My cure for creative anxiety
When I started writing for the public, I anticipated some level of anxiety with putting content out there for other people to look at. I however did not realize that there was more anxiety to deal with in this creative process. When I’m writing for myself, which is more than 75% of what I do, I write for therapeutic purposes. I’m trying to find a cure for an ill that I’m suffering. But when I write for the general public, I’m acutely aware of value addition. I cannot simply tell people things because I can put two and two together and create a sentence. I need to give something that will also in some way cure an ill which they suffer, or participate in a joy that they feel. It has to be towards some good end — and that end for me is encouraging/uplifting people.
I write to explain my journey, the human journey, and try to find a place for all our different experiences; and yet combine our common human experiences to encourage anyone who feels like they’re at a loss in their path. To simply say — travel your journey, become excited about it and tell others about it.
Part of that requires me to share personal experiences. It’s not a thing that’s natural to a lot of people — whether or not they’re writing. While it’s one thing to tell a story to your friends, telling a story to the general public is often a more stripping process than other forms of sharing. It’s not an Alcoholics Anonymous set-up or a closed community where support is guaranteed. There’s a literal stripping in it. And it’s often the source of anxiety for me and a lot of other creators. While you know the likely rigors of the pursuit, it is not foreseen what kind of exposure and ‘nakedness’ comes with it.
Today however, I want to narrow down to a more particular kind of anxiety in the creative growth. When a photographer takes a photograph, I imagine they have a sense of beauty and wonder in that moment — it’s what makes one take one shot and not another. Sometimes, there are a hundred shots to get one. But this is it — will everyone else see that beauty and hunger? Will the photograph speak for itself without you to explain it?
Once your art leaves your house, your computer, your phone — does it have a life of its own? There’s that endless anticipation even after we’ve gotten nods and approvals from the public. You keep asking if the work was good enough. Did it serve its aim? Did it even have an aim? The last is a rare question, but I imagine that it’s not absent in this journey.
A story or a piece of art is like a baby. You nurse the pregnancy, you give yourself the best nutrition, and you do the exercises and try to relax. But once the baby is born, you can no longer decide its path. You have the nurturing role that any parent enjoys, but you do not have the baby’s cards in your hands. They have to be let to be their own person. It’s the same with creation and art — you cannot decide what happens once it’s no longer in your hands. Once the whistle is blown, your creation is like a ball. It will be kicked by any player on the field, in whatever direction. That is its life — you cannot control it.
It may find kind players, or rude, or indifferent players — but it’s still a ball. Without it, the game cannot be played. It’s important that you put it on that pitch, but after that, it becomes necessary to learn to let go. Let the baby crawl, let them have it, let it grow. If a parent insists on hovering over a grown up baby, they risk losing their authority over it, and the ability to offer much necessary critic. It’s not for you to protect what you create — maybe in terms of intellectual property. But otherwise, it’s a cooking pot for endless anxiety. For you, the feeling of I did it may never really be there, neither does it stay when it comes. It’s a fretting thing.
It remains paramount to survive the stories we tell. To remain authority figures over them. It means being the parent who lets go after the necessity phase. The child grows, and yours is a nurturing role — not a controlling one.
You have to let the game play on.