Should I pick one creative medium?

Want to bottle it/want to burn it/want to love it but haven’t earned it.

I wrote that phrase a year ago to describe the feeling of my different creative ideas noodling through my brain, clamoring to be expressed. I keep returning to the phrase, because although I’ve gotten better at channelling my ideas into projects, they still threaten to consume me.

A big problem is that I’m equally passionate about writing, filmmaking, and being on-camera. Breaking it down even further, I love the depth and freedom of prose, but have the most fun screenwriting. I love producing, really pulling a project together, but know ultimately I’ll want to direct for full creative cohesion. I still want to be the heroine/ingenue on-screen, but know I’m more of a comedic character actor.

It’s a good problem to have, being lit up by multiple mediums. But I’m dividing my creative energies, and to get anywhere I need to laser focus. But there are lots of successful “slashies” these days, Lena Dunham, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, David Lynch, Sam Shepard. So do I really need to pick just one?

I’m also just back from a camping and music adventure, been sleeping under the stars with the electro hippies. I’m always grumpy when I have to return to the grid. Always questioning my life and the choices I make.

The adventure was called Symbiosis, and many magical events transpired. I witnessed the first ever iamamiwhoami performance in America, she’s a Swedish multimedia artist and absolute inspiration. Saw my first Butoh dance performance, it was bizarre, chilling, terrifying, mesmerizing. I got a massage for my danced-out muscles, at the end I opened my eyes and realized I’d met the bodyworker a year ago in Bali. Leaving the fest, I picked up four hitchhikers, the kind of professional travelers who move through the world without money or a plan. An hour down the road I got tired and we all took a nap in the grass in front of a church. Two kittens appeared, my spirit animals. Cats always appear to keep me company.

Sunrise set at Symbiosis, found this card in my bra. No idea how it got there. Keeping it.

Out at the fest it doesn’t matter what medium I’m pursuing. No one’s pursuing anything other than that night’s good time. Good friends, good music, a good buzz, a good life. All that matters is sharing a flashlight with my neighbor a few tents over, if the line for breakfast burritos is too long, that we’ll meet stage left if we get separated.

I stayed in this past weekend, since getting home. Working on these different mediums, listening to James Blake, letting his creative output dance with mine, reading through old notebooks, because reading old stuff is important, it’s staying in the swirl, the place where ideas are born. Muse/use absorb/be born. Writing at night is my truth. I like to take breaks and go outside, observe the electric streetlight competing with the moon.

I’ve been thinking about this blog, that I don’t want it to be generic, bland, or afraid to offend. It grinds my gears to reread something and find my writing is general. I do this when I’m suffering from I-want-everyone-to-like-me-itis. I don’t dig deep, I go for the easy out. Oh shit. Blogging is a whole other medium, ain’t it? And so I return to my original question, because sometimes this blog is a forum to set forth ideas, and sometimes it’s a place to receive answers. What do you think? Should an artist pick one creative medium?

64 thoughts on “Should I pick one creative medium?

  1. Acting and writing. Life has taken me further away from performance recently and I write mostly on my blog, but expression in either is important to me!

  2. Indeed, indeed!

    The movie is a comedy-horror about…zombie puppets. Not my idea, but I was commissioned to write it. (>^-‘)> Should be fun, though! Going to be starting on the fourth revision coming up here.

  3. I subscribed to the “I need to run away to write” thing for a long time…but then I’d get there, and want to see that place, be alive there, not in a room with my head in another fictional world. Try the Swiss cheese method. Punch a little hole out of a big story, one hole at a time. You’ll get unstuck! Songs must be so fun too, short form expression rather than dense novels. Seems to me you’re doing great.

  4. Thanks for sharing those principles of Schwartz’s talk. It all boils down to the “slavery of freedom” right? It’s a luxury to have such choice in the first place!

  5. I write novels and songs. I’m always bouncing from one idea to another. Sometimes I wish I could pick up and just run away and write in a distant, unknown place, a run-down motel, a campground, a quaint town. I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m just kind of stuck. But I do like finishing something. RIght now I feel like I have finished nothing. 🙂

  6. By Barry Schwartz? No, but I did see his TED Talk video. I liked the part where he listed the reasons why choice makes people miserable:

    1) Regret and anticipated regret
    2) Opportunity costs
    3) Escalation of expectations
    4) Self-blame

    I identify with numbers 1 and 4 when I make a choice NOT to do or explore something. But on a side note for #2, a friend of mine was telling me that he was losing interest in his computer science major, especially since he was getting into programming, and was wondering if he’d be better off taking multimedia design instead. People change their minds sometimes, but that reminds me of what my grandpa once said: “no experience is ever wasted.”

  7. My pea size brain can’t think of any but anyone with a high IQ is a prime candidate such as you. I can tell by your words you are intelligent.

  8. Well said, Cristian. I love my dreamworlds, my characters more than this reality sometimes…kinda a prob but whatever. Rain dancing and magic making, it all has its place.

