Ah, the wonders of childhood. As total slaves to our imagination, it’s one endless adventure. Dragons and fairies at the bottom of the garden. The discovery of insane superpowers. We’re poets, playwrights and prodigal artists all at once. Let’s face it: it’s bloody brilliant.
Then we grow up, and things get real. Responsibilities pile up as high as our dirty laundry. Expectation weighs heavy on our shoulders. Of course, it’s not all bad. Far from it. But there’s no denying that for most of us, that sense of tingling childhood wonder remains firmly in the past.
Do yourself a favour. Reset your mind.
Right now, remind yourself that this is all just an illusion. You’re a victim of the dogmatic truth – that you must live life in a certain way, and in a certain order. But to hell with the rules. Expectations are a load of proverbial rubbish.
It’s little wonder most of us fall foul of this viewpoint. We’re too ashamed and too pragmatic to admit that creativity can be a real vocation. Why? Because it tends to invite a universal grimace. A knowing look that one day, our dreams will all come crashing down and we’ll have to take that accountancy qualification after all.
Elizabeth Gilbert – bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love – explains it perfectly in her acclaimed TED Talk, Your Elusive Creative Genius. Her plans to become a writer were often met with the same reaction. “Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing’s going to come of it and you’re going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure?”.
This questioning brings on waves of self-doubt, but the answer should be simple. Yes, I am afraid. But no more afraid than anyone else should be; the doctors, engineers and architects of the world. I am a writer. I am a comedian. I am an artist. And that is perfectly ok.
Creativity takes courage. Here’s how to find it.
Here’s where it’s easy to stall. To give in to our inner pragmatist – the devil on our shoulder laughing at our whimsical ideas. Of course this is just a pipedream. Don’t be so ridiculous. Now knuckle down and get something real on your CV, for heaven’s sake.
If we all took that attitude, the world would be a very dull place. Do you know who famously admitted ‘creativity takes courage’? None other than Henri Matisse. And of course, he’s right.
So how do we conquer these fears? How can we find this all-important courage to leap out of the creative closet?
- Get real. Creativity isn’t made of magic fairy dust, sprinkled on a lucky few in the dead of the night. Expect hard work, relish failures, and plough on. Giving up is not an option.
- Cut back on those ‘plug-in drugs’ – the mindless television programmes, addictive social networks and pointless games that plonk you into a semi-conscious stupor. To get stuff done, you need to create time.
- Start talking the talk. Replace negativity with self-assured statements. Tell people that you are a photographer. A stand-up performer. A songwriting genius. And be proud of it.
- Throw yourself into the creative community. Yes, it can be daunting at first, but there’s nothing quite like a bit of camaraderie to push you on and fuel your fire. From online communities to local meet-ups, there are plenty of options.
- Putting your work out into the big wide world isn’t all about confidence-building. You need an honest opinion from time to time, because it allows you to really develop as a creative talent. Open yourself up to constructive critiques.
Once you’ve conquered your fears, anything is possible. It may be a cliché, but it really is true. Coming out of the creative closet is a leap of faith, but it’s not irrational. In fact, it’s brilliant. So next time you feel that niggling self-doubt; the urge to cover-up your talents and take a ‘conventional’ approach to life, remind yourself of one thing. It’s entirely ok to be awesome.