As primal a fear a human can experience, creativity for many seems to rank among the top. It’s seems much like public speaking. Yet I believe the difference is that most of us would actually love to be more creative and few have a desire for public speaking. Interesting enough, I feel they are connected.
Years ago I started using painting as a team building exercise. I have stood with many very accomplished adults and experienced their apprehension as they simply hold a paint brush, loaded with paint, in front of a fresh canvas. What is it that we fear as adults, that we did not as children? Paint brushes for example, are not sharp or considered dangerous, ah, but the results can be, and there in lies the problem. Like public speaking, we feel we will be judged by our results and this brings fear to an otherwise very freeing activity.
The fifteen years or so of watching adults hold that brush sort of became a personal experiment in understanding who and what we become as adults. Some, with huge personalities, would take the tiniest amount of paint and touch it to the canvas in the most sparingly way. While others, maybe small in stature, might wield the brush like a sword. But overall with most, there was just a great sense of not wanting to screw up!
So what is in us as adults that suppresses our inner child and our creative maturity? Well, I believe we become very confident in our job, our title and position, but also invested. From the time we leave school and embark on a career, we gain confidence slowly through our experience and accomplishments, which is all backed up by our title and/or resume. In so many cases, what we do is who we are, or who we have become, and anything that may tamper with this is shaky ground.
The reason many adults don’t like public speaking, is the same reason many don’t like dancing. They don’t want to look like an idiot, and I’m convinced that creativity instills a similar social and personal intimidation. Yet, somehow you may have noticed a little alcohol becomes a magic elixir to our inner selves in these situations, but that’s another story.
That connection mentioned above, between public speaking and creativity, is not only fear of reputation or looking like an idiot in one’s own mind. I believe the even deeper connection is rejection. What makes an artist truly an artist, is their ability to put themselves out there. To be seen as creative is to be seen internally through external expression. One doesn’t be creative from the outside inward. One becomes creative from the inside out. Creativity is all about taking our internal selves, our thoughts, our inspirations, our experiences, and making something which lives outside ourselves - be it art, a book, a dramatic act or a dance or a song. Out in a world that can not only be seen and certainly judged, but also can provoke the thought, attitudes and opinions of others. We know as artists that this can carry a penalty in those reactions and rejection. We also know we can’t stop any of it and it also can bring very positive reactions and personal growth.
In a world where the talking heads deliver mostly devastating news of humanity in 24/7 fashion, through the wall mounted televisions that often are placed where art use to be - artist’s offer the age old alternative of self expression, a freedom everyone still possesses, in this country anyway. In service since the 1950‘s, telecommunication and our fascination with screens of all sizes, is without question a very powerful form of communication. Creativity and art though, have been doing a pretty good job of it for the last several thousand years and frankly will always be a better way of communicating with yourself.
So to the fearful yet fun-ful, instead of screen gazing, get a brush and make a mess. At least it will be your mess and I promise, you’ll get better at it. Care not about rejection. Hurtle your way over it and have a little fun in the process. By the way, you can also write, act, dance, sculpt, arrange flowers, sing, become musical, take photographs and so, so much more, and parents, your kids will show you the way!