Are Automatic Thoughts Hampering Your Creativity?
Automatic thoughts are the immediate emotions and ideas that come into your head without planning. They come randomly, and can be both good (Yes! I made it through the first round of artist jury selection! I knew the work was good!) and bad (I knew my portfolio would be rejected, I never had a chance).
Automatic thoughts, once you recognize them, can be a clear indicator of your mental and emotional health as well as a reflection of the way you see the world. Sometimes, these automatic thoughts can actually hamper our creativity…
My Recent Battle with Automatic Thoughts
There have been many times throughout different days where I have thought about starting a project and then distract myself with other obligations as avoidance behavior.
One example that happened just this week is a battle I often have with my camera. I feel anxious taking other people’s pictures and wandering around in public taking pictures of everything and anything (until last week, thanks Bethany!). Just this morning I was watching the laborers start their day at the worksite across from my balcony window. I saw this one man seated by himself, cross-legged, on top of some unused crane scaffolding laying on the ground. Even from my balcony I had this sense of self-reflection and peace that made me want to rush for my camera. The following thoughts immediately entered my brain:
- I don’t have time, my ride could be here any minute
- I should do the dishes
- I need to change the lens and my zoom may not be enough
- The lighting isn’t great
Stop! Let’s reflect. Really, who cares if my ride might show up, I’m sure she could wait an extra minute for me to sort myself out. Get the shot. Since when are dishes more important than my art, ever? And how will I know the lighting is bad or that my zoom isn’t strong enough unless I try?!
All of these thoughts reflect the lack of prioritizing in my life going on with regard to my art (dishes, really?). It also suggests some insecurity with taking the risk to get a good shot.
In the same vein many people can be self-conscious about running around with a camera. But you know what? Who cares? Really, who cares? Do you think the jogger running past you really spends more than two seconds on, “Oh, that person is photographing a stop sign. Odd?” Is it really harmful for people to think something like this? Most people want to be “brave” and do something like learn salsa or go on photography walks. If someone is judging you and acts out, it is certainly out of envy.
You Have to Create to Be Successful!
The artists and creatives who “make it” do so because they make art. How many story ideas have you lost because you didn’t write it down? How many fewer artworks have you created because you had dishes to wash or a bathroom to clean?
These behaviors and thoughts can set you up for failure. Next time something negative pops into your head write it down and dissect it. What is this really saying about your creative hopes and fears? Use your automatic thoughts to increase your self-worth and productivity and ultimately, your creative success.
If you feel you are blocked and could use from strategies to untangle the knot you are in, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way
So, if you will please excuse me now, I’m off to set up my camera for that next award winning shot! 🙂
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: For 1 day carry a small notebook with you and each time a thought pops into your head write it down. Put the list away at the end of the day and look at it in 1 week’s time. Do your thoughts reinforce self-worth and artistic production? If not, what can you replace these thoughts with the next time you have them?