On Creativity and Things That Hinder It

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Went and visited a few blogs tonight and am amazed at how creative some people can be. I hate to admit it, but it makes me feel envious. I’m supposedly creative myself, but it seems like I spend more time coming up with excuses as to why I’m not producing anything than actually thinking up fun creative projects I could work on. Excuses like FEAR. Excuses like THE INNER CRITIC—after having done The Artist’s Way almost three times (up to Week 9 each time but never got to the end) you would think I’d have managed to finally send that blasted critic packing—but he just refuses to budge. He sits there during my every waking hour, ever so vigilant, always on the lookout to catch any sign of a creative thought before it has fully formed, quickly, quickly, before it’s made it’s way to my consciousness, then promptly sends me a self-defeating thought instead, like “Oh, I’m sure someone else has thought of that before” or better yet “If I haven’t produced anything so far, it’s probably because I just don’t have it in me”. Excuses like: “The reason I became and Art Director instead of an Artist is because that seemed like the best way to appear to have talent since we all know I have none.” These excuses are mostly hurtful. Savagely hurtful even. Here’s an excuse that I’m not sure about. It might be a legitimate concern, or it might just be a pathetic excuse disguised to seem legit and therefore even more powerful than the others: I’m exhausted all the time. Most of the time. A whole lot of the time. Except when I’m manic of course, but they’ve got me on all those meds precisely so that won’t happen. Because God forbid I should feel too creative. Things might get out of control and then what? Oh right. And then depression for all eternity.

The truth is that creativity, the real, untainted kind terrifies me. All too often, I end up feeling very very small when faced with the brilliant strokes of creativity that I encounter everywhere. And because my self-esteem is practically nil, the inner critic manages to convince me that these are all expressions of genius and that I’m not meant to reach such great heights. Just the way I found out one day I wasn’t meant to be a ballerina. I was ten years old, and thought my life would end if I wasn’t admitted to the national ballet school. I wasn’t. I had a hard time keeping up with the other. My mom spent the better part of the audition cringing. My tummy stuck out too much and my bum was too round and my pliés weren’t deep enough and my arms and legs refused to stretch to their full extension. Maybe a small part of me did die that day—when I turned around and saw that girl—she had no doubt been admitted. She went to my school. She was perfect at everything. Liked by everyone. This little birdlike thing. So graceful. So completely different from me. If she succeeded where I failed then surely it meant I wasn’t worthy. A major excuse disguised as a childhood sob story. The things we hold on to… these thoughts we think truly define who we are. Sometimes I tell myself that if I had a creative coach, who could make a schedule, put the right tools at my disposition and give plenty of positive feedback… but no. Just another excuse.

And then at night my dreams… so mysterious, with their own secret language, where the laws of physics don’t apply and where the impossible happens as a matter of course. Even when I cannot remember, there’s that part of me yearning to sleep again, to dream again to witness things I’ve never seen before. That’s where true creativity lies. My creativity. Like a drug I can only take in small doses, it makes me see infinite possibilities but then leaves me too depleted to use the dreams as the creative fuel that they are. Another excuse, I know. But my favourite excuse? “I must be a late bloomer”. That one gives me hope. It encourages me to believe that eventually that wall will tumble down. That I will find my voice. And when I do, I’ll finally be able to express things I never knew were there before. Some excuses are worth hanging on to after all.

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Fractal art images by sources unknown

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