You would love to write or make art or make music, but you don’t have the courage. After all, who wants to know what you’ve got to say?
When an idea swirls around your head it feels important and inspiring to you but you are not sure that you can get it out in the right way. If it came out wrong then people might sneer or laugh at you, and that would be awful. You would die of embarrassment.
Maybe you have tried in the past and what you produced was crap so you figured that you should leave it to someone who has more talent than you.
Yes, it’s tough putting your creativity out into the world
Someone is bound to criticise your work. Some people will ‘get it’ and praise you for it. Some will shrug because they don’t see the point of what you’ve done. Worse than that, the majority of people will just ignore it because they already have too much overload of other people’s stuff surging through their smartphone.
When I first started writing, initially it was exciting to proudly show off what I had done. However that soon turned to dread. Even though I had worked really hard on a piece and to me it sounded ok, the feedback was mixed. I was often left floundering as I tried to address the concerns of my readers.
So how can you go from being too scared to make art to just getting on and doing it anyway? How can you get the courage to express yourself and be true to yourself?
Tip 1: No one has done it your way before
You are worthy. Even if it is a topic that has been covered before, no one can cover it from your point of view. You will bring something new to the topic. Your story will resonate with someone. If you don’t do it then you are denying them the benefit of experiencing what you have to say.
Tip 2: Take small easy steps
Many people never dare to create and speak their truth because they get overwhelmed at everything they might need to do. For example, if you are an artist and you want to put on an exhibition you can go crazy thinking about all the paintings you will need to make, finding a venue, marketing, buying enough wine for your private view or buying too much wine if no-one comes.
Alternative you can just paint today, even if you only have ten minutes at your disposal. Just do things one step at a time. Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way, calls this approach ‘laying track’. If you create little and often you will eventually build up a body of work and then you can tackle the next steps to get that work out into the world.
Three years ago I had an idea for a novel but found it terrifying to write. After all, who was I to think I could take on such an emotionally charged story? I found I could only do it in small amounts just two or three hundred words at a time. That’s little more than a paragraph. I didn’t worry about whether it was any good, I just worried that I wrote every day. Some days I wrote just one sentence. Over the course of a few months those daily efforts grew to a full manuscript.
Tip 3: Focus on the process not the result
It is easy to get caught up worrying what people might think of your art or whether it will bring you fame and fortune. You can end up too scared to create. All of these are external factors and you can’t control them.
The only thing you have under your control is the actual making of your art or music or writing or performance. Focus on this and bring your best self to it.
Tip 4: Think about the benefit and avoid regrets
The longer you avoid creating what you truly have in your heart the bigger the regret. The trouble with not following your creative soul is that you’ll always wonder what might have been.
My experience of talking with people in this situation is that they look at impressive examples of what other people have been achieved, like a great actor or famous author and wonder if it could have been them. This only amplifies their regret.
Even though it is unlikely that you will reach those rarefied heights, at least if you just get on with it you’ll know that you have tried. This is a huge mental benefit.
Tip 5: It is only by doing it that you will get better
It is tough in the early days of your creative practice because you probably don’t have the skill to produce something that pleases your taste and discernment. However, you have to keep creating and experimenting in order to learn and improve. Eventually you will have the skills to truly express what is in your heart.
Know that it’s OK to fail. You will fail a lot. Accepting this gives you the freedom to do it anyway. Some of what you produce will be better than you thought and some will be pretty awful.
Give yourself permission to be