In the last year or so, I have claimed the title of “creative” as something that describes me. In the process of coming to terms with this descriptor, I plowed through many myths about creatives and creativity. Busting these myths propelled me into successful changes in the way I work. These myths hold creatives back from doing great work. These myths hold people back from acknowledging the fact that they are a “creative” or that they “create” on a regular basis. I hope identifying and disarming these myths helps you as much as it helped me!
1 – “Creativity is only for artists. You know, people who draw, paint, write poetry, and do music.” In this myth, creativity is a special class of people who are somehow set apart by the work they make. Think disogranized, messy, late, flannel-shirt-wearing, obscure-music-lovers. Hello…sterotype! Creativity is not the area behind red-velvet ropes where the cool kids hand out. Creativity is the work so many of us do when we solve interesting problems. When we bring together disconnected elements and make something new, useful, and helpful. When we bring order to chaos. When we imagine and implement a simple solution to a complex problem. All of that is creativity. There is no V.I.P. area here!
2 – Boundaries are evil. Whoever said this lied. The worst service one can give another in a creative process is a blank canvas. Limitations, boundaries, “no’s” are a gift to someone exercising their creativity. With each boundary, the art grows. Just as each stroke or color choice brings the art one step closer from imagination to implementation, each boundary pushes the creative to work harder, communicate more clearly, or commit more passionately to a direction. Embrace your boundaries and you are one step closer to success.
3 – The muse is uncontrollable. In mythology, muses were goddesses who came and visited artists to inspire their work, often poetry and music. While many creatives don’t use the word “muse”, they blame the muse for a host of problems. “I just wasn’t inspired today.” “I can only write when I feel my mind gets moving.” “I sat down, nothing came to me; what am I supposed to do?” NO! The muse doesn’t come visit you. You go knock on the door of the muse until she lets you in! Inspiration may come and do, but you show up for work every day (or every time you set out to do your creative work). I guarantee the muse will be more regular if you keep showing up. Blaming your lack of discipline and laziness on muse does no one (including yourself) any good. I know this from personal experience.
4 – My greatest enemy is out there. If you do creative work, if you are a creative, if you are a person, I have to let you in on a secret – your greatest enemy is in your head. It’s that voice that tries to backpedal whenever you get gutsy. Whenever you get ready to hit publish on that blog. Whenever you get read to hit “SEND” on that big request of a friend. When you get ready to make that decision that “burns the ships” on one set of options, moving you in a direction with no way back. When you keep saying your greatest enemy is out there, you avoid taking responsibility for the self-sabotage you commit on your own work. In this area, you can be your greatest enemy and until you start identifying the Resistance within yourself, you will keep destroying your art before it even goes public.
5. “I just have so many great ideas”. Sometimes, “another great idea” is code for “lazy” and “wimpy”. The enemy of your art is another great idea. The only ideas that truly matter are the ones that you make happen. You can die with a casket full of great ideas. The question that must be asked is, “Which ones are you going to show up day after day to make happen?” When I write messages, I have to cut many good ideas to land on one great big idea. Many great observations to pick a few that matter most. Tons of illustrations and stories, only to remember the point isn’t to share ten great illustrations and stories. Sometimes, we get to the edge of the diving board, prepare to jump, realize how far down it is, and then come up with another idea and head off in search for another diving board. Just jump. There are plenty of chances to discover new diving boards; you still aren’t wet yet, and the point isn’t to see who can stay dry the longest.
(Today was the first in a series of posts that I am calling Creative Wednesdays, where I will share lessons, personal stories of success and failures, and wisdom from other creatives with you. I hope that you will claim your role as a creative and regularly offer your work to others. This is who God made you to be and the world gains nothing while you hold back in fear.)
I leave you with the words of my good friend, Tony Elliott…
own who you are and offer it to the world.