Working Through Creative Fear

 
What are we afraid of in our creative lives?

1. Messing up.
2. Thinking this is the one and only chance to tell this story so it simply must be perfect.
3. People not appreciating what we create.
4. Being seen as selfish or extravagant for indulging yourself in your creative endeavor.
5. Not getting anything done.

Any of those sound or feel familiar? Let's look a bit at the realities:

1. Messing up.We all make mistakes - it is as actually an essential part of the creative process. Every time I put together a layout or work on a project I make a mistake - it is pretty much a guarantee. So much of what I do is figuring out how to cover up my mess-ups. I have a couple "c" words I rely on when I make a mistake: cover (just hide it), collage (use other elements in conjunction with your mistake - no one will ever know it began as a mess-up), and combine (add another element to turn it into something else). Learning how to problem solve your mistakes (and work with them) goes a long way to alleviating the fear.

2. Thinking this is the one and only chance to tell this story so it simply must be perfect. Oh man, what a way to stop you in your tracks. What does perfect mean to you? And who is the judge? Perfect is so very relative. What is perfect to me in this moment may be entirely imperfect to you. To me, perfect is actually taking time to tell your stories. Risking that bit of yourself to document your experience. Perfect is carving out a bit of time to be creative. Perfect is embracing the imperfection inherent in creating something that comes from your heart, and your head, and your hands. Let it go. Simply
begin writing. Tell the story in simple, plain sentences one word at a time. Keep writing until all the words have spilled onto the page and then go back and edit. Perfect is actually telling the story rather than letting fear keep you from sharing the lives and lessons of your family.

3. People not appreciating what we create. Here's the plain truth: people will either love, hate, or be indifferent to what you create. You are the one who needs to love it, feel good about it, and not worry about what anyone else thinks. Most likely your family is going to either love or be indifferent towards your projects...and indifference doesn't mean they don't love you any less. Some of the things we create now may not be appreciated until later on - and that is ok too. This is why I encourage you to get to a place where you enjoy the process now - where you are filled up by what you are creating or by the friendships you are making through scrapbooking or by the stories you are telling and the memories you are recounting.

"Eventually I discovered for myself the utterly simple prescription for creativity: be intensely yourself. Don't try to be outstanding; don't try to be a success; don't try to do pictures for others to look at - just please yourself."- Ralph Steiner

4. Being seen as selfish or extravagant for indulging yourself in scrapbooking. There was a great quote from Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) when she was on Oprah recently. A woman had asked her about being seen as selfish for creating a list of things in life she wanted to do and actually doing them; in essence, focusing on things she loved. "In Mandarin Chinese, they have two words for selfish," Liz says. "One means doing that which is beneficial to you. The other means hoarding, greedy and cruel." She talked about how we as a culture have meshed the two meanings together and made the word into something very negative. She suggests you simply ask yourself, "is this beneficial?" Is it beneficial to tell the stories of your family? Is it beneficial to participate in a hobby that combines your love for your family and your love for photography or words or creativity? (Note: even beneficial things can become negative when driven to the extreme. Striving for balance in all things is usually a good path forward.)

5. Not getting anything done because there is simply not enough time. This is a big one for a lot of people. You may never even begin because you envision the need for a huge chunk of time to create something. Nothing is more frustrating than that. One of the biggest lessons for me over the last few years is that little bits of time add up to big projects. It is lovely to have hours of uninterrupted time but it just isn't realistic for most people. Make the most of the time you can carve out for yourself. Maybe you do your journaling one night and upload photos the next and bring them together on a page the following night. Stop over-thinking. Stop creating complications. Your layouts do not need to take hours to complete. Ask yourself what is most important and why do you really scrapbook?

The bottom line: give yourself a break. Put aside the fear. Don't let it rule you and your passion for creativity.

As I was writing this up today I came across an article called Reflections on Photography & Art - 8: Exercising Your Creativity by Alain Briot. He talks about creativity and fear in relation to photography and art - much of which can be applied to what we do as scrapbookers and life artists. Definitely worth a bookmark and a read.

Originally published December 5, 2007 as part of my AEzine newsletter series. I will be periodically bringing content back from the archives, updating/adapting, and re-publishing here.

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79 thoughts

  1. Tina S. says…
    05/07/2009

    I really needed this today. Every time I sit down to draw, paint, scrap, knit, you name it, I hear my mother's voice asking, "But what are you going to DO with it?" Maybe I don't need to DO anything with it except enjoy it. This explains why I find it difficult to create anything unless it's a gift for someone else!

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. Susi from Germany says…
    05/07/2009

    So true! Small things add up to big ones. I have learned to work in bits - scrapbooking, sewing, but also cleaning, reading, ... - realizing that it will come together sooner or later.

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. Cheri Freeman says…
    05/07/2009

    Thank you for this post today!!! I really needed it! Been feeling all of the things you listed. All so very true. But in hearing it from someone else, that somehow validates everything. It is ok to love being creative, set asside a little time to do so, perfect IS relative, and it doesn't really matter what others think of our creations. You nailed it! Thanks again!

