it to my home someday…lol

    I’m definitely following my bliss, which has resulted in lots of changes and bouts of massive (hopefully temporary) panicking over my finances. Plus hearty amounts of mean words from my no-boundaries Chinese parents and very low self-esteem when I play the Compare to my Harvard Classmates game. Tell me why I’m doing this again? 😛

    My oddest job was 3 days as the assistant to a celebrity manager who yelled at people every day and put everyone down. I did get to talk to some neat celebs on the phone, though. 😀


    1. Well I’m glad you like the blog. My husband and I have been trying to tweak the theme for awhile now. Yesterday we thought we had it, only to come up with some big glitches this morning. Like today FB won’t take this post’s url without converting it to a bitly. Oh well. I am going for minimal. But I also want it to work. So far that seems to be asking too much.
      And you’re doing the scary thing, the hard thing so that makes you super cool in my book. And that’s BEFORE factoring in Harvard, the singing, the acting, the modeling . . . 🙂


  6. Joseph Campbell was/is right. Writing is a path that should have been followed many times before. It would have been difficult. But, and this is a big but, some of the paths I took were fun, paid the bills and filled the files with story material.


  7. That would be a very scary question indeed when raising children you want to be independent and self-sufficient, but at what risk? Of course you want them to be happy, but if playing the accordian makes them happy, how much money are they going to make doing it? Can they afford a house, a family, a car by following their accordian-playing dreams?

    I’m glad I don’t have to counsel young people because I’m not sure what I’d tell them. Good luck to you though.

    This was a very thought-provoking post.

    I haven’t had any weird jobs. I worked at a bed and breakfast inn one summer. That was kind of unusual and fun, but not weird. Wish I had somerthing cool to contribute here.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


  8. My we’re philosophical for a Monday morning! :), but so so true, everything you said. My path to writing wasn’t clear or trusted either, even though I always wrote. And now that my kids are in that same precarious perch as yours, it’s so hard not to be cautious for them, to try to insure they’ll at least have something to fall back on, without sounding like you’re crushing their dreams, or don’t believe they can succeed, and yet isn’t it also our job as parents to inject a little reality? Oy! So tough!


  9. I like the way you’re dropping breadcrumb-sized bits of information about your YA contemporary, Coleen. Last week, you mentioned the title. This week, you mention the title again and tell us about a character, Evan Foster. I’ll keep following the trail.


    1. I guess they have been crumbs. I must say they FEEL like loaves. Not easy talking about it. I will get better. I think. Well, actually I have to because I have a GREAT cover to reveal soon. Thanks Pat!


  10. I’ve had a pretty circuitous route to my present circumstances, too. In high school I started writing, in college I began photography. But, of course, living got in the way of both dreams. Now, newly retired, I have taken up both pen and camera again and am enjoying myself immeasurably. But “hair whipping in the wind”? Maybe in the ’60’s when I had hair. But now, alas, those days are long gone. Oddest job? They’ve all been pretty mundane, but working at KFC when in high school, I do remember being told to pick the frozen chicken breast off the floor where it had dropped and put it into the fryer!


  11. Oh, yes. Hair whipping in the wind is highly creative. At least, when I was eight or nine years old and the hair was whipping around in the wind, I gave myself very dramatic roles in the stories I told myself. LOL

    I did not however follow my bliss until late in life. I was too afraid of not being financially stable. In part that was the fear mom parents always conveyed to me, in part it’s me needing security.

    Great post, Coleen. Good luck to both of your kids as they begin to explore and find their bliss.


  12. You definitely need to do what you love. You can work for money, but you may never be happy. Doing what you love means you may never have to work a day in your life. 🙂 My husband is a farmer, which is a horrible way to make a living, but it’s also a wonderful way to raise a family. AND… it’s what he loves to do, and that really DOES matter. I’d hate for him to have to work a job he hates.


    1. It’s great that he loves his work, another plus for your family to see the power in fulfillment and hard work. I’ve had jobs that kind of sucked the happy right out of me, it really does affect everyone around you.
      Thanks Leigh!


  13. I think it’s true that most people, when they become parents, give up on the ‘bliss’ dream in favour of the ‘practical’. But you are proof that it is possible to stay the course 🙂

    My problem is that I never had any clear direction, and yet nothing else does it for me like writing does. It’s not a balance I find easy. The most kooky job I ever had was spending a night in a car with someone, counting freeway traffic… 🙂


    1. Counting traffic–how did you not fall asleep?? 🙂
      I don’t find the balance thing easy either. I could hole up and write for hours but that’s not perfect either. Need to move, need to eat, need to clean . . . need to get out of the house and buy groceries. I guess I’m kind of shuffling along that balance beam!


  14. My son gets bliss out of cleaning. If I EVER mention, he may one day be a janitor, people FREAK out. It gets wrapped up in all types of sterotypes and admonishments that “I should hope he will dream bigger.” I guess that’s the moment when people want to “kill” the bliss. Kooky job? I used to get paid to watch TV and write trivia questions. It sounds funny, but was serious work.


    1. I can see that. For the longest time my daughter wanted to be a makeup artist and I loved that she found something she really loved but there also was a bit of pressure and doubt in my mind. Some stereotype or standard in my head that kept poking at me. It’s funny, one of my sisters wanted to be a maid for years. I don’t remember anyone telling her no, but maybe i just didn’t notice when we were kids. 🙂


  15. We were just discussing this in my family. My son had to sign up for his high school courses and he was essentially BULLIED into filling all nine of his periods. The kid is in three Honors classes. I told him he should leave one study hall for himself so he has time to complete work before sports.

