In Part 1 of this article Eric Maisel talks about moving from an everyday mindset of “getting things right” to a creative mindset “where huge mistakes and messes are permitted and even welcomed.”
But many of us tend to be perfectionistic – which can help drive excellence, but may also support anxiety and creative constriction.
Psychologist Stephen A. Diamond notes “Were it not for perfectionism, we would be in short supply of all those myriad human activities we deem extraordinary, excellent, outstanding or great in quality.”
But in his Psych Central article “Perfectionism: Adaptation or Pathology?”, Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. notes, “Somewhere on a continuum between normality and pathology there is a point at which the behavior results in functional impairment.” Read more in my post Too Much Perfectionism.
Coach and author Barbara Sher has a helpful perspective on this.
“Art work is ordinary work, but it takes courage to embrace that work.”
That is a quote from the book “Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking,” by two artists: David Bayles and Ted Orland. They also point out, “Artists become veteran artists only by making peace not just with themselves, but with a huge range of issues.”
Actor and teacher Jeffrey Tambor describes how fear can impact presence and creativity in performances and auditions, and how to shift the experience of fear.
He notes, “We are all fear-based creatures. And fear can be the great killer. It kills your original impulses, your creativity, and it kills desire. Rather than deny fear, we have to find new ways of dealing with it. We actually have to dance with it, so to speak.”
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
That quote (attributed to both Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso) is most likely about the process of creating a piece of work – but what about abandoning even the attempt to create something: a painting, novel, smart phone app, new business, or anything substantial?
What if your talents and intelligence have gained success for you in an area that is not particularly creative, but still, deep down, you have a passion to create?
Did you enjoy creating early in life? What stops us from continuing that pleasure? There are, of course, a number of reasons.
In her book The Gifted Adult, Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PsyD, for example, writes about an experience in fifth grade when her teacher “shredded” a poem she had written:
“She insisted I had copied it from a book, humiliating me in front of the class by bellowing, ‘No one your age could have written such a thing. Shame on you.’ I learned that expressing myself was a dangerous thing to do. Becoming a person of few words was difficult for an enthusiastic extrovert such as myself.”
There are many ideas about being creative: You have to wait for a flash of inspiration; You need to be a “genius”; Artists are crazy (or at least flaky); You should be in pain to create, and many other myths which often get in the way of personal creative work, and business innovation.
In his book “The Myths of Creativity” David Burkus, writes about one of the most enduring myths: that creative inspiration comes from an outside source or entity:
“The ancient Greeks told and retold stories of gods, supernatural creatures, and regular mortals as a way to explain how they thought the world worked…They created the muses, who received and answered the prayers of ancient writers, musicians, and even engineers.
“The muses were the bearers of creativity’s divine spark. They were the source of inspiration. Even thinkers as great as Plato believed that poets drew all of their creativity from the muses, so that any works by the poets were really considered works of the muses.”
If you are a creative person, you are compelled to some extent to engage your mind and talents in doing creative work, despite setbacks and frustrations with the process.
Author Mary-Elaine Jacobsen notes,
“Beyond producing objects of value, the gifted create for the sole purpose of creative expression. They need to create and are rejuvenated by it.
“They often do so whether someone asks them to or not, regardless of payment or recognition, chiefly because they enjoy solving their own puzzles independent of external influence.”
From her book The Gifted Adult.
[You may be gifted, even if you don't recognize you are, or maybe don't have the "sufficient" level of IQ - see the page: Self-tests: giftedness / high ability.]
In the video below, psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel comments about some of the challenges of being engaged in creative work:
Preparation is often a crucial part of creative work, and many, if not most, creative people are highly sensitive – which can enhance this preparation.
With something like twenty percent of us being highly sensitive, that means there are many performers with the trait – musicians, actors, public speakers.
In her book The Highly Sensitive Person, psychologist Elaine Aron, PhD writes that public speaking or performing is “a natural for HSPs… First, we often feel we have something important to say that others have missed. When others are grateful for our contribution, we feel rewarded, and the next time is easier.
“Second, we prepare. In some situations… we can seem ‘compulsive’ to people not as determined as ourselves to prevent all unnecessary surprises. But anyone would be a fool not to ‘overprepare’ for the extra arousal due to an audience. Having prepared best, we succeed most.”
“If I hadn’t visualized playing athletes, I wouldn’t have gotten ‘Major League.’ If I hadn’t visualized playing a president, David Palmer never would have happened.”
Creating visualizations of what you want to accomplish can be a powerful strategy for achievement, according to many writers, coaches and research studies.
Perhaps the most research has been about athletes and sport psychology, but artists can use the techniques and approaches as well.
Actor Dennis Haysbert has portrayed a variety of dynamic characters in film (such as “Jarhead”) and television (including “24″ and “The Unit”), and says, “I visualize the roles that I want.
“You’ve got to have a sense of what you want to do; otherwise, the universe is just going to throw something at you.”
[TV Guide, July 3-9 2006.]
In her article Awakening the Senses, creativity coach Linda Dessau writes about the book “How to think like Leonardo da Vinci” by Michael Gelb, particularly the “Sensazione” chapter, which Dessau notes “is dedicated to re-awakening and sharpening each of the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.”
She adds, “Gelb offers lots of exercises in this chapter to help you awaken your senses. My favourite is ‘Subtle Speculation: The Art of Visualization’.”
In an article of hers, Irish writer and creativity teacher Orna Ross notes a creative person may be “all too aware of their problems, but often unaware of their abilities.” She continues:
“This, allied with the fact that they live in a society that prefers linear, rational thinking and behaviour, makes them try to fit into situations that don’t suit them — and then blame themselves when that doesn’t work out.
“Hence: ‘I’m too sensitive’; ‘I’m too much of a perfectionist’; ‘I think too much’.
“Over time, self-blame and lack of understanding leads many bright, creative people into marginalized lives as adults — underemployed, dissatisfied and often in tremendous psychological pain.”
“The worship of convention will never lead to astonishment.” Tama J. Kieves
Author and personal development coach Tama Kieves faced a number of challenges after graduating with honors from Harvard Law School, and felt compelled to leave her career as “an overworked attorney” to follow her “soul’s haunting desire to become a writer.”
In her book “Inspired and Unstoppable” she writes, “As a creative individual, visionary leader, independent thinker, soul-healer, or entrepreneur, it’s your birthright to utilize other talents, insights, resources, and innate strategies.
“You are not made to fit into the world…but to remake the world, heal the world, and illuminate new choices and sensibilities.”
Creating may be at times a collaboration, and it can be helpful to get input from others about your work, but a number of artists also say they create primarily to please themselves, to realize their own unique creative inspirations.
Also, criticism from others can be destructive and self-limiting, eroding our creative assurance and vitality, especially if it is based on excessive perfectionism or values that you, the creator, may not hold.
Creativity coach and psychologist Eric Maisel has even declared, “Criticism is a real crippler.”
From my post: Toxic Criticism and Developing Creativity.
Hugh MacLeod, a brand consultant, copywriter and cartoonist, has made available (for free) a stimulating PDF: “How To Be Creative” – here are some excerpts from the beginning: