Wait a minute, you say.
I’m not even sure I am a creative person. How can I learn to trust my creativity more?
Trust me. If you’re alive and breathing on planet Earth (last time I checked, that’s the only way you can be reading this), you ARE, in fact, a creative person. That’s right. The sheer fact of being human makes you creative by nature.
At its heart, creativity is problem-solving. We solve problems every day, don’t we? Finding a new route to work when the way we usually go is closed. Crafting a novel Halloween costume. Making new foods to eat on experimental cooking night. There are dozens of ways we as humans find creative solutions to ordinary problems we face every day.
What’s another way to get to the same place?
How can I disguise myself so others won’t recognize me?
What can I eat that will taste different?
In the artistic realm, the solutions we search for as creatives are more internal than external, but regardless, the problems we seek to remedy fall along similar rational lines as those of our more everyday concerns.
What’s another way of understanding what I observe?
I want to comprehend how I feel about ___. (Fill in the blank.)
That ___ moves me by its beauty. I want to capture this sensation.
In my imagination, this ___ could be/turn out so differently.
We may approach the problem-solving we must do using different tools, be they paintbrushes, pens, dancing shoes, or computers, but ultimately it’s the answers inside our own selves that we seek when we undertake any artistic endeavor involving self-expression.
The reason the “art” part is so scary is because it is internal. Our art is coming from the deepest part of ourselves, the part we prefer to keep hidden from the world most, if not all, the time.
Don’t believe the lies I fed myself for over twenty years. I can’t paint. I can’t even draw a straight line. I can’t keep a beat. I can’t sing. Therefore I must not, cannot, be an artist.
I repeat, if you are a human being, then you are creative. Staying alive requires that you be so.
If you’ve ever had a creative dream, whether it be to write a novel, draw a sketch, finger paint on rocks, plant a garden, or simply hum a tune from start to finish while you’re in the shower (yes, this counts!), keep reading. I’ll list some practical ways to keep the dream alive inside you while dispelling those nasty voices of self-doubt, fear, and criticism that do their darndest to blot out your dream.
- Journal out the bad stuff. The voice of your creativity isn’t going to yell at you. Most of the time it’s a still, quiet knowing. Finding a means of diminishing the voices of self-doubt and fear is crucial. For me, keeping a journal is one good way to do that. Often, as I’m hashing out how I feel about something I’ve recently written or am about to write, I will stop and think, “Good Lord! I wouldn’t talk to anyone else this way. Why am I speaking to myself like this?” Being aware of how we relate to our inner selves is crucial to developing a healthy creative psyche.
- Set good habits. This one’s a toughie but absolutely essential if you desire an ongoing relationship with your creativity. There will be days you don’t feel like making your art, far more than the number of days you feel inspired. Make your art anyway, even if it turns out bad. (It may not actually be as bad as you think.) Showing up is key. Many days I don’t feel like writing, but once I set my mind to it, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve been able to get into it. In the end, it’s more about silencing the inner critic than my own ability to put words to paper.
- Learn the craft. Take classes if you can. Read, read, read. Join clubs and online communities related to your art. Attend conferences. Searching for ways to improve your work will not only keep your mind engaged in the challenge but will also lead to further inspiration.
- Share with others. A hard step but an important one. We do not create in a vacuum and our best work should not remain there. Although when we are first starting out our tendency is to protect what we make, at some point we have to share it if we expect to grow. We never know who is going to be inspired by what we are doing. Sharing our work is often the only way we discover how valuable it really is to those around us.
- Cheerlead your successes. Every instance in which you choose to commit to your creativity delivers another strike against your inner critic. Why not give him more reasons to flee by championing yourself with every success, no matter how minor? So you only wrote 300 words. So you only edited one photograph in your portfolio. Celebrate the small victories and soon they won’t be so small anymore!
Edith Eger, psychologist and Holocaust survivor, states “No one can take away from you what you’ve put in your mind.”
Although inspiration may be fleeting, our inner artist never leaves us. Cultivating a healthy attitude toward our creative psyche is critical to keeping open the channel of authentic self-expression that is essential to our work.
Have a story you’d like to share about how you overcame your inner critic? Or do you find yourself struggling in your creative pursuits? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line and let’s talk. Let’s not waste any time getting back to making our art!