Whatever is your 'type' of creative, here are some of the things you might have to contend with, and a mantra that might help you.
Perhaps your day-job requires your being creative in some way. Perhaps you have a creative hobby, or a side-project, like writing, designing, drawing, making music... or more than one of these things.
Whatever is your type of creative, here are some of the things you might have to contend with, and a mantra that might help you:
The word 'creative' itself
"I'm not creative enough". Wait, wasn't it not so long ago that I uttered these words to myself? Seeing as you don't get to experience my internal chatter, let me tell you... yes, that was me. I said those words to myself.
Has anything really changed for me?
Calling yourself creative - or even more so, an artist - can bring up all kinds of "oh, that's not me" feelings / denial / unworthiness stuff. Creativity and art are for those wonderful souls we admire who were born with God-given talent, right? Calling ourselves 'creative', or 'a creative' feels, well, wrong. Even if that's exactly what we are, and we are proving to ourself each time we create something.
Each time you put a pen to paper, let this serve as a reminder that you are in fact creative. In which case, calling yourself a creative, like I've been embracing recently, is a useful thing to try to get used to. It's why I've been owning my identity as a writer and creative in my bio lately.
But am I a 'proper' creative?
Each and every one of us does a lot of creating. It might be a modest masterpiece when we tidy our beds and neatly arange the pillows, when we make a meal, or when we take a different route for our commute or lunchtime walk. However seemingly small or insignificant, these are all creative acts.
And yet... "But don't I need to actually produce art to be creative? Like write a book, or create an intricate painting, or a best-selling album?"
So, let's break this down, what you're asking is:
a) Don't I have to create some kind of big project?
b) Doesn't this big project have to be deemed really good by a substantial group of people?
It's amazing how high the expectations we place on our shoulders are, and how so many of us set ourselves up for disappointment and failure by setting these "conditions". They can weigh us down. We create our own shackles and throw away the key, even before we have begun.
We do everything we can to separate ourselves from that 'creative' label, all because we aren't Stephen King or Mozart or that person on Twitter or Instagram with alllll the likes and followers. Dude, seriously? Chill.
Notice the little ways that you are creative each day. Think of all the little creative acts you've partaken in today. Including those not-so-obvious ones you've done before your day has even gotten started.
**On getting creative work done **
On the one hand, I have some conditions under which it feels more likely for me to write. For example, when I have slept well, when I feel calm and centred, when I have created space in my day. This is usually in the morning, or in the afternoon after I have done some form of movement (a walk or gym workout).
I try my best not to be on my phone or computer first thing, and all of my creating starts with pen-to-paper. And ideally I work best at the dining table when no one else is around, or in a cafe with my headphones plugged in, or...
okay, let's hold on just for a second...
You see, on the one hand there are some conditions under which we create better. But, at the same time, we are also free to create as and whenever we want to.
Any need to overly "control" our writing conditions can actually have a detrimental impact to our writing... it comes from a place of self-doubt and other latent emotional patterns in our psyche.
You see, in my experience, being a creative is really about giving ourselves permission to create, and to keep on doing so. Rather than tell yourself "I have to create this thing, I'm going to do this, I NEED to do this, goddamnit!"... instead try saying to yourself: "I am going to sit down, for an hour, and I am going to let myself create".
Let yourself just be, as you put the pen (or pencil) to the sheet of paper. Just let yourself create.
Due to our conditioning, maybe we might never feel like AA Milne or Stephen King or Lady Gaga or whoever it might be. For each of us, it has to start with letting yourself create. And to be honest, I don't think this approach ever "finishes". Or, rather, this approach serves the new writer as much as it does the seasoned one. Whether you've been creating a fair bit recently, or you're returning to it after a long time.
So, I feel that this will serve me as my mantra for months and years to come:
"I am going to sit here, with my pen and my paper, and I am giving myself the permission to write"
(You can change that last word to 'create' if it feels more appropriate; for example if you're a musician working with an instrument or some computer software).
You might just find that the separation barrier between the 'us' and 'them' diminishes, the more you notice the thoughts and feelings that come up for you (even the unpleasant ones), but instead just give yourself the permission to create from where you are, right now.
Give yourself the space to just sit down and create, for whichever container of time feels good (I'd suggest starting with 45 minutes or an hour), and see what that feels like. Afterwards, observe what has happened as a neutral bystander.
It might take a session or two for you to feel more at ease (just like it is when you return to yoga, or meditation, or riding a bike), but go back to it and keep using that mantra.
[header photo: by Toa Heftiba]
📝 This piece originally featured on the INF Club blog