The act of being creative should be a source of joy, pleasure, delight: not only to the creator, but to those seeing your efforts, too.
Should is a great word.
Shoulda coulda woulda.
Because that’s the thing about creativity: it so often walks side by side with its companion, fear.
What is there to fear about something that gives you and others joy, pleasure, or delight?
When we create something, whether it’s a blog post, book proposal, painting, piece of music, or anything else you can think of, we are putting something of ourselves in it. We are putting our creativity out to the world, inviting people to engage with it. It means we are putting a part of ourselves out to the world, too.
It can make us feel vulnerable.
What if people don’t like it? What if they laugh? What if all of the time I have spent creating the masterpiece has been wasted? What if, after thinking I am really good at this skill it turns out that I am terribly, dreadfully, awfully rubbish at it? What if I am ignored? What if I feel humiliated?
What if what if what if.
Just go for it.
It’s kind of like when I hear people saying “I’d love to wear x” item of clothing, but I can’t. Usually the ‘can’t’ comes from a lack of self-belief, self-confidence. Feeling vulnerable, that we’ll look awful, that someone might laugh at us.
Can I tell you a secret?
Some of the work I am most proud of nearly didn’t make it out to the world.
For example, Facebook Motherhood Challenge and Celebrities, Death, and Expressing Grief had been niggling at me. The concept was formulating in my head, words were whizzing around forming sentence structures as if they had a life of their own. I tried to ignore them: I thought people would be disinterested by my thoughts and contemplations. I worried I was overthinking the issues, and that I was being a bit of a bore.
Realising I couldn’t ignore the posts in my head, and that I would not be able to do anything else until I had written them, I got started. I’m so glad I did, and judging by the response other people are too.
The Facebook Motherhood Challenge received so many comments on the post itself and on social media. It also appeared on the front page of Mumsnet, and was quoted in the Independent. As with the post about celebrities and death, people were glad someone had spoken up about things they had also been thinking, that someone had put their feelings in to words.
The warmth of the responses gave me a good feeling, too. I had put something of myself out there, I had made myself vulnerable. But that vulnerability helped my work connect with people. A great reward for that slightly nauseous feeling I had when I pressed the ‘publish’ button!
Those two posts are just recent examples. I feel the same about many of my posts. My writing about Hugo. My poems and short stories, especially.
They all come from the heart, are saturated with my personality. My raw grief and love for Hugo. My dry sense of humour. My perspective on life.
I aim to only publish work that has something of myself in it, some heart and soul.
Writing with vulnerability often goes hand in hand with writing authentically. Through that, you discover others feel the same way (I’ve had ‘phew’ moments when I’ve realised others agree with me) and it enables others to echo their views too. Vulnerability is not always bad.
It’s a similar approach with the lettering and doodling I’ve been doing recently. At first I felt a bit embarrassed at my lack of skill, but have stuck with it and am seeing my skills improve. It also helped me realise that everything does not have to be perfect.
Taking pride in my work is still important of course, but it’s a reminder that everything does not necessarily have to be in place before taking a leap in to the creative unknown. Sometimes, not knowing where you are going can be part of the creative adventure.
If you are familiar with Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, you may not be surprised to know in the context of this post that I have been reading her words of wisdom. In her book, she suggests fear is a conjoined twin with creativity.
Big Magic is full of inspiration and creative wisdom. I could just quote the whole book (but you should go and read it yourself!). I love this quote in particular:
Fear is always triggered by creativity. Because creativity asks you to enter in to realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.
So much vulnerability! So many what ifs!
But pause. Listen.
Take a leaf out of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book.
Listen to what the fear is saying. Balance it all up. Would you rather swallow that fear, feel your heart race as you press publish or feel regret at not having unleashed your creativity on the world?
Feel the fear and do it anyway, as that other book advises. Step outside of the comfort zone – it’s where the magic happens!
You might have seen a variation of this cartoon before…
Perhaps have some loose guidelines in place. Mine are:
My personal guidelines are:
Speak from the heart.
Show my personality.
Try new stuff.
Build my skills.
Fair enough, it might not always work out. But how will you know if you don’t even try?
And what if it does work out? Again, you will only find out if you try.
And yes, fair enough it may take a few tries. But it’s worth it!