I recently finished reading the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert and it got me thinking. Was I afraid of creativity? The short answer is no, I love being creative. When in the ‘creative zone,’ I am immersed, in flow and in my happy place. My mind is present to the task at hand and present to the process. It’s what Buddhists call shunyata – an empty spacious mind.
When I asked myself was I afraid of showing my art and creative process to the world, I realised I was and still am to an extent. This was despite having sold art work to the public and having my work on the front cover of a West Australian publication back in the early 2000s on more than one occasion.
After such success why was I afraid of being more public with my art? Not good enough and vulnerability were the answers that came back to me. Sadly, this is the flip side of creativity as it can create a sense of insecurity and/or paralysis (Bennett L., 2017) and appears to be quite common among artists (even entrepreneurs).
According to Gilbert (2016): ‘Fear is always triggered by creativity…… [He] is a mall cop who thinks he is a navy seal and hasn’t slept in days…….. he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone safe’
Keep me safe. I can relate to that. Over-protective parents helped me create my own fears. In the past I didn’t have the courage to open myself up and allow that soft heart space to remain open as it does when being vulnerable. The fear resided and reigned deep within. It was better to be protected by fear. To stay safe and not be criticised for my work which would then spark the fear of not being good enough. It was a deleterious cycle and so it was easier to simply not make myself or my work visible to the greater public on a regular basis. Fear kept me small.
Perfectionism blocks creativity
Perfectionism and art wasn’t something that I particularly had an issue with but I know of creatives who won’t display their work publicly unless it is ‘perfect.’ And so it deserves a mention here. Perfectionism keeps people from being truly creative and being open to vulnerability.
Elizabeth Gilbert describes perfectionism as ‘fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat pretending to be elegant when it’s actually terrified.’ It stops people from beginning or completing their work, therefore hindering creativity in all its glory. Can you relate?
I didn’t want to live a life where fear blocked my creativity because I know and have learned how valuable creativity is in life, at work, in business and in the creative process. If you are willing to be vulnerable (even just a little) and have a chat to the fear that resides within you, it can help you take risks and lean into discomfort. If you have the courage to look inward you may be surprised with what you find out about yourself.
Cooking as a creative outlet
Cooking can be seen as a chore or as a creative outlet. Even as a chore creativity can still flow through you (if you let it). Let me explain.
You decide to make dinner but want to deviate from the recipe. You don’t usually do this but on this occasion want to give it a go. You want to take a risk. Very soon fear arises. The perfectionist in you arises. Your inner dialogue may be something like this: ‘What happens if it doesn’t turn out?’ ‘You don’t have all the ingredients it’ll never work out.’ Fear and negative self-talk (still fear) holds you back. You don’t deviate from the original recipe and give in. In doing so you never know about the new experience you could have had. The growth that could have come from that simple courageous act of stepping out of your comfort zone and into a new creative way of doing something didn’t happen.
Now, let’s reframe the negative dialogue. You ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ The altered recipe may not turn out, which in turn no-one eats and everyone has toasties for dinner. No-one will be harmed in the process. That’s not so bad.
The best-case scenario is that it tastes delicious, everyone sings your praises, and you better remember the recipe for next time! By taking a risk, you’ve opened up to the creative process and vulnerability. You’ve taken a (small) risk, remained open and flexible to the outcome and as a result have grown from the experience. In this example it may bolster your confidence to try and deviate from another recipe once more.
Creativity, courage and creative living
Since studying courage, I have learned a lot about myself and how I can navigate it in so many ways in my life (including business and work). I am more aware of how I can develop my courage muscle and continue to cultivate a courage mindset in areas of life and work I want to improve in.
Creativity is the courage to try something new and embraces being vulnerable at the same time (Bennet, 2017). When fostered, creativity helps with confidence, inner growth and continued development of a courage mindset.
Creativity is not just for artists, chefs or artisans. It’s for everyone and can be used in every facet of life. It takes courage to live creatively, especially if you want to redefine yourself and not give a cahoot as to what others think. It means redefining personal, cultural and societal beliefs. It means expression – whether it be through the clothes you wear, what you say and to whom, speaking out, how you live and with whom.
As someone who is big on personal development, I find living a creative life rather alluring, especially as I think about how many seasons I may have left on this earth. Elizabeth Gilbert expresses creative living in a way that really appeals to me. ‘I want to live the most vividly decorated temporary life that I can…… I don’t want to be afraid of bright colours or new sounds or big love or risky decisions or strange experiences or weird endeavours or sudden changes or even failure’.
Creativity is a big subject and important in business and the workplace. Watch this space for part two.
Approx. 7 min read
Bennett, L (2017). Creativity, Purpose and Vulnerability (blog). Found at https://artsplusmarketing.com
Gilbert, E. (2016). Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear. Bloomsbury: New York
Image: Found on https://www.pixabay.com