7 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Creativity – Skinny Artist

7 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Creativity

The Secret by Cedward Brice
Why do we believe we aren’t good enough to create our art?  Maybe it’s because we keep telling ourselves the same stupid lies over and over again…

 

It’s time to stop screwing around.

Let’s face it, we don’t have enough time to create without constantly sabotaging ourselves in the process.

We are filled up to our eyeballs with doubts that we’ll ever be able to create something worthwhile.

Over the years, we’ve bought into these lies so deeply that instead of banging away at the keyboard writing our book, or slapping some paint on the canvas, we spend most of our time making excuses.

What makes these particular lies so dangerous is not even the fact that other people are telling them to us, but that we keep telling them to ourselves.

7 lies we tell ourselves about being a creative artist:

#1 It’s all about talent

You either have it or your don’t.  Artists and writers are born not made. Creativity is not something that you can learn. Yada, yada, yada…

How many times have you heard this kind of thing throughout your life.  Maybe it was your fourth grade art teacher, your choir or band director, or maybe it was your creative writing professor in college that told you that you just don’t have what it takes.

What a bunch of crap.

Although it might be true that we were all born with different levels of natural talent, what they don’t tell you is that it’s up to us to practice and develop what we’ve been given.

You may not be a Picasso or Mozart but you don’t have to be. Just create to create. Create to remind yourself you’re still alive. Make stuff to inspire others to make something too. Create to learn a bit more about yourself.  ~Frederick Terral

Sometimes we fall into this trap that if we can’t be the next Picasso or Hemingway, we might as well just pack up our keyboard or our paints and forget about the whole thing. However creating art is not an either/or kind of thing. There’s a lot of space in between becoming the next William Shakespeare and sitting on our ass doing nothing.
Sure you may never turn out to be the next Mozart or Mark Twain, but then again you don’t have to be. We’ve already seen what they can do. What we need is not someone like them, but you. We need to hear what you have to say in your unique voice, the only one you have to share, and one the world has never heard before.

#2 It’s about luck

They say that talent and a little bit of luck will take you a long way, and it’s true.  However, chances are, you’re already far luckier than you think. Just the fact that you have the time and resources to be reading these words means that you already have some degree of ‘luckiness’ in your life.

Then again, it’s not really about luck anyway.

It’s about taking your current situation, whatever it is, and taking the next step forward to where you want to go.  It’s about doing what you need to do, learning what you need to know, and picking yourself up off the ground when things don’t go your way.

It’s not about finding that one lucky break — it’s about putting in the work and finding a way to move forward even when you’re uncertain which way to go.

#3 It’s about having good ideas

One of the biggest lies out there when it comes to creativity is this idea that successful creative artists have access to this top-secret warehouse of good ideas, and if the rest of us could somehow get our membership card and decoder ring, we would be all set.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works.

Creative inspiration isn’t something that’s delivered by UPS. Instead it’s one of those things that often shows up unexpectedly while we’re busy working. We start with an idea, one thing leads to another, and before we know it, we’ve ended up someplace we didn’t expect. That’s what creativity is all about — breaking down ideas and then reassembling them into something new.

If that sounds more like work than divine inspiration, that’s probably because it is. Creativity is not about having a boatload of good ideas, it’s about working with and developing the ideas we already have until they become something better.

#4 It’s about who you know

We’ve all heard this one. It’s not about who you are or what you can do, it’s all about who you know.

The idea is that if you’re lucky enough to know the right people, things will simply fall into place and your worries will be over.  Again this is a comforting idea because, much like the idea of ‘luck’,  it hands over the responsibility of our success to someone else. After all, nobody can blame us if we’re unlucky or if we don’t know the right people.

The truth is that it’s not about having a fairy godmother, it’s about finding your audience.

It’s about having the courage to do your thing and then finding a way to connect with those people who appreciate what you do.

Despite what you may have heard, it’s not about going out there and hunting down your tribe, it’s about saying ‘this is who I am’ and allowing your tribe to find you.

#5 It’s about having the right education

This is another one of those handy little lies that gives us the excuse not to try. After all if we don’t have the right education, training, or credentials how can we be expected to compete with those who do?

We can’t be a writer because we didn’t get our degree in creative writing. We can’t be an artist because we never went to art school, so how can we be expected to know what they know.

Here’s the big secret — nobody really cares.