    But could he convince the school counselor?

    Not really.

    So today I had to call the school and tell them to remove CAD from his 9th grade schedule.

    “He has plenty of time to take CAD,” I told her.

    We like to keep the kids’ schedules full,” she countered.


    I am sure my child would love CAD, and I’m sure he will likely take it — but how about not over-programming our children. How about leaving time for them to have some joy. Sheesh. We live in a very competitive district. I have to watch to make sure they aren’t shoving him down THE path that MOST kids take. I want him to have time to figure out his joy.


    1. Leaving time for joy is very important. Of course, the pressure remains. My son is in a magnet school and there’s huge pressure to take as many AP classes as you can. He didn’t take any his first year and now that college app time is looming he’s stressing that he has a smaller number than most. But the great thing imo is that he really found a passion. He took chorus and got into not only music production but he tried out for the school musical this year and got a part. 🙂


  16. Follow your bliss! I’m all about the hair whipping away from your face feeling, but my husband is a planner and doer, so we balance each other. The funny (or not) thing about following your bliss is when your child decides that’s exactly what she wants to do and one day you get a call from her ~ from Hawaii. Not San Francisco where she’s supposed to be living.

    All I can do is smile and encourage her to follow her bliss. Even if it takes her to Europe next. She’s young. This is the time she should be adventurous. Now, if she’s forty and still floating around, then maybe I’ll have to sit her down and have a chat with her. Or maybe I’ll have accepted that her bliss is in being a nomad. Yikes.


    1. My daughter has the nomad thing too. She’s barely eighteen and she’s already traveled overseas solo. What makes it “easier” is the fact that it’s so important to her.
      Thanks for sharing Tameri. 🙂


  17. I love this post, Colleen–beautifully insightful. I’m a big fan of bliss following. It’s the sensible option, IMO. I know different strokes work for different folks, but I’ve personally found that financial and emotional stability derive from working hard toward passions and dreams.

    Have a fabulous Valentine’s Day!


  18. Adore this post, Colleen. Definitely follow your bliss because life is too short to do anything else. But also gain a cluster of practical skills to put food on the table and a roof over your head while following your bliss.

    The key is to have a dream in the first place. And sometimes making what we think is a ‘mistake’ is actually the turn in the path that takes us right to the place we need to be. With children the secret is to let them go. Yes, there’s always fear in your heart that they’ll get hurt or make a mistake, but making mistakes is the only way they’ll grow and learn.

    The oddest job I ever had was a Saturday job while I was at school working in the confectionary department in Woolworths. Put me off candy for life. Apart from chocolate. 🙂 Happy Valentines Day!


    1. Very true, especially about the mistake making. Often when my kids experience a consequence all of their own making, they comprehend it more than if I’d just lectured them beforehand.
      I once worked at McDonalds–I wish it would’ve put me off french fries!!


  19. I remember being told I was useless at English by my English teacher! That left a pretty good impression. She really didn’t like me for reasons I’ve never worked out. I used to like to write stories then, but I got distracted into science and engineering. But maybe seeing more of life has made me a little more rounded (educationally, I’m doing my best to stop it physically!)



  20. Can I just say how much I love your posts! I love the way you express yourself Coleen and how your honesty shines through your words. I say, let your hair blow girl! Follow your bliss. Now as for the subject of parenting our children, there is a saying, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” And I think there is a lot of truth in that. Of course that doesn’t mean we can’t guide them along the way. Like you, I love being a mom. I think it’s the best job in the world! 🙂


    1. Aw thanks Karen, you are sweet! I too think there’s a lot of truth in the statement–do what you love and the money will follow. And I’ll add–be willing to put in a lot of heart and hard work. 🙂


  21. Great post! It is a balance for sure. I think that keeping the balance is key. I have my day job as a mom and translator, and then write in all the leftover space. My dream of getting published does sit on the backburner sometimes, but I guess it’s also because I have more dreams than just that one. I also want to be independent, I want to have a happy family who loves me and who knows they’re loved. I think making time for each of those things is important.


  22. We loved this post Coleen. I think that every parent can relate to this and take a deep breath while easing off the guilt a bit. Lord knows I struggled with that very thing and on more than one occasion would ask myself, is it right to redirect my child’s dreams?! I told Inion early on, I love that you want to be a writer, but please make sure you have something to fall back on that will provide you with the monetary support one needs to survive. It’s so true…we want our kids to achieve independence & a happy-fulfilled life . But how can they do that, if they’re not being true to their dreams. Whatever they may be. Boy did she get the last laugh! Coarse she’s too good a daughter to start each day off with an “I told you so!” Thank goodness.
    By the way, love the phrase “Balls to the wall” which just so happened to be a favorite of my father’s and because of that, we used it in our second book “The Perfect 7”. As for the oddest job, I worked in Law Enforcement most my life but when I was young,(16)I actually had a job at a Bee-House. Well, if you can call six weeks a job. The first time I was stung on my face and my eye swelled shut, well let’s just say so much for the honey-comb-career path! lol. Looking forward to visiting on Valentine’s Day.


    1. That would turn me off the honey-comb career path too–ouch!
      I love that you two are a team and that you are supporting each other’s dreams. Very inspiring. 🙂 Thanks, as always for sharing your stories here!


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