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Who do you think you are to be creative?

wildlife artist Kelby Love from his Facebook page

Do you feel confident about calling yourself an artist, or a creative person? Or do self-doubts get in the way?

The photo is wildlife artist Kelby Love. A profile says “Kelby never doubted the focus of his life” and now his clients include publications such as Outdoor Life and National Geographic. (Arizona Fine Art Expo.)

Artists are at times depicted in movies and media in ways that promote myths about what it takes to be a “real” singer, writer, actor, painter or other creator.

Buying in to the negative aspects of those depictions and myths – for example, the “crazy artist” idea – can distort our self concept, our sense of identity as a creative person, and limit what we think we can do creatively.

Acclaimed actor Natalie Portman (“Jackie” and many other movies) once admitted, “Sometimes I get scared that I’m not a creative person, because it seems creative people are really flaky.”

(Esquire, Aug 2004, quoted in my article You want to be an artist? Are you crazy?)

Creative blocks

Jan Phillips from her Facebook pageJan Phillips, a writer, artist, photographer, and workshop leader was asked in an interview: “What do you find are the main blocks people find when it comes to their creative expression?”

Phillips points out a number of reasons, including judgments by others and our own self-criticism, that may be related to myths of artists. She comments:

“Well, three things come to mind at first: the first one that’s besieging people constantly is the question that somebody else once asked them, [which] sounds like, ‘Who do you think you are?’ with that kind of testiness and challenge.

“And that resides in so many people still on a cellular level that when they think they might want to write a poem, or do a painting, or have some movement in their body, they hear this sort of reminiscent ‘who do you think you are’ voice.

“So it’s an internalized, disparaging voice that really takes some work to acknowledge and deal with and finally get rid of.”

What if you’re not famous?

She continues:

“Another problem that causes people to not be freely able to express is that the culture doesn’t really have any formal way of inviting us to the table.

Jan Phillips from Amazon list of her books“The culture really has their focus on the big famous people and, you know, Hollywood and New York, and there’s not much room for the creators or the culture to really have a place at the table where we can take our power, show our work.

“It’s really an effort for artists of any ilk to be able to manifest a place to share [their] work, to exhibit [their] work, to get an audience for [their] work.

“That ultimately makes it difficult to make a living at the thing you would really love to make a living at.

“So the cultural kind of closure or lack of opening to a variety of voices is a thing that makes it difficult.

“And I think that choices people make with the time in their lives is really the thing that defeats them most.

“It’s their unwillingness to dedicate a period of time each day to be receivers of the intelligence that’s making its way to us.

“I’m not saying that one has to be a believer in any kind of formal god. You know, I’m not even [a believer], but I do have a time each day where I’m in communion with that which feels to me like the source of creativity, and I perceive myself as a satellite dish for that.”

Continued in her interview (text and audio): Creativity as Faith in Running Shoes.

Also read about her online course The Marry Your Muse Workshop – Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity.


Who do you think you are to be creative?

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2019). Who do you think you are to be creative?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Mar 2019
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