Often we are told that our desire to be creative is unimportant, or less valuable than other obligations and responsibilities in our lives.
Through dialogue or omission, most people I know have faced someone spouting “would-be advice” to maintain the status quo. That’s why this anti-creativity checklist is more than just bad advice and a reflection of our institutions: it’s a toxic message artists often hear. We hear it from loved ones, from acquaintances, from anyone who think they are protecting us.
From what, you ask? My best guess is from failure.
In the past month I’ve received several emails from readers that tell the same exact story. It goes something like this:
“I always wanted to be an (insert creative profession here). But my family told me I could never make money, that it’s better to keep my head down and get a reliable job. Do something that is guaranteed to make money. It’s safer.”
As these heartfelt emails progress I learn more:
“The funny thing is, I’m miserable. I feel like I’ve lost part of who I am. And while I’m in this job I hate, I have less and less interest and ability to create.”
Fear of failure is literally killing us. What we need better protection from is bad advice!
We need our creativity most when we feel lost, when we feel stressed. As more and more research verifies what I shout from rooftops, it is glaringly evident we need our creativity. If we cannot have a creative profession, at minimum we need creativity integrated into our lives.
Denying our creative selves to honor loved ones “protecting us” is extremely destructive. We resent those loved ones for their well meaning advice. And as we lose our emotional space to create, we stop believing in our ability to be creative. The well meaning advice actually kills our spirit, our ability to hope and lessens emotional space for loved ones. The walls close in.
Our souls become stunted by voices of doubt: they speak the same song sung in the anti-creative mindset.
Yet, we do have examples of creatives who persevere and remind us why our creativity is so important. It helps soften the persistent cries of doubt from community and our own doubting spirit.
An 80 year old woman, partially blind, creates. Despite her vision, she’s created artwork that is celebrated by UNICEF. She could listen to her naysayers: “You are too old, you are too blind/weak.” She chooses to create, and gives back to others. Who is happier I ask you: the artist or the naysayer?
We even have research that suggests acts of creativity stimulate specific brainwaves which help protect us from health issues like depression. Not only does being creative protect our mental health, we have clear evidence being creative helps our cognition stay strong even as we age.
Instead of reading these articles and really knowing their truths, the anti-creative mindset maintains it’s hold on our spirit and mind. An ever-doubting voice is still present. Perhaps yours is the voice of a well-meaning father, or a loved one you act as caregiver to, “Why would you spend your time doing that?”
The more important question is, why wouldn’t you?
It becomes harder to recognize our outside influences and separate them from our own internal desire to be creative. When the anti-creative mindset is loud enough, we take those naysaying words of “wisdom” as our own. We self-sabotage, using assorted strategies to keep us from doing what we love.
There is good news: mindset is something we can change. You have a voice inside you calling you to create.
It’s time to decide: which voice do you choose?
When I get these emails, I want to travel all over the world to my lovely community members and hug them in person. I want to tell them I’m honored for their vulnerability in sharing with me; and I want to fix it for them. I want them to stop hearing the anti-creative mindset and start feeling the joy that comes from honoring their creative voice.
There is one person in this whole wide world that can help you be more creative. It’s you.
I can’t help everyone. In fact, in some ways I’d argue I can’t help anyone. I can give resources, teach workshops, and offer courses all designed to get you playing with art materials, or offer support with issues like creative accountability but in the end, it comes down to that person looking right back at you in the mirror. What do you see?
I see a strong, caring person who has such empathy they feel sometimes lost to their creativity. The disdain or derision you hear from an anti-creative mindset hurts. It feels personal. It makes your creative voice seem small and silly, something to push away.
Despite this hurt and despite anti-creative messages, you still can hear your creative voice. It’s a bit softer, so you have to sit in stillness to really listen, but it calls you to your joy. It calls you to doodle. To blow bubbles. To paint. To write.
It’s time to honor a creative mindset.
To my lovely, lovely readers who send me these emails: I’m here and I’m listening. Your creative desires are valuable and important. They are important to me, they are important to you, and they will be a fuel for your health and happiness if you let them be.
By honoring your desire to be creative your heart will open wider, with more room to hug and help your hurting loved ones. You will have more room to hold time and space for important people in your life. You will better cope with the anti-creative mindset that we hear in others.
Your creative mindset, that inner voice, grows louder the more you listen. It’s time to listen to your creative voice.
May your return to creativity be your shield from harmful words, from the anti-creative mindset, and flame your continued desire to grow and learn.
I am here, and so is Artist Strong, to help you. You deserve more than those doubting words you’ve begun to take as your own. Stop listening to those shoulds, those words that tell us adulthood is void of fun and creativity. And take one step, right now, to honor the creative child still excited to explore inside you.
There are a lot of us in this community cheering you on, we can’t wait to see what you create.
“There is one person in this whole wide world that can help you be more creative. It’s you.” (Click to Tweet)
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: What is one step you can take right now to honor your creative mindset? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below.
Simplest way is to borrow the title from a Steven Pressfield book and “DO THE WORK”
The reason those people tell us not to pursue our dreams is because deep down inside the wish the had the guts, and are just transferring their abject failure to take a risk themselves and fear that you will become a different person if you follow through and leave them for greener pastures.
Think about your first trip to a new city or restaurant or a first date, its all exciting and new and fun and full of mystery. But its scary because its unknown. The preject that fear of not having stared down the throat of the beast of fear themselves and don’t want you to have the excitement either.
They will tell you thinks like “What are people going to think” and really if people are thinking about you its good, because when they stop thinking about you, its because you are a nobody.
I used to snowmobile and decided I would solo tour in the far north, and everybody said I would get eaten by a bear and die. (Bears hibernate in the winter, so that risk was pretty low if one thinks about it) They just wished in their hearts they didn’t need a buddy or three to hold their hands and wished deep down they had the courage and self belief to go it alone, instead of day dreaming about it back home.
Once I had been through many areas a few times it was not nearly as exciting as the first time and the rush of the fear of the unknown. Its much like watching a movie again when you already know who did it
The future belongs to those who dare.
I also used to race off road motorcycles and while I did have pretty good success, I now often look back and wished I had tried harder.
A life of regret is not much fun. Live it to the limit. Thats where the fun is anyways.
Gary, Thank you. What a great message and contribution to today’s topic. You are right – people often naysay because it threatens the choices they are making for themselves. Also, a life of regret is NOT fun. I want to be on my death bed and think, damn good job Carrie, you gave it your all.
I rewrote my “to do” list for the day and put my creative “want to’s” first, not last.
Cynthia- hurray!!!!! Good for you. 🙂
I took time out for me last Friday and joined two workshops which were writing/ art making sessions.
I didn’t have a “major work” at the end of the day but I did have a poem about my shoes (!) and a poem about wars and a word map of my madly busy week .
Most of all I had a realisation that I CAN , if I make the effort and make the time.
Today I AM going to sit in my daughter’s garden and try some water colours.
Thanks for the encouragement and thanks for those lovely photos in the article.
Ruth, rock on! That is wonderful. I LOVE workshops for their inspiration and accountability. And it’s so awesome to hear you say “I CAN if I make the effort and the time.” You can, and you deserve your creativity. I hope you enjoy playing with your watercolors! I’m glad you enjoy the photos as well. Best wishes to you.