Don’t Put Creativity on a Pedestal
Creativity is one of the most significant abilties we possess as human beings on this spinning hunk of rock. It’s, by far, one of the most beneficial super powers we’ve gained from lugging around these big brains inside our heads. This weird, phenomenal and intangebale gift makes it so that we’re able to come with new ideas, concepts, and a whole world of stuff that NEVER existed before.
Whether it’s a simple sketch, a photograph, a story, a song or the blueprints for an invention or mindset that will change the world, each person’s unique personality type, cognitive process, history and physical skillset, all come together to form ideas and goods that are entirely new to the world.
That, my fiends, is simply mind blowing.
So why is it so hard to be creative sometimes?
It’s because we’re afraid of failure. We’re afraid that the product of our creative labors might suck. That other people might thing it’s stupid, or even worse, that WE might think it’s stupid.
Or that it won’t be received by our audience in the way we might have intended. Or that it will be compared to the works of other people, who, Heaven forbid, might have made something even better.
It all comes back to fear. We’re afraid that our time and creative energy will be wasted, and that our creation won’t live up to our own expectations. This paralyzes us. It locks up our creative process so much that we’re almost afraid to even start a project, for fear that it might not be… You get the idea.
For whatever reason, probably my age, confidence level, years of practice and a definite lack of inhibitions in this area, I don’t usually face these kinds of craetive blocks in my photography as I do with other creative outlets. Put a camera in my hands, and I know what I’m doing. I’m confident that I’ll be able to make a photo I’m happy with, and that has strong visual impact. Note, that doesn’t mean it always works out that way. Sometimes my photos suck, but I seem to be ok with that.
However, put a pencil in my hand and I often make crappy drawings. I know they’re crappy, and even though that shouldn’t matter, it still affects my confidence to even try.
I’ve read thousands of books and stories. I have a pretty good imagination and an idea of how stories are constructed. I can write technical articles and blog post all day along, but put me in front of a keyboard with the idea to write fiction, and I’ll freeze up like Han Solo in a block of carbonite. I’m terrified to even start because I’m afraid I’ll write something stupid.
I’ve been a musician for longer than I’ve been a photographer. I know chords. I know scales. I know the theory behind songs, but for how long I’ve been playing guitar, my catalog of original music is pretty slim. I play with confidence, but I have enormous blocks when it comes to writing and recording actual songs. Don’t even get me started with lyrics.
So how do you (and yes, I mean me too) get around this?
You start by looking at creativity as a process and not an end game that needs to be critiqued. Creativity an exercise, an escape, an activity that’s supposed to be fun. Not everything you put down will be good. In fact, if you do it right, most of what you make will, in fact, suck, and that’s ok.
If you do your creative things enough, though, eventually you’ll come with something really special, usually when you least expect it. That’s how the whole process works. If you’re too afraid to start, those magical moments of inspiration and divine execution won’t ever come, because creativity require the constant exercise and mental liberation you get by practicing and sketching, (I use the term “sketching” loosely, to describe the process of “practicing” in any creative outlet.)
Don’t put creativity on a pedestal, take it down and stick it in your pocket and don’t be afraid to wrinkle it up and get it dirty. Creativity is not something to be worshiped and revered and handled with clean, white gloves, it’s something to use with your bare, calloused hands. The more you work those muscles, the more primed they’ll be when that really awesome moment or idea finally hits you like a ton of bricks.
Remove the element of failure from your creativity. Those two things don’t even belong together. They’re not related. They’re not even on the same planet. Once you do that you’ll become more comfortable with the entire process. You won’t be so paralyzed by the notion that your endeavor might not be perfect. It rarely will be.
So lighten up. Make creativity a regular thing in your life. Practice. Every day, if you can. Build things. Do stuff. Write. Play. Draw lines and squiggles. Color outside the boxes. Shoot pictures, even if it’s all just for fun.
That’s actually the best kind of creativity, because when you’re having fun, you’re not putting pressure on yourself. You’re not TRYING to come up with something really cool, you’re just…
I’m Dan Bailey- I love photography, and I love it when other people are excited about their own photography as well. For more articles on creativity, photographic inspiration and camera related stuff, visit my blog. Thanks for reading.