One of the common problems I see in would-be creatives is that they are waiting for someone else to give them permission to create.
This is not always obvious. For example you might be waiting for someone to publish your book to give you permission to be a “proper” writer. You might need someone else to be singing your songs to feel that you are a songwriter. Or you might be waiting for better circumstances in your work or family life before you allow yourself to follow your creative passion.
The thing about creativity is that true validation can only come from yourself. No one else can give you that permission. Only you can say to yourself that it is OK for you to be creative.
You can spend a lot of time waiting for some magic permission slip from someone else and never get it. Then you get frustrated or you might blame circumstances for the fact that you aren’t creating. But it is nobody’s fault but your own.
Let’s look at some other reasons why you might be denying yourself permission to create and what you can do about it.
Because you don’t think you are very good
If you are still developing your skills you might look at someone who is better than you, conclude that they are more talented and wonder if it is worth you bothering. If you enjoy an activity but aren’t accomplished at it yet it is easy for your inner gremlin to tell you that it isn’t for you and you shouldn’t waste time doing it.
It doesn’t matter if your writing is not at Pulitzer prize level. It doesn’t matter if your painting doesn’t scream ‘masterpiece’. What matters is that you follow your heart and do it anyway. You have to keep practising to get better and over time you will improve.
Because finances are tight
People are put off being artistic because they know they won’t really make any money from it. They conclude that it doesn’t seem right to devote time to it.
OK, finances are tight but aren’t you allowed a hobby? Does everything need to have a financial return to make it a worthwhile activity?
I have found myself, and seen it in others, that when you do something fulfilling outside of work, then it makes your job – that thing which brings in the money – more bearable. I’ve been doing the same kind of work for nearly twenty years and I enjoy it a lot more now than I used to. Since being true to myself creatively I have realised that there are a lot of creative elements within my role as a computer programmer. This helps me see the value I bring to that role and the value it brings to my life.
If you are not doing anything fulfilling in your life then everything is a drudgery. This can make you ill which could then jeopardise your earning potential. By taking time to be creative you are nourishing your soul which will have a positive knock-on effect in all areas of your life.
Because no one understands it
It can be hard to give yourself permission to create if people close to you don’t understand why you are doing it.
Occasionally my Mum tells me what I ‘should’ be writing about because it would be ‘more worthwhile’. In times gone by these helpful suggestions might have derailed me. But now I thank her very for her thoughts and tell her I’m not very passionate about them so I’ll continue on with the topics that I love.
It doesn’t matter if anyone else gets it. It doesn’t matter where they think you should focus your attention. What matters is what makes you excited. What it is that you have a burning desire to say?
If people are insistent on their ideas then invite them to go and make their own art!
Because it takes away from family time
I’m not saying you should cut off our family but sometimes you have to literally take the time for yourself.
When my husband was made redundant four years ago it drove me crazy that he was always around the house when I was trying to write. I was used to having the place to myself and being alone with my creative thoughts. As time wore on my writing dried up because I couldn’t cope with this circumstance.
Eventually he found a job but then a few months later the company folded and he was back at home again.This time I knew that I couldn’t let my writing suffer.
After a lot of frustration I realised that I just had to ‘take’ my creative time, no matter what was going on around me. Initially it caused tension between us as I fought to stay in my creative headspace and not have conversations about what we should have for tea or other mundane matters. It did feel selfish to avoid him for chunks of the day but I knew that I simply had to take that time as I needed it for my own sanity.
In order to keep a creative routine you might need to negotiate with your family. For instance when the door to the spare room is shut then you can’t be interrupted from your painting. Or agree that you will have Saturday afternoon to yourself but you will spend all day with the kids on Sunday.
People will take as much time as you allow them to. If you don’t lay down any ground rules then they won’t know to give you what you need.
It is OK to be creative
It is OK to be creative. It is OK to take time for yourself. It is OK to nourish your soul. It is OK to explore what is in your heart. This will make you a better, happier person. You will be a much nicer person to be around when you are creatively fulfilled than when you are not.
Imagine a world with no music, no stories being told, of nothing on the walls, of nothing nice to wear and no useful tools for going about daily life. It isn’t selfish to be creative. The world needs people like you.
Now I’d love to hear from you
What stops you from creating? How do you get through it? I love to hear what you have to say. You never know, your comment might be the life-saver that someone else needs to read.
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Every month I also share the ups and downs of my own creative journey – but only email subscribers get that insider view.