Just as it’s not about who you know, it’s also not about what you know — it’s about what you do. It’s about experience and how often you pick up that paintbrush or bang on that keyboard in order to practice your art and develop your skills. Trust me, getting a degree in creative writing is a hell of a lot easier than becoming a writer.

The only way to become an artist is to practice your art.  Not for a grade, not for a degree, not because someone is going to yell at you if you don’t, but simply because you want to become an artist.

It may sound simple, but that doesn’t make it easy.

#6 It’s about living in the right place

This is one of those lies that may have at one time been true.

After all, it wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to be a musician you packed up your stuff up and moved to New York, L.A., or Nashville. If you wanted to be an artist, you moved to the big cities where all of the curators and galleries were — but we don’t live in that world anymore.

Today singers, artists, writers, and musicians are being discovered everyday through their blogs, social media accounts, websites, and YouTube videos. They are no longer waiting around to be found by agents and publishers, they’re producing their own work and putting it out there for their audience to see.

These days there is really no excuse to not get your creative work out there online for people to see regardless of where you live.

#7 It’s about having enough time

There seems to be this myth out there that if you can’t quit your job and work on your art full time, you might as well just pack it up because you’ll never be able to accomplish anything.

The only problem is that it’s not true.

Sure it would be easier to write our novel or paint our latest masterpiece without having to stop and feed the dog, pick up the kids, or go to work.  These days we all have more stuff going on then we can handle, but we work on our art anyway.  We’ve learned that doing something is always better than nothing and eventually it adds up.

The world is filled with successful part-time writers and artists. Unfortunately, the world is also full of people waiting around for the day when they have “enough time” to finally pursue their art.

Which one are you going to be?

What about you?

  • Which one of these lies has been crippling your creativity?
  • What have you tried to do to get through it? What’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you?
  • Why do you think so many of us continue to buy into these lies?  Is it just part of being a creative artist, or do you think we’ve been set up to fail by our culture?

 

Image courtesy of: CEBImagery.com cc

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About the Author

Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.

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(11) comments

Firstly, I would just like to say thank you for writing this article. I myself am a musician working on my master’s degree in percussion performance. I am also a husband and the point that you made about having enough time really hit home with me. I sometimes fall into trap of thinking if I do not have an hour to devote to practicing I will not accomplish anything. However, you are right the little time spent practicing or making my art will add up. I need to make the most of every moment that I can to create great art.

Thank you.

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    Thanks Levi and I think you’re right, the trap is that we buy into this idea that if we don’t have enough time to practice our art, we are somehow wasting our time. Sure more practice is probably better than less, but some is always better than none. Sometimes I think we forget that everything is cumulative and everything builds on everything else. So even if you can only work out a few measures of a song or a few pages of a story, next time it will build from there.

    Having said that, I think it’s still easy to lose sight of that, no matter how many times I try to remind myself. Maybe it’s just fear in disguise, or maybe it’s sheer laziness. I don’t know, but the feeling doesn’t seem to go away, even when you “know” better. So maybe we just ignore it the best we can. Thanks again Levi for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!

    Reply

[…] tolerant of detours and mistakes. We spend so much valuable time rationalizing, telling ourselves lies about creativity instead of proactively and methodically taking action to harness the power of […]

Reply

Thank you for writing this.

I am a jewelry maker and recently I have just decided to ‘unleash’ that monster in me and start to take my art seriously. The time factor is the one I have been struggling with today, and actually point #1 is what I have been struggling with since I was a kid. I cannot make realistic things/draw realistically, and my past art teacher, my friends, the people around me have been bogging me down because I choose to do something “my own way” rather than following the mainstream (which was to paint skies as blue, clouds as white, etc). They told me I was not talented. I failed upon entry to art school because again, I was bogged down by the people around me that pointed out how I was not talented like Rembrandt or like Mozart.

I have always wanted to become an artist but I took a detour and became a translator (I took the decision so that I can finance my art). It was around two years ago when I woke up and wondering what the hell I was doing being so far away from the thing that I love the most, which is to create.

The people around me thought that art is about being hippy and just make whatever abstract, slap down a price, and call it art. It’s been tough to get out from that environment and I am now moving towards a more serious exploration of myself. Even though I have passed those (i.e not caring anymore about what other people said), it still helps to read this, that way I can keep myself in check.

Thank you.

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    First of all Maria, congratulations for having the courage to come back to your art. I know that once you’re already established on a different path, it’s hard to switch gears especially when there is so much uncertainty involved. I imagine most of us take unplanned detours along the way, however it’s only the luck few who are able to eventually find their way back.

    As you rediscover your art, I think you’ll begin to find new supporters along the way. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or even creative community websites such as this one — you’ll begin to see that there is a whole subculture of deviants just like you who are also trying to understand this mysterious creative impulse that consumes us. So enjoy your exploration and don’t forget that you’re never alone :)

    Reply

This article is completely on point! At #dontcutcreativity (http://dontcutcreativity.wordpress.com), we believe that creative talent can come from anywhere. Apart from believing in yourself, a good support network is essential and with a little financial aid from the government, so much could be accomplished. The governmnet needs to reconsider The Arts as a serious sector of society and in turn, will give more creative people the ability to pursue their talents.

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Rossana

Hi, it is weird how things work, it was today that I forced myself to be proactive (at least once in a while Rossana, please! – right?) and it was today that I found your site and you have moved my core with your straighforwardness and by calling out my own mental garbage. I didn’t want to be an artist, when I was little, i remember telling someone that I could never deal with an “abstract” job, where I would’t know that was I was doing was “right”, so I did business, knowingly that I didn’t have a hair of passion for it. On my teenager-self’s defense, I kinda planned for advertising as it was “a little” creative enough, but I still cowarded-out (please excuse my foreignness) which brings me to this moment in time, with a business degree that I don’t comprehend what/how/why? should I do with, and with the certainty that I am truly alive behind a camera, and knowing that art can be the only pursuit that can make me understand life and live, but I cannot abandon my early thoughts and that its too late for me, that I already chose & made that dreadful mistake, after all i still need to pay those student loans, right?
I thank you for your blog, may we all find our paths and be brave each step of our ways.

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    You’re right Rossana that sometimes things have a way of finding us. I think no matter how far down this creative path we may travel, we will always second guess ourselves and play the “what if” game. We can’t ever know where that other path might have eventually led us. So all we can do is make a choice and follow our heart (and occasionally our mind) and simply do the best we can with the information we have. The one thing we can’t allow ourselves to do, however, is to fall into that trap of believing that we cannot change course along the way. Every day gives us the ability to make that choice again by either reaffirming our present course or perhaps looking for a new one. And yes, sacrifices will have to be made along the way (hello, big stinky pile of student loans) but even when these unpleasant and unplanned detours appear along the way, we can always change course and ultimately head in a new direction. I wish you all the luck :)

    Reply
Denise

I had one of those teachers who told me I had no business in art classes. Sadly, I let that resound in my head for a very long time. At 50 years of age I set out with a few photos in my files to submit to stock agencies. I sell online and locally now. I will never be a superstar,but, I am glad I stopped listening to that voice.
I have a lot of these excuses I lean on, thanks for knocking my crutches out from under me. :-)

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    It’s true that teachers can affect students (both positively and negatively) long after they leave their classroom. It’s not just teachers either— parents, friends, siblings, co-workers can all affect the way we see ourselves and our creative abilities. At some point, however, we need to find a way to reduce all of these outside voices and define ourselves. So kudos to you for finding the courage to try again. I wish you all the best :)

    Reply

Even though these are excuses to not get work done (or to why we haven’t really made it yet), some of them are a little bit true. Of course there are different degrees of talent (that to me means just a way of thinking), of course knowing the right people and living in big cities makes it a lot easier to connect with other artists and people who can help you develop your work. The web isn’t the most important window we have got nowadays – it has always been the mouth-to-mouth and personal acquaintances. We need other people, and the right people, to be part of a bigger artistic universe.

Individual research is a very good start, as is “finding your tribe” who will appreciate everything you do, but without feedback from the right people we never develop quality in our work. Your momma and your friends and people who are dummies at your specific work field will always think you are awesome, but that’s not what we need to hear in order to become better!! Proper education, like technical classes, or even art college, can open up your personal universe to a whole lot of important ideas about art that you can’t just find going through Google or the internet. I’m not saying they are necessary, but they sure add much value to our artistic experience.

People fall into the mistake that if they’ve got any of the above, it is enough, or it is a guarantee. No. It’s just a tool that needs to be used the right way. In fact, everything demands much effort and hard work, and if you are putting sweat into your art, chances are you’ll feel the need to meet the right people and move to a bigger place and take classes. And will find yourself having good ideas. One thing leads and adds to another :)

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