DON'T BE AFRAID TO CREATE
77% of adults think they’ve lost their creativity. That is a staggering and sad statistic, isn’t it? When we were young, our imaginations served as the playground to our creativity. We were so fearless, so wide eyed, so open to the possibilities of imagination and make believe. We’d doodle our imaginary friends, describe our wildest dreams in detail, dress up as characters, play out scenarios, and allow any place to become a wonderland.
Yet, as we aged, so too came the idea that we had to grow up, and grow out of our childish ways. Well meaning teachers, leaders, and at times, parents pushed the belief that routine was better than spontaneity; practicality superior to imagination. So we gave into the mundane, took on routine and accepted the false belief that we…aren’t…creative.
But the truth is that we humans are most alive when we are imagining, making and creating things. We are all born creative. We are all born with wild imaginations and an insatiable desire to make things. No one is born without that creative spark because that piece of ourselves is our innate curiosity. And for that, we are all creative.
"We are all born creative."
I’ll be the first to admit that creativity is hard. It takes work, effort and intentionality to live a creative life. Many, if not most aren’t willing to pay the price to live creatively, day in and day out. We’d much rather meander through life, not giving much mind space to the beauty of living creatively. Creativity can appear too risky, too dangerous and too time consuming for us. At the core of our dismissal of creativity and denouncement of a creative life is fear.
In her wonderful work of art book, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” Elizabeth Gilbert writes an all to revealing and much too relating paragraph on fear and creativity. It's a longer passage but well worth the time.
“Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life: You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree. You’re afraid you’re too fat. (I don’t know what this has to do with creativity, exactly, but experience has taught me that most of us are afraid we’re too fat, so let’s just put that on the anxiety list, for good measure.) You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist. You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you may reveal. You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud. You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons. You’re afraid your best work is behind you. You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with. You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back. You’re afraid you’re too old to start. You’re afraid you’re too young to start. You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again. You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying? You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder. You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder”
- Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
When I explore my heart, and examine my life, I have found that fear has been the opacity to my creativity. At my best, I’ve created sporadically, at my worst I’ve refused to create. I’ve used excuses of lack of time, talent and audience as a reason to not create. I’ve been afraid that my work wouldn’t be good enough and my effort in vain.
I’ve been afraid.
With that said, I have also produced some of my best work in the midst of fear. Even as I create this blog entry, the all too present fear of it not being “good enough,” lingers in my midst. Yet, why do I allow myself to think that “good enough,” is the standard creativity must meet? Simply giving ourselves to creating anything is more than enough and this is good.
I have learned that creativity isn’t just something we do, but who we are. Because we are creative, results, or lack thereof, shouldn’t scare us. We should create because it’s who we are, not just what we do. If we learn to simply be creative, everything we do will just be creative.
"If we learn to simply be creative, everything we do will just be creative."
As I mentioned earlier, creativity takes intentionality and work and effort. But it’s the kind of life giving work that adds meaning and purpose and beauty to our humanity.
Because we were all born with the potential to create beautiful, meaningful, truth telling things, we must abandon the jaded adult lenses in which we see the world. We must return to our childlike wonder. We have to be willing to risk despite the fear of failure, and create, even when afraid.
It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t be scared to create. In the process of creating, you may very well find that your creative life won’t come from anything you do, but from finally embracing who you are.
Alright my friends, let’s live today the kind of story we’d want to tell tomorrow.