You know those creators who just crank stuff out like they’re breathing it? The ones who say, “I paint/write/make music/build macaroni sculptures because I can’t NOT paint/write/make music/build macaroni sculptures! It’s like air to me — I’d die without it!”?
If you’re NOT that person, this post is for you.
(The rest of you can go on your merry way. I’ll be back soon with another post that is for you, too.)
“Geez, louise, I’m not like that,” you think, “I can’t honestly say that I’d die without my creative thing.”
Maybe you don’t even know what your creative thing is yet.
Or maybe you’ve known for a long time, and you kind of hate those “I can’t NOT” people, just a little bit, because you wish you were like them. But you’re not, and it makes you feel crummy about yourself.
(Don’t worry, I won’t tell. Your secret is safe with me, because it’s my secret, too.)
You might have had long stretches of your life when you haven’t done your creative thing — you might even be in one of those stretches right now. Or perhaps you’re still trying to figure out what kind of creative expression you’re hungry for (in which case, obviously you’re not doing it yet).
And yet you still live on. Blood continues to circulate in your veins.
Sure, life may be rather grey when you’re not feeding those creative hungers. Maybe you get cranky and depressed, maybe you feel sucked dry and burned out, but NOT doing your creative thing (or not even having one yet!) hasn’t actually killed you. You’ve probably even had moments of joy during those non-creating times. (Yup. Been there.)
The fact that you CAN not paint/write/make music/build macaroni sculptures, and yet you still live on, may have been a source of existential angst for you for a long time. Or it may be a brand new source of existential angst, thanks to reading this post. (If that’s the case, my apologies, but keep reading, because all will soon be resolved.)
You may have long been plagued by the following thought, or you may have only now just started to wonder:
Does the fact that I CAN not create mean I’m not a real artist?
Thankfully, I am here to answer that question once and for all:
Of course you can survive without doing your creative thing (or without knowing yet what your creative thing is). Creating makes life immeasurably better, but all you absolutely need in order to keep your body functioning is air, water, food, and a hospitable environment.
This is as true for the people who say they can’t NOT do their creative things as it is for you.
Those “I can’t NOT” people are just speaking in dramatic terms.
Yes, life is dramatically better when you feed your creative hungers.
Yes, it boosts your mood.
Yes, it makes you feel more alive.
Yes, it gives you more patience and resilience to deal with the slings and arrows of daily life.
Yes, it turns the knob from black and white to rich, blazing, full-color.
Yes, creating can actually pull people from a suicidal depression, and yes, it has even been known to literally save lives, too.
But (thankfully) not all of us have spiraled into a suicidal depression or been enslaved in a death camp, only to be rescued by our art. We are the folks who, if we tend more toward the literal than the dramatic, can’t truthfully say that we can’t NOT do our creative thing.
If you are one of these more literal types, let me assure you:
You are a real artist.
Whether you’ve known your unique creative hungers for a long time, or you’re just now discovering that you have them…
If you write, you’re a writer.
If you paint, you’re a painter.
If you dance, you’re a dancer.
If you make music, you’re a musician.
If you create stuff to hang on walls or display in some other way, you’re an artist.
Them’s the facts.
This has nothing to do with whether you make a penny from your efforts, either.
What if you itch to express yourself creatively, but you’re mostly not painting/writing/making music/building macaroni sculptures? What if you struggle to get yourself to do the creative thing you hunger for? What if you’re mired in resistance?
Resistance, my dear, is not a sign that you’re not a real artist, OR that you don’t want it enough. In fact, it is almost assuredly a sign that you want it very much indeed.
The truth is, the more important something is to you, the more resistance you’re likely to feel. (Click to tweet!)
All those seemingly reasonable reasons you have for not doing your creative thing? They’re excuses. Usually codes for some kind of fear.
For me, “I don’t have time” was code for “I’m afraid what I create won’t be as good as I want it to be.”
“It’s more important for me to do laundry right now” was code for “I’m afraid when I sit down to create, I’ll merely prove that I’m incapable of creating anything close to the quality that I want to.”
“I need a different tool/a bigger chunk of time/a fully organized studio” was code for “I’m afraid I’ll be judged, and found wanting.”
“It’s too hard and I’m clearly just not good at this” was code for “I’m afraid to reveal myself as the imperfect creature that I truly am.”
The more important something is to you, the more resistance you’re likely to feel.
And this is something that requires effort to combat. Along with some really good tools. Starting with my Golden Formula:
Self-awareness + self-compassion = the key to everything good. (Click to tweet!)
In other words, if you already have a creative thing, start paying attention to the suffering you experience when you’re not doing it. Notice how that’s different from when you do do your creative thing.
If you’ve been wanting to try something creative, but have been afraid to start, pay attention to the suffering you experience when you delay taking action.
Then, instead of beating yourself up for letting resistance keep you away from what you love, love yourself up.
Instead of beating yourself up, love yourself up. (Click to tweet!)
Give yourself a hug and remind yourself that resistance is human — almost everyone struggles with it at one time or another, so you’re no different from anyone else. It’s part of the human condition.
Then ask yourself what is the most loving thing you can possibly do for yourself.
My bet is the answer is this:
Go get creating.
Then notice that you’re creating — even when it’s hard — out of love and commitment, not because you can’t NOT create. Which, one could say, means you’re even more dedicated than those who create because they can’t NOT do so!
THAT is a real artist, if ever there was one.
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!