What leads, urges, even compels so many of us to be creatively expressive?
Given that everyone is creative to some degree, why do many people choose careers in the arts, or work that actively engages their creativity?
Most of us will never be actors or other filmmakers – especially ones that are seen and acknowledged publicly – but many of those creators talk about what calls them to engage in creative work, despite the challenges.
One example: Lupita Nyong’o, who won an Academy Award for best supporting actress on March 2, 2014 for her role in “12 Years a Slave.”
In her moving acceptance speech, she noted one source of inspiration for her portrayal of a slave: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.”
She also thanked director Steve McQueen: “You charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position, it’s been the joy of my life.”
“That’s when your art becomes more and more successful in the world. It begins with treating yourself with love, respect, kindness, and compassion.”
Those quotes by coach and author Cheryl Richardson relate to her extensive writing and teaching on self-care for creative and highly sensitive people.
She is presenting “Self-Care for the Creative Soul” with Alanis Morissette – a retreat March 2-6, 2014, at Miraval Resort in Tucson, Arizona.
So many people experience unwanted sexual contact, rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
And they often help deal with the aftermath through creative expression, perhaps using art therapy, but more often some other form of creative self-expression.
One of many articles on the topic here on Psych Central, Mental Disorders Often Follow Sexual Abuse by Rick Nauert PhD, reports: “Researchers have discovered that a history of sexual abuse is frequently linked with a lifetime diagnosis of multiple psychiatric disorders…this association held true regardless of the victim’s gender or age when the abuse occurred.”
There are many references and articles on “healing” from sexual abuse and other kinds of trauma, but it is important to keep in mind the emotional and spiritual impacts may endure, at least to some degree; dealing with abuse is not like healing a broken bone.
But experiencing abuse of any kind also does not make us “damaged goods” – see actor Teri Hatcher’s comments below.
The painting is a self portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653). An article notes she was raped by an art tutor of hers, followed by a “highly publicised seven-month trial. This event makes up the central theme of a controversial French film, Artemisia (1998), directed by Agnes Merlet.
How important is it to identify yourself as an artist – to others, and especially to yourself?
What if you don’t get awards for your creative work? What if it isn’t even seen by others?
Are you still an artist if you are doing something else for survival?
Psychologist Robert Maurer has worked with many creative people and researches the dynamics of success. He comments:
“The people who love their craft and see themselves as artists, and carry that identity through and study each day… are the people who thrive. To me, that’s the only definition of success that matters.”
[Continued from Part 1]
“The practice of any art isn’t to make a living, it’s to make your soul grow.”
To be creative at times feels like an almost effortless flow, but creative work may also require a high level of courage and boldness – even to make the choice to do something creative.
“At any time I still expect that the no-talent police will come and arrest me.” Actor, writer, director Mike Myers
Many talented and creative people experience impostor feelings and beliefs about themselves, despite their accomplishments.
Valerie Young, Ed.D. is an expert on impostor syndrome and commented in an Entrepreneur magazine article: “Millions of people, from entrepreneurs to celebrities, have a hard time internalizing their accomplishments.”
The article author notes “the impostor syndrome is especially common among people who become successful quickly or early, and among outsiders, such as women in male-dominated industries.”
Dr. Young adds, “They explain away their success as luck or timing. They feel this sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
From Fake It Until You Make It: How to Believe in Yourself When You Don’t Feel Worthy by Nadia Goodman.
One example is actor Emma Watson, who commented about its impact for her:
“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.
“I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone’s expectations of me are.”
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:
Many actors, musicians and other performers seem to be very self-assured and confident, though some admit that is not always true. Some psychologists note that confidence can have negative aspects – and low confidence may have benefits.
Her fourth album “Red” had opening sales of 1.21 million – the highest recorded in a decade, and Taylor Swift has had two million-plus opening weeks.
But in an interview in front of a college audience for a tv show she commented: “I doubt myself 400,000 times per 10-minute interval. I have a terrifying long list of fears. Literally everything — diseases, spiders… and people getting tired of me.”
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.”