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The two types of creatives: The Hummingbird and the Jackhammer

There are two types of creatives in this world, the Hummingbirds, and the Jackhammers. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, first shared this philosophy during a speech I watched, and it has changed me since. The Jackhammers are the people who know what they want to be their entire life, and barely lift their head, staying on one path till the end of time. They get a lot done, and they leave big legacies. People like Stephen King, your boss who has worked at your job for 40+ years and loves every second of it, and Elizabeth Gilbert herself, those are Jackhammers.

Hummingbirds, on the other hand, are wildly different. They can never seem to find their footing for long. They love to try new things, new hobbies, and make many diverse friends. While they have things that interest them, they constantly feel pulled in all directions, taking on everything, and getting little done, but enjoying the journey as it comes. I, for example, am a Hummingbird, who always thought they were a Jackhammer.

Since I was five, I knew I wanted to be a writer, like Elizabeth Gilbert. I began writing novels at the age of seven, publishing my first one at sixteen, and my second at eighteen. Writing had always been my passion. However, after my second novel, I hit a road bump and didn’t know why. In that time away from creative writing, I took up blogging and launched my mindfulness blog, Mindfully Brittney. I found that I loved writing on topics such as psychology, minimalism, and life, and found it much more validating than writing novels (for a time). Blogging was now my passion. It wasn’t until two years had passed that creative writing reached up and tugged at my feet, so I began writing again. But, in my mind, I couldn’t do both--I needed one. One passion, one path. I’ve spent quite a while, longer than I’d like to admit, sorting through these different passions in my life, psychology and mindfulness, and book writing, trying to find the one.

Eventually, I realized there wasn’t just one, and there never would be, because that’s not who I am. I found out that while writing is a passion of mine, it’s not the only one and that’s okay. And boxing myself in was restricting myself from growth, from being creative in all the areas I wanted to be, from being myself. I have many purposes, and all I really, truly know is that I want to write. To learn. To inspire. To create. To be.

The world of motivation is filled with Jackhammers shouting, “Dream it, Be it!” and “Find your purpose!” and “Follow your passion!”, which are wonderful, inspiring quotes, but the real question is: What if you don’t have one? What if you have thousands of suitable purposes and passions? What if you don’t know what you want to be?

Elizabeth Gilbert responds to this by saying, “If you’re willing to just release yourself from the pressure and the anxieties surrounded by passion, and you just humbly and faithfully continue to follow the trail of the hummingbird path... one of these days, you just might look up and realize, ‘Oh, my word, I am exactly where I’m meant to be.’ In other words, if you can let go of ‘passion’ and follow your curiosity, your curiosity just might lead you to your passion.”

Now, I’m trying to unlearn it all. Trying to unwrap myself from this web I’ve created for myself, which ties me to all of the passions in my life. I’m trying to look at them as curiosities rather than potential purposes, as things I’m interested in and want to expand in.

And maybe, you’re a Hummingbird too, and have been all this time. If you’ve been feeling stuck, tied down, restricted, then perhaps it’s time to let go of the idea of passion, of purpose, of finding direction. Perhaps, it’s time to be curious, and ease into the things in our lives that fascinate us, that pull us ever so slightly toward them.

Move at your own pace, be curious, and soon enough, you might just create the life you’ve wanted all along.

Probably writing,


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