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. Melanie says…
    05/07/2009

    Thanks so much for this post... I definitely needed this today. I have been stuck in a rut (actually, 3 years of scrapping to do). I'm finally deciding to stop trying to make everything look like it should go in a magazine and just make it. Your words today were truly my "kick in the butt" to get going and just do it!
    Thanks again!

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  5. cheryl says…
    05/07/2009

    Thanks Ali! I always love your blog, but it really spoke to me today and I really need that encouragment, you are the best! and truly inspired in so many ways! Thanks again!

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Brian says…
    05/07/2009

    This is sooo me and my "excuses" for not being creative right now! Thank you for bringing this to my attention(as you always do!)

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Alicia Koh says…
    05/07/2009

    Yes..you hit the nail in the head!! Its so true for me!! My greatest joy in reading your blog is that its so encouraging and inspiring. Just be yourself, know what you are doing, treasure the things, moments and people around you. Live with no regrets!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Ashley says…
    05/07/2009

    Thanks for that! I think this article can speak to so many people and creative outlets! You hit the nail on the head! :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. tara pakosta says…
    05/07/2009

    My reason for not wanting to scrapbook lately is that I NEED to go buy about 15 albums and get these pages into books!!! THey are all sitting in about 4-5 different places in piles and it's bothering me so much! But I can't afford to run out and get that many books at once so I am collecting 2-3 every time they go half off at HObby Lobby! so eventually I will get back to scrapbooking! I did do 31 layouts over my crop weekend that I go to every 6 months! so that was productive!
    LOVe your blog ali!
    tara

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  10. Kim says…
    05/07/2009

    Great words to live by :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Jennifer says…
    05/07/2009

    Ali, You nailed it!
    "There are no mistakes, just opportunities for creativity"! (not sure if I made that up, or someone said it to me...)

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Maureen says…
    05/07/2009

    I guess that being in my 60s allows me not to feel the need to be 'productive'. That's a good feeling and I love that when I show - sometimes - the things I make or do, my dh says...Well, it keeps you 'off the streets'! He knows it makes me happy even if Photoshop and I end up not speaking for a bit.
    I'm glad you are bringing back some of the old writing which I have never seen and which gives you a break of sorts from external demands. Enjoy your children, and that politician!

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Molly Irwin says…
    05/07/2009

    Glad you are ressurecting some of this content. It's always relevant.
    I've been fixed on a period of time that in retrospect was one of huge personal growth. I don't know if I have any photos of that time/place, and have been so emotional over it that poetry seemed the right avenue. Just another creative medium from the toolbox and I don't differentiate it from my memory keeping albums. The poem doesn't provide the whole story, but it was good for me in the moment -- as you say -- for self satisfaction, and I believe the kids will one day 'get it.'
    I'm not up for digging through pictures just now, so I'm focusing on just writing; things that only I can phrase.
    Thanks for validating me ;)

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. ellie and abbie says…
    05/07/2009

    I definitely tend to want to wait until I have a big chunk of time. After becoming a mom, I've had to shift into thinking of productivity in little steps throughout the day--rather than in great big starts and stops.

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. alexandra says…
    05/07/2009

    thanks for the great post - I really liked the 'stop over-thinking' and 'stop creating complications' - needed reminding of that!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Sara E says…
    05/07/2009

    Ali - awesome! I've got my first paid photo shoot today and I'm sooo doubting myself and my ability. Words of wisdom couldnt' have come at a better time.
    Thanks!
    Sara

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Lauren says…
    05/07/2009

    No Ali, you are one to bookmark. :-)
    This entry really speaks to me because I have (for far too long) been putting off exploring my interests in photography for the fear that I just won't do it as well as I aspire to. It's ridiculous because I wind up not picking up the camera at all. Your words help, thanks.

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. PeaceLiving says…
    05/07/2009

    Ali, I love your three C's and the reminder that pages don't need to take hours to complete! While magazine layouts inspire me, I am not willing to spend the hours it takes to make my pages like those. Thanks for keeping it real!

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Christine says…
    05/07/2009

    The peonies are gorgeous. It makes me long for summer to hurry up and get here in my parts (Canada!). Have a great day!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Noell Hyman says…
    05/07/2009

    I love the quote by Ralph Steiner to be "intensely yourself." I've found this to be true in everything (not just scrapbooking). At my kids' school I get to introduce the great artists throughout history to the children and the most amazing part to me is learning how those who created the masterpieces had found their own way of doing things, which was sometimes rejected, but which always set them apart and distinguished them as "Masters."
    Even if being "intensely yourself" doesn't turn you into some great master, I've found that it makes for a more passionate and exhilarating experience, which is probably my biggest end goal.

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. margvp says…
    05/07/2009

    Love, love, love today's blog! You really hit this subject dead on. Thank you ever so much for your encouragment. God Bless.

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Noell Hyman says…
    05/07/2009

    Maureen--you are so cool. I love your comment.

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. brooke @ claremont road says…
    05/07/2009

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I put a lot of pressure on my creative self sometimes, and reminders like this are just what I need.

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Mary Beth says…
    05/07/2009

    My College Advertising Professior had a definition for Creativity.....
    "Creativity Is The Freedom From Fear".
    I have remembered this definition for more than 25 years and struggle with living it every day.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Samara says…
    05/07/2009

    #5 = great reminder
    Thanks!

    Reply 0 Replies

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