Taking financial risks to follow my creative path has at times been terrifying. My “inner dragon” (that negative voice that tells me that I can’t live a creative life) rises up to try to block me, quite often.

Age: 57

Three words that describe you today?

Creative, curious, committed.

What are you up to these days?

I’m blazing my creative path: I’m writing a new book—a novel—and painting watercolors, taking photographs, and making collages. I’m also mentoring successful women to reclaim their creative callings, after putting their creativity on the shelf to develop careers and raise families.

So many of us reach 50, proud of what we’ve accomplished, yet longing to experience the aliveness and wisdom that comes from creative expression. We’ve entered a new phase of life, where the richness of our experiences can help rekindle old dreams and fuel new ventures. But we have to take the first step.

As I neared 50, I became burnt-out in my corporate job. I’d mostly neglected my creative writing and painting for years, investing my time and energy in what felt like “consolation careers,” as a software technical writer and manager. I do enjoy learning new things, problem-solving, writing, planning, and especially, mentoring. But I chose those careers based on what I saw as my marketable skills, not my deeper callings. There were many times when my work was satisfying and meaningful, but my soul longed for the deeper experience of being creatively expressed.

It has been a process to give myself permission to pursue my creative dreams. Over time, my perspective has shifted from “it’s too late” to realizing I am actually in the midst of a much richer blooming than I would have been capable of in my twenties. This is true of all women in midlife or beyond. We still have so much to bring into the world!

In addition to my mentoring and creative work, I also enjoy speaking to women about reclaiming their creativity in the second half of life, and giving workshops to help women reconnect with their creative genius. I often meet women who know it’s time to make a change, who want to develop their creative talents, yet are unsure if their gifts will matter to anyone. That breaks my heart, because I know exactly what that feels like. They were given gifts for a reason, and their gifts do matter!

Julie Baldwin - Blazing a creative path

What do you wish you had known ten years ago?

I wish I’d known to trust my inner compass more. I feel most alive when I am exploring, whether through travel or creative expression. When traveling, I’m happiest in a new place, where I don’t speak the language, wandering and navigating with a good map. But in my everyday life, I tended to be more cautious, looking outside myself for a formula for success. In some ways, I felt like I had to dumb myself down to follow society’s expectations of what success meant.

When I’m creating, it’s a very similar process to when I’m traveling in a new place. I have a high-level sense of what I want to do—my map. I take imperfect action, even when I’m not sure where it will lead. And I immerse myself in the flow, trusting it to lead me to synchronicity and serendipity. That’s when the magic happens. That’s when my gifts emerge.

When I’m in the flow, moving my hand across the page, watching my fingers form words, I feel a shift. My thoughts come from a deeper place. It feels like each word is floating up from my subconscious, emerging into the light of my mind. This feels magical to me, like bright, colorful fish swimming up through murky green water to the surface, where I “catch” them on paper. It feels like a partnership between my gift for language and the part of myself that is beyond words. This is what I call “dancing with the Muse.”

Words and wisdom you’d like to share with women a generation or so behind you?

Don’t chase safety and security. Of course, you need to make a living. You need to save and cover the basics, so you’re not stressed about how to pay the next bill. But taking responsibility for your financial life is only one part of the richness that is your life as a whole.

When safety and security become your goals, rather than the byproduct of putting your gifts in the world, you pay a deeper cost. For me, the cost was the sense of being a bit lost in my own life, even though I was successful. I felt my aliveness draining away, while I worked to retire.

Ultimately, you have to claim your creative life—no one else is going to give you permission to live the life you want. If that means putting your writing, painting—however you create—before buying a new car, the latest iPhone, or eating out every night of the week, so be it. You must value what you have come here to do, and commit to it.

Consider cultivating the faith that you are supported, even when it feels otherwise. You are co-creating with the universe. Although there are many things outside of your control, you can choose how to respond to life, especially when you’re afraid. So, when things get tough, get curious. How can you respond creatively? What can you create from what is available to you?

Your spirit is your lodestar; let it guide you. Listen to your intuition and follow your creative impulses. What do want you bring into this world? Don’t try to follow someone else’s formula for success. Allow your genius to emerge from who you are. Your true path is organic. It requires hard work, but it comes directly from your core self. That’s why it’s so meaningful.

What do you wish others knew about you that they may not know?

I have just as many fears about taking risks to change my life as the next person. But if I hadn’t faced them, I would never have written The Creative Heroine’s Path. It is heroic to face your fears—of not being good enough, of taking real risks, of failing—and create anyway. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The answer to your fears is to do it anyway, one imperfect step at a time.

My biggest fear is about survival. I have had to face it over and over to be able to change my course. Taking financial risks to follow my creative path has at times been terrifying. My “inner dragon” (that negative voice that tells me that I can’t live a creative life) rises up to try to block me, quite often.

Writing The Creative Heroine’s Path was a key part of facing my fears to create my own path. The book is based on the process that I followed to reclaim my creative voice and vision. Its inspirational stories and exercises take you on a journey of self-discovery and growth, so you can find and blaze your own creative path. And if I can inspire one woman to answer her calling, that is deeply meaningful to me.

The most wonderful gift for me, has been discovering that on the other side of fear is my aliveness. I’m happier now. My life feels richer. There’s no such thing as a risk-free life. No matter how “safe” I play it, I won’t live forever. What do I want to experience? What do I want to leave behind?

If I can do it, so can you. Begin now. The world wants your gifts!

You can find information about working with me, and my upcoming talks and workshops, at juliebaldwin.com.