Creative U: What Do You Really Want?

Mentoring for Artistic Success by Lesley Riley

Do you know what you really want out of your art making? Perhaps it is as simple as the joy of making. That’s totally valid and should be embraced with joy. But maybe you have this niggling feeling that you want something more to come of it: fame, fortune, a book or a wildly-crazy blog following.

To succeed as an artist, you need to know what you want and then you need to make a commitment to what you want. Paul Arden, motivation expert and the author of It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good you Want to Be, says:

” I WISH means, wouldn’t it be nice if…

I WANT means: if I want it enough I will get it.”


Getting what you want means making the decisions and taking the actions you need to in order to make it happen. In order to take the right action, you need to know what you want.  So I ask you, do you know what you really want, what you really, really want? Have you ever taken the time to truly stop and think about what it is you want?

You are interested in many things. You are interested if there are a lot of “wouldn’t it be nice if…” ideas floating around in your head. If you are only interested, you will only do what is convenient. But interest does not always translate into action. You have dreams and goals. That is natural and normal. So is the fact that these dreams and goals are usually vague wishes that, deep down, you don’t really think could happen. But they could if you were committed.  When you are committed to something, you will do whatever it takes to make it happen.

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for.
And the most you can do is live inside that hope.
Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.

—Barbara Kingsolver

I want to add to what Kingsolver says. Figure out what you hope for, figure out what you really want, commit, determine the necessary steps and then take action. Action turns hope into reality.

Here’s a seemingly simple action you can take right now. Grab your journal or paper, pens, pencils or brushes and answer this: In regard to your creative life, what do you really, really, want?” I say seemingly simple because it requires some honest and deep thinking, along with the time for the answers to emerge. This is your life. It is not to be taken lightly. Spend the time and effort to discover your real ‘want.’

Don’t take it lightly. The answer could change your life. Once you know what you really want you can work to make it happen. Because you CAN make it happen. You just have to really, really want it. Then the rest is easy. Know what you want. Make the commitment. The how will fall into place. Trust me on that. I’ve seen it happen time and time again, in my own life and the lives of my coaching clients.

 The indispensable first step to getting the things
you want out of life is this: decide what you want.
—Ben Stein


And know this. Going for what you want means growth and what does growth bring? CHANGE. Over time you are going to change and what you want is going to change. So, it is important to ask yourself this question on a regular basis, especially when your momentum slows, you’re feeling unhappy or restless or when what you’re doing no longer makes your heart sing.


Lesley Riley is an internationally known artist, teacher and author with a passion for spreading the magic of art. Though her company, Artist Success, Lesley provides resources, creativity management, coaching and mentoring to artists, enabling them to achieve their vision of success. For more information and resources, visit


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2 Responses to Creative U: What Do You Really Want?

  1. Jen Osborn says:

    I love your post today, Lesley, and it really hit home for me this morning. Last year, I achieved 2 of my biggest dreams/goals, and now I’m left feeling terribly adrift while I try and figure out what it is I REALLY want to reach for now. How do we create new goals when we’re reached the one’s we’ve been striving for? It’s an odd side effect to be left feeling so restless!

  2. lriley says:

    Hi Jen. Congratulations! Great job on working towards and achieving not just one, but 2 goals last year. I can understand feeling adrift right now. Remember success is a journey, not a destination. Time to dream bigger and stretch yourself into your future success.

    The feelings you are having come from not having a driving purpose. Working toward a goal is what brings joy in life. Again with another quite…the journey IS the destination. So take some time to figure out what you want next – dream big and then take action. The Universe will work with you to reach it. And if you need any help…you know where to find me!