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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