    And I intend to love one of my kids more than the other. The one who tells me I’m a good writer. 🙂

  9. What a cool way to put it…the overcoat and the novel. Ultimately if the idea gets expressed then you honored the creative impulse. Win. Thanks for adding to the convo!

  10. The trick is to never stop living life in our pursuit of a “better” life…this is right now! Thanks for your comment and look forward to hearing about your festie adventures! 🙂

  11. It’s a luxury to create, to be so free the struggle is in choosing! In some countries it wouldn’t be an option to do one, much less decided between many mediums. Good luck with all your projects, tell me more about the movie!

  12. So glad you enjoyed the post, I’m also loving the comments and discussion, it’s an art form in itself! What is art if we can’t discuss it? The process most of all. Across all mediums and genres, we love to dissect the creative process.

  13. I think there’s only more and more interesting ways to merge mediums developing…interactive ebooks and all that. But maybe Mark Twain did all he did because he focused on the one thing, ya know? Have you read “The Paradox of Choice?”

  14. I have whole pages of my first book where the main character describes her aversion to vanilla. That she wants life to be a sundae with sprinkles. I think it’s true! Keeping faith in yourself is the hardest part.

  15. It’s difficult, on one hand there’s this pervasive ADD in our culture, InstaTwitBook and all that…and we get the message to do more, be more. I know I’m happiest when I’m immersed in one single idea. But the commercial conundrum…that’s another ball of wax!

  16. Very true…the act of creation shows you the path to where the idea wants to be presented to the world. I really like the sun and rays metaphor!

  17. Agree about one project at a time, stoked to not be generic, but I do love buy generic brands, I mean it’s the exact same if you look at the ingredients. Random reply. Thanks for commenting!

  18. Truth! I find inspiration in each discipline that feeds into the others…the trick is more the varying time demands of each medium. I’ve often thought the key to creative success is simply time management. What mediums inspire you?

  19. I LOVE that color is your answer, is your muse! I feel like filmmaking is the closest synergy of all my interests, you get to have your paws in writing, performing, selecting music, fashion (costume design)….but you’re right about the balance between focus and play. And staying on a strict schedule when you don’t have an office or boss!

  20. This is true…they have resources, more so man power than money, perhaps. This is where I think we can still succeed with our limited means! Tap into the potential of human capital, your creative community. When we come together, we’re unstoppable.

  21. Beautifully written. “Fifty small expressions” I love that…and you’re right, stifling it with fear, getting overwhelmed by the options, is not honoring the freedom we have to create in the first place. Just letting it out, whatever it wants to be, is the only answer.

  22. We are so lucky as creative souls to have this energy within us and yet, without focus, it can drive us mad. Sometimes that focus is directed at a single project and sometimes the focus is directed on the simple act of creating in an effort just to release it.

    A poem in the morning, paint in the afternoon, dance or sing in the dark of night. Whether you apply all of this energy to a single process over a month, or apply it to fifty small expressions over that same time, doesn’t matter. Whats most important is not to choke it back with fear, but to let it express itself the way it feels like expressing itself at that moment. Whether it’s good or bad, there’s a reason it wanted out.

  23. I definitely have that issue as well but I find if you don’t focus on one at least momentarily you won’t find success. Also I find those famous people you listed CAN juggle so many streams because (sadly for us) they have the money and resources to do so.

  24. I have the same issue, and in fact share many of your interests, primarily writing/screenwriting, with costume design (for film), fashion/knitwear/graphic design/photography thrown into the mix. I’ve put a lot of energy into coming up with a concept that makes all of this diversity more cohesive, and this is it: color. I’m now working on a specialty in developing color palettes that are either inspired by or applied to all of my interests.

    To answer your question, sort of, I’d say that there is no one right answer– each person has to make that decision individually. It’s a bit of a conundrum, though: I think the key to art as a profession may just lie in finding the balance between focus and play.

  25. What an excellent post about creativity. Don’t feel restricted to one medium! You will find inspiration from one to use in the other.

  26. I don’t think you were wired to pick only one, but I think you should focus on ONE project at the moment. Your blog is anything but generic, btw.

  27. I think everyone should create what comes, poem, object, song…trust the flow and not concern oneself with what we ‘should’ do, enjoyed my visit, paz ,Abby

  28. Hi Erin

    It’s a nice problem to have I reckon. I feel a bit like you. I want to be a screenwriter, direct and make short films, maybe make an album, write a novel. All sorts. I don’t think I’m good enough at any of those things though, and out of fear of failure I tend to procrastinate. I have got two complete screenplays and loads of others started though, so who knows. Just need to get some equipment together and I will try to start making some films maybe.

    Check out my blog at if you like. I’d be happy to hear from you about your screenwriting etc…

  29. Wow, Erin, it really is the 64,000 dollar question isn’t it? I think whenever I (as actor/singer/writer/composer/coach/etc…) start freaking over my mediums I find it’s always connected at the core to my idea of success and how I can get to the top of that proverbial ladder… but there is no top really…just another step. I like better to think of a sun with rays of light going out in all directions. There’s always a center there. Thanks for your thoughts.

  30. I think the old school way of thinking is you have to ‘hone’ a craft…but that seems out of step with now. Maybe it’s a question of how commercial you want to be? If the aim is creativity in itself, limits seem anti the process…

  31. My mantra is “Variety is the spice of life!” Do what inspires you. Never give in to “vanilla”. Not everyone will understand you. Some will envy you. Just be you. 🙂

  32. With all the learning tools and resources out there, it’s kind of difficult to stick to one medium. But the practice of one or two may be more dominant than others for a period of time. When it comes to exploring, I feel scatterbrained sometimes; even on an interview, when the interviewer asked me what my weakness was–I couldn’t lie by saying I didn’t have any–I just said that I have many interests, so I have to prioritize my tasks and/or schedule my time.

    But when artists have more than one medium to play with, integrating them often results in something interesting and dynamic.

  33. Feeling you on this one.. I’ve tended to go through phases – music, stained glass, painting, sewing/design, photography, blogging.. they’re all so fun and I want to do them all! Following IsaJoy’s eloquent wording – I think similarly.. that the important thing is to choose just a couple at a time and really follow through (although blogging doesn’t really have a point of completion !) Really enjoyed reading this post and all of the comments! Thank you for the post!

  34. Nah, having more options for a creative outlet isn’t too a bad thing.

    I also find myself helplessly divided among multiple interests. I have a book out, I’m making a movie in L.A. next year, I’m a copyeditor, a programmer, and I compose music…maybe it’s not as conducive to success as picking one thing and putting all your focus into it, but I guess some of us just can’t make up our minds. (>^-‘)>

  35. I don’t think that you have to stick to one medium – although there is a sort of beauty to it for the people that do (all that discipline and focus) – especially if your head is an ever growing sprawl of ideas all connecting with each other. I like writing prose normally but there are things that writing prose and blogging about stuff feels like it doesn’t cover. I think each project brings its own medium along with it – so one idea will wear the overcoat of a novel and the next will wear the shoes of a film, stuff like that.

  36. Whatever the medium, its completing the projects that’s the important and satisfying thing. So yes, do whatever your creative juices want to do.

  37. Depends. Will you truly be happy with just one outlet? I am in the same position as you. Writing/film etc. Can’t choose either so I’m sticking with both.

  38. It is all part of the same thing – creating something out of nothing, and expressing yourself while inspiring others. I have the same dilemma between writing, art, acting and singing, but they seem to go in phases. All the best.

  39. I really love this. I often have the same problem because it’s so easy to just let your creativity flow into many directions and that can be quite overwhelming.
    Really great post & I also love your story of the festival! Really inspires me to live life a bit more! 🙂

  40. I don’t think you have to pick just one medium or even focus most of your energy on one. It’s like trying to decide which one of your kids you love most. It can be done, but it’s just not right.

    If you love writing and painting and dancing in the rain, then, by all means, do all that. When you feel like it and when you don’t feel like it. When you really have to tell yourself, over and over again, that you need to do this, when it all feels useless and difficult and wrong, and when it feels effortless.

    The thing is, I’m not really good at anything else. In fact, I don’t even consider myself to be a good writer, but this doesn’t really stop me from doing my stuff. And you know why? Because it’s not about being the best, and it’s not about what you feel is the best medium for you, but it’s about being the best possible version of yourself that you can be. It’s about the feeling you get after you finished a story at 3 AM and you stare out the window and the world you have created feels more alive than the one you’re inhabiting.

  41. Reblogged this on Cristian Mihai and commented:
    Erin asks quite an interesting question for anyone who’s good at more than one thing. I’m not, but it’s still something to ponder about between two editing sessions.

  42. Absolutely golden advice, Queen B! The point is in the making of it, that’s the art, not the outcome. And it’s a privilege to practice our art so freely, so even have the ‘dilemma’ of which one do I choose? Thanks for reading and for your words!

  43. Agreed on two projects max at a time, dividing your energies beyond that is unfair to the projects and the process. Thanks for reading Matt!

  44. I’m glad I’m not the only one Isa! It does seem rather awful to have to choose! I find screenwriting to be a nice synergy between my writing and performance interests. Best of luck in your creative journey as well and I look forward to reading about your adventures!

  45. As beings inspired by the infinite aspects of the inner and outer universe, NO you don’t have to pick just one! If something really inspires you at the moment, focus on that project…gettterdone! Than move on to the next thing that inspires you, could be knitting for God’s sake!!! Whatever IT is Erin, put your heart and soul into it, smile, release any expectation of “what others may think of it,” and move on. ❤

  46. I’d describe myself as a pretty selfish person when it comes to filmmaking and I find more fulfillment in doing it all – directing, producing, screenwriting and acting. Life would be horrible if I could only do just one of the above – it’d be like chaining and locking me in a cage.

    For now, I’m sticking to screenwriting.

    I wish you the very best
    in your creative journey

    Btw thank you SO MUCH for subscribing to my blog!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s