When we are a child, we are creative without fear of being judged, without fear of making mistakes, not tortured yet by perfectionism… just painting and being creative! We are vulnerable in our authenticity, not pretending to be anybody else. What happens next when we become teenagers and adults? Why do most of us loose our creativity and our courage to make art?
What are the 5 ways to screw up your creativity?
- by being perfectionist:
“if I draw and paint perfectly, and live perfectly, I will avoid shame, blame and criticism”… Perfectionism will protect me from getting hurt. It is a 20 ton shield the weight of a bunker that will prevent ourselves from living our creative life. Perfectionism is the ultimate fear of being seen being imperfect… Perfectionism will prevent you from being seen in your authenticity, creativity, the way you really are. It will also prevent you from having authentic human connections. Lay down this shield and pick up with your creative life.
- by being afraid of what others might think and compare yourself to others :
What will people think?? The next time you find yourself worrying about this, STOP and ask these questions: What do I think? How do I feel? Writing down these answers is very powerful. This worry of what others might think is again linked to perfectionism… It’s about trying to earn approval and acceptance. Research shows that most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, we adopt this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Maybe it’s linked with teachers or parents that told you somewhere you were stupid by making a mistake? Please. Perform. Perfect. Healthy striving is self-focused— How can I improve?
Perfectionism is other-focused — What will they think?
And don’t compare yourself to others and think everything has been done already. It might have been done by others, but not by you! And you have your authentic way of doing it!
- by taking yourself too seriously.
You’re not drawing like Da Vinci or Michelangelo? Struggling with perspective drawings? So what? Of course you can learn it if you really want to, but making “correct drawings in perspective” is not really necessary to make great art. But if you want to, so take a class (there are great free online classes, or take a real workshop if you can, it’s more fun.) Just make sure you don’t get to the point where you don’t do anything if you’re not already really good at doing it. That would mean you’re never trying anything new. Force yourself to try new things and take classes. Dare to be awkward, goofy, and a little out of control. It’s terrifying but also liberating your creativity. It’s just a game! A big great game!
- by being obsessed by ‘talent’.
F*ck talent! (see also other blog post 🙂 )… Do you need ‘talent’ to live a creative life and be an artist? Hell no you don’t! At some point I stopped drawing because I was not talented enough. I participated in art competitions and wasn’t selected. I mailed my work to art galleries and they don’t answer me. The arena is a cruel place, but every profession has his sh*t part… At school I was told I didn’t have enough talent to become a great artist, and a great architect. OHhh this is the great part about our education system, when the ‘talented and gifted’ students are separated from ‘the rest of us’, and ‘the rest’, not so talented, are condemned to a boring non creative life… Don’t listen to those ‘judges’ and just do what you like to do and have fun !
- by not showing up:
by choosing comfort over courage.
This is also about perception… You need courage to show up ‘in the arena’! Staying at home in the couch is more comfortable but then nothing creative will happen. Try to practice this : “What people think of me or say about me is none of my business.” Show up in your life. Get into the arena! Choose courage over comfort. Of course you will fall sometimes. That’s almost inevitable. But at least try and do your best and work on it. Just listen to your creativity and show up and do it, whatever that is you want to do.
Creativity is not about suffering. It’s a myth that great art comes from suffering emotions. My perfectionism and fear of what other people might think about my sketches, drawings and paintings have caused years of wasted pleasure. Rejection after rejection from watercolor competitions I took part in, art galleries I contacted, art I send to magazines, workshops I offered to give. I wanted other artists to recognize my skills. What for? That just causes suffering! Not enough talent and skills. Says who? For what?
F*ck what other people think about your talent! Now I decided to just have fun 🙂 Creativity, living a creative life, doesn’t mean you have to be a full time accomplished painter making a living out of your art. Just doing in your free time what makes you happy and show up!
A creative life also doesn’t have anything to do with passion. ‘Passion’ would mean that you obsessionally follow that interest of yours, almost biologically as if you had no choice. “Just follow your passion and everything will be all right”, is such a cruel thing to say! No it won’t be all right because I don’t have any Passion! There’s no such thing I would love to do all day every day, even if I love drawing and painting of course, but also hiking, fitness, reading, cooking, eating, seeing friends… So long time I thought I couldn’t be an artist because I thought I’m not passionate enough, which made me feel insecure and confused. Replace the word ‘passion’ by ‘curiosity’ and looking for inspiration will become so much easier.
Interesting literature about perfectionism is “The gifts of imperfection” and “Daring greatly” , by Brené Brown. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, shame, and authenticity.
Insight is useless without action: What is your biggest obstacle to let go your creativity?
Brené Brown talk about vulnerability and a wholehearted life
Dr. Brené Brown is a researcher professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, where she has spent the past ten years studying a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness, posing the questions: How do we engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to embrace our imperfections and to recognize that we are enough — that we are worthy of love, belonging and joy?
Thank you Barbara! Very good read. Very helpful to keep at it no matter what…
Thank you Hannah!
Thanks for the advice, what encourages me the most is the enthusiasm you communicate.
Oh thank you so much! that’s a wonderful thing to write!
I’m struggling with disabilities, family issues, etc. Just like everyone. But self criticism has the worst impact on my creativity and freezes me in my tracks. My dad was a professional watercolorist, a graduate from a well known art school with a 4-year degree. He would NOT criticize me as I do. But I’ve made his art my standard. If I can’t paint like him, as well as him, my inner voice tells me “don’t bother”. I don’t have a clue how to find my own style when I’ve made HIS my standard! (when I take a workshop and my art doesn’t turn out like the instructor’s, I think mine is crap.)
Thanks for your comments, Barbara! My personal favorite is “ not showing up”, choosing comfort over courage. And it’s all about fear of failing. I try to read Art And Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland once a year. It usually brings me back to sanity and creativity!
Hi Julie! Thank you very much for the great reading tip! Barbara
some times I really need to “replace the word ‘passion’ by ‘curiosity’ ” :). Bien vu. Merci
Dear Barbara, thank you very much for encouraging everyone to do what makes happy, talent or no talent doesn’t matter. I appreciate that.
Thank you so much ☺️ ♥️
Thank you Barbara, all you say is exactly right and so helpfull ! But it is an every day work for whom is perfectionnist and has to gain his freedom in creativity …
Thank you so much, Barbara. “Follow your curiosity” is wonderful guidance, and so much wider and more fun than following your passion. I am new to your website and your work, but glad to have discovered you. Thank you for sharing your own struggles, as well as your own optimism. Cheers!
Thank you so much for your encouragements, Shea ! Reading this makes me very happy !
Cheers to you!
You are so correct. I dislike being around perfectionists so why was I trying to be one? When I realized this I had to laugh at myself. Now I am working on being a fun creative person that I enjoy being with. Thank you for your encouragement.
Thank you so much Malinda !
I constantly have to remind me of this myself, when my perfectionist monkey in my head regularly tries to come back… 😉
Thank you very much for your insights. My new mantra is “just do it”
That’s a great mantra‼️
Nothing to add to the comments and wisdom above – I just wanted to say Barbara that your post was helpful and encouraging reading. Thanks!
oh thank you so much Bob !!!
Merci, thank you Barbara ❤️
You’re welcome Alexandra !
Thank you, Barbara. Your words and your art resonate very much with me. And I have been practicing with the little monks photo/painting demo you did with Art Toolkit.
Thank you so much dear Laura Have fun ‼️❣️
Thank you Barbara your words mean so much. Puts one on the right track.
Great Post Barbara. Good comments up there. I shall try to maintain your mantra. Bless you. Stay safe – along with your family. xx