How many of us feel it? How many of us focus on anything but what is holding us in place? How many of us feel the grasping tendrils and thorns tearing at our ankles…then consciously decide to turn a blind eye because it’s easier to take the known pain than the unknown risk? We doubt our own desires.
The pain could stop if we moved. We could break through the tangle and trash if only we tried…
But then again it could get worse. Are we really willing to risk that the change we think we want is actually going to be better than what we have now? If we aren’t 100% certain then is it actually worth taking the risk? Where’s the guarantee? Is what we have right here and now really that bad?
I might be depressed, sure. I know I have debts, but they aren’t that bad and I’m kind of coping. I know what to expect from life. After all, this is what I deserve. I got myself into this mess, so I should be the one to get myself out — When I’m ready to of course. You can’t rush these things.
We’ve all done it. We all know how it feels to have these thoughts churning around in our heads. I can almost guarantee you that if you haven’t experienced at least one of these doubts in your life so far, that you will in your future.
Doubt and fear are normal.
But living in that stranglehold forever isn’t.
I’m a creative person. I always have been and I can’t ever see myself not having that drive to bring something into the world that, up until that point, had only ever existed in my mind.
I’d heard stories all my life about how ‘creative’ people are prone to depression, fear and doubts. How in order to have excellence in expression, the creative has to suffer the exquisite agonies of life too; as if this were some sadistic balancing act that the gods played with an unlucky few. But I always wondered if this was actually true?
During my 30 something years of life I have experienced all of these afflictions at one point or another. But the odd thing was, I never really experienced them in relation to my ability to create. I knew that I was good at what I did. Yes, I sometimes doubted whether right now I was good enough to pass a test or win a competition, but I never doubted in my ability to actually create.
At a fundamental level, I believed in myself.
At the same time I was surrounded by people the world had not yet labelled as ‘creative’ who had no confidence whatsoever in their abilities and suffered exactly the same afflictions that I did. They had resigned themselves to forever be someone who does as they are told or who won’t ever achieve anything in their lives — because, they would assure me, they aren’t good at imagining or don’t have any talent at all.
I’d watch these people go home and paint exquisite models for their kids to play with or take a car apart with their bare hands and put it back together better than it ever was before they started. I’d marvel at their ability to explain the play by play break down of the latest sports match or sing to their baby as they rock it to sleep. I know people who can solve a computer problem faster than I could ever create a story or draw a picture and yet these very same people brush off the idea that they are creative as if it we’re some kind of joke.
They balk at the notion that what they do requires both imagination and understanding because their field of expertise has never been labelled as a ‘creative medium’. They don’t believe that they are any good at anything ‘because it’s just a hobby, not anything that actually matters’. And when I show them the online stores that ‘creative’ people have put together to sell their work, they dismiss them, saying ‘ah well yeah, but I don’t have the time to do that’.
It all leads back to fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of the responsibility that comes with being ‘creative’.
If you are a creative person you have to take on the mantle of owning what you do.
You can’t run from it and say ‘Ahh but Bob from accounting told me to do it like that so it’s not my fault.’ You can’t dismiss your creation as ‘some little side project’. You have to stand tall and accept that you might not be perfect, your ideas might not resonate with everyone…and that’s OK.
Creative people are no more or less tortured by life than those who refuse to acknowledge that they have that capacity within themselves. For everyone, deep down, has the capacity to create.
The reason creative people are both loved and hated for their apparent tendencies towards the melodramatic is that they have to own their creations. They put a part of themselves out into the world every time they make something new and so by extension they show the world who they are. They can’t shy away from their feelings or ignore them and hope they’ll go away.
Bob from accounting can’t come over to the man that sits and plays music on the street and tell them that the statistics show that if he plays in a different key he’ll get three times more money, and that’ll be 20% of his pay check, thank you very much. That musician is his own boss. What he feels is what he plays. That is all he has control over.
Of course he can go out and do that same research that Bob from accounting did and find the information for himself. He can choose to experiment and see if the statistics ring true for him; but he has to be brave enough to take that chance.
He’s earning his money in the here and now. Changing what he does could potentially be dangerous. The statistics might be wrong. His demographic of customers might not like the new angle he’s choosing to go down. He could get sick mid way through the project and not be able to go back to his old style fast enough to recover any lost customers. All these things and a myriad of others could happen if he chooses to make that change. Take that risk.
So why is it that almost everyone I talk to is never shocked to hear ‘creative’ individuals, such as myself, discussing their plans for change and their future direction, but recoil in terror when we suggest that they can do exactly the same themselves?
The thing about creation is that it is, by it’s very nature, risky.
So when someone who has not labelled themselves as a creative person watches someone who has taken that chance, they get a vicarious thrill.
Either way, the observer wins. If the person who took the risk succeeds, then good for them, we knew they could do it all along! The observer gets a small taste of that success because they cheered the person on and will likely reap some form of reward for doing so.
And if they fail? Well, what did they expect? It was a stupid risk, they should have known better. The observer gets to feel vindicated because their choice to not risk is re-enforced.
We all face little challenges every day. We all have choices to make. Do we put on the red shoes that could bring attention to us? Do we style our hair differently? Do we speak up in a meeting?
You might not think of these things as particularly challenging or, indeed, creative. But I do.
Creativity is all about expression. Expression of an idea, an identity or a way of seeing the world. With everything you do you are telling those around you who you are and what you stand for. Every choice is a risk.
Every choice is a potential reward.
Right at the start of this article I asked you if you were trapped? I asked you to think about what is holding you back from making that choice to free yourself. I asked you to question your assumption of safety being where you stand right now. The known hurt is safe.
Is it? Or is it just a slower death?
Can you imagine a life without that pain you are feeling? Without that debt that’s hanging around your neck? Or with people that truly make you feel happy, right down to your very soul?
If you can you are creative. Even if those scenarios in your mind are a fuzzy grey and don’t even have words attached just yet. Even if there is no way you can describe what you see or feel to another person – that creative ability still lies within you and it is that very ability that can save you.
Change is scary. Sometimes it can be downright terrifying. You have to own it. You have to own those decisions and yes, not all of the decisions you make will be 100% perfect. But nothing is ever achieved by standing still. Time will pass. I can guarantee you that. Do you want to refuse the label of ‘creative’ and let life pass you by? Or do you want to try on a new hat and see what possibilities the world has to offer you?
You are one choice away from freedom.
Also published on Medium.