The Greatest Pitfall of Embracing Creativity

Growing up, I was encouraged to be creative.  I was no stranger to music, dance, writing, or art. But I still got this funny notion in my head – likely out of sheer insecurity – that art forms belonged to people who were naturally good at them. They were for careers, for performance, and for showing off to the world.

I thought creativity was for “artistic” people. Which really meant, anyone who could do something better than me on the first try. This was perfectionism at its worst.

Writing came with a steep learning curve because I had starved my imagination of creative endeavors after school. I hardly ever created anything, I was out of the habit – but then I wanted my brain to crank out the stories and books, because I felt like I might be naturally good at it.

I believed the same thing about writing that I did about the arts: it was reserved for people who could sit down and make something that seemed effortless, while garnering a lot of praise or attention.

When the initial high of writing waned and it didn’t seem as “natural” at times, I wondered if I had stopped being a writer. I knew that couldn’t be true, but I really hit a wall for awhile because of this issue of confusing natural ability and hard work.

A friend told me around that time,

You only stop being a writer if you stop writing. Every day that you write, you’re a writer. That’s what makes the difference in people who “make it”. They keep doing it, consistently.

(Yes, my friend is Master Yoda.)

Yoda – Do or Do Not

That really stuck with me, because writing every day doesn’t even have to mean working on a manuscript every day. It literally just has to include pen to paper, or fingers at the keyboard. Touching a project, if that’s all I can do.

I went through quite a process learning to balance the priorities of creative outlets that were professional endeavors vs. hobbies. But in the early stages of learning, most of the essentials are the same:

  • Writing and other art forms are like pretty much everything else in the world: you may or may not be great the first time you take a swing, but patience and hard work pay off. Whether you think your artistic forms are beautiful or not, experience and just pressing forward are the only way to grow.
  • When you’re in the middle of gaining experience and cranking out first efforts in a particular creative form, it’s not a waste, and it’s not embarrassing…unless you tell yourself that. It’s possible to enjoy your creativity from the very beginning, even in what I call the “squeaky violin” stage of learning how to craft something. The key is:
  • Only create things you love while you’re first learning. Take things you already appreciate and simplify them. Find easier versions to play, paint, re-create, or imitate.
  • The kicker is, not all your creative outlets have to be a performance. It’s okay to personally enjoy something you create without it relating to how everyone else sees you.

You don’t have to audition for The Voice just because you enjoy singing, or sell your artwork, or make a CD just because you’re learning an instrument. If those are goals, put a lot of little goals between you and there. But remember that big professional outlets in your life are limited. You can’t actually be a master of all trades, so if you create professional goals in every art form, you’ll be shifting priorities a lot and basically trying one thing to the extreme, then trading it for something else when you’re ready to prioritize that.

Instead, you can choose your professional art form and have other creative hobbies without deadlines or business requirements.

But the trick for a lifetime of enjoyment in any of these areas seems to ring out unanimously from the consistently “artistic people”: perfection must be sacrificed in the early stages of forming something beautiful. Artistry is patience.

What have you given up on because of imperfection?

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