Why Is It So Hard To Admit To Oneself That We Are Creative?

A few days ago, a friend of mine called me a creative being. It was in passing, and it probably didn’t mean a lot to her. She said it in a manner as if it was one of those well-known facts.

But to me, it hit like a punch in the solar plexus. Shame drenched my heart. I felt like a fraud. I’m not a creative. Of course, I’m not a creative. Sure, I write, and run workshops, and paint, and do improv. But I’m not a creative.

I started thinking about this while I hit severe jet lag coming back home to Toronto. I wondered over the following question over long hours at night when I couldn’t sleep and sat in bed staring up at the ceiling.

Why was it so hard for me to admit to myself that I am a creative? I felt like Sisyphus. Every time, I made some progress in believing that I am a creative, I would slide back in despair and shame a few days later, disbelieving everything and realizing I am just a fraud, a wannabe creative.

Why does it matter? Because until and unless I can integrate this part of myself, this bright shiny part that I can’t believe exist, I will not be able to create authentically. My critics and censors will keep on winning the battle of ‘To create or not to create’. I will create for a few days and then feel like it’s a complete waste of time, and stop creating for a few days. Bouncing in between belief and disbelief like one of those badly driven go karts. It’s not a fun place to be.

Creativity requires intense self-belief. No one on this planet can give you a placard saying, ‘You are a creative. Now you can go create.’ There are no permission slips given out that tell us that we are creative, and give us permission to go create freely.

Even now, when I spend most of my day in creative work, I have a hard time believing that this is my life. I also have a really difficult time admitting to strangers that I am a creative. It doesn’t fall as easily from my lips as does Marketing Manager, or World Traveller. Those things are easy to admit to. There is no drama in my head if I do admit to those titles.

But as soon as I tell people I am a creative, I feel like they are judging me, when in fact, I am judging myself. How dare I declare myself to be a creative, when I am not truly a creative (whatever that might be)? How dare I tell people I am a creative when I am not making oodles of money from it? How dare I tell people I am a creative when I haven’t created any absolutely brilliant piece of art or work yet?

The critics in our heads really know how to punch you where it hurts, don’t they?

I also believe it’s a matter of false conditioning. All of my life I was told by my parents, my teachers, and by society, that creative people are broke, poor, stupid, bankrupt, and desolate. It wasn’t possible to make a living being creative for the majority of the population. Only a few, a minor few, in their opinion, made it, and what if I wasn’t part of that minor few. It was much better to focus all of my intelligence and focus onto the good stuff — the stuff that would make me moolah, instant moolah. Why wait years for the moolah to show up in a hard creative life?

This conditioning has made me believe deep down inside that I am a failure if I am a creative person. If I choose to make my living being creative, I will not be deemed a success in everyone’s minds. I’ll be living here being creative, loving life, creating magic. But it won’t be a real life, would it? I mean, a life of creativity isn’t really going to last forever. Eventually, the castles in the air are going to come tumbling down and we will be revealed as frauds.

So I have blocks against declaring to the world, but especially to myself that I am creative. I always make excuses for myself. I say to myself, Well, I’m not going to make money from my creative endeavours, so how about I make money from something solid, and then do my creative stuff on the side. Or, I tell myself, I’m not a creative genius (as if there is such a thing), so why bother spending so much time and energy, because it does take a lot out of a person to be creative. How about just relaxing and going for the easy life? The non-creative life.

The reality is as I realize it now, that I want the hard life, if it means I get to be creative all the time. If I get to wake up every morning, and write my words, and then write my words until lunchtime, and then write more words until I go to sleep, I’ll be the happiest person alive. I really, truly do not need much when I am writing so much. When I am not dealing with massive amounts of guilt, regret, resistance, sadness, and grief, because I am not being creative, I’m able to spend all of my time writing and none of my time numbing myself with shopping, addictions, food, sugar, and alcohol.

In the past six months, I have written more words than in the last ten years.

This has meant that I have lost weight, because I am not using food to numb myself from the misery of not being creative, and I am spending more time walking around to get ideas for my writing.

It also has meant that I wake up every morning so energized to get going that I never ever feel like I used to — wanting to curl up in bed for one more hour — because really what is there to get up for.

Finally, it means that I am walking with a pep in my step, a bounce in my hair, a… you know what I mean. I’m ecstatic to be alive.

This means being a creative is it for me.

Even if it means that my demons come out in full force and make me feel like shit every single day. Every day they denounce me as a fraud while I write my few thousand words.

Every single day, I am dealing with their bullshit.

But it’s all worth it. I’d rather be dealing with my demons, rather than sitting around not being creative and feeling the horrible pangs of living below my potential.

I don’t think it means though that it will ever get easier. Even today as I write this blog post, I have finished writing a novel, and started another one. Did that prove to me that I am a creative? Not even a single bit. I’m still a fraud to the demons in my head. They are still piping up right now, telling me to go back to the way things were — when I worked 9–5, and felt unfulfilled because writing a blog post for a tech company isn’t just the same as writing a novel based on my imagination.

So here we are.

I am a creative.

Eeek. I have said it out loud.

I really want to shout it from the rooftops. But that won’t be enough. No matter what I do in the creative field. No matter how many books I publish. No matter if God himself came down to me and told me that I’m a creative. I don’t think any of that would matter.

It has to come from the inside, and my insides have been convoluted through years of de-conditioning. Creatives have had such a bad rep throughout my childhood years, that now even if everyone on this planet thinks they are awesome, I’ll never ever count myself easily among their numbers.

I wonder if any of you reading feel the same way. Don’t despair if you do. Accept it like we accept the height we end up with. Or the colour of our blood. It is a given. Just go along with it.

But don’t ever stop creating. That is a must.

They must never win.

In the battle against the world, we might never use the word creative for ourselves, because it makes us feel like little shits, but we must never ever stop creating. The medium we use, it don’t matter. What matters is that we stick with it. Through all of it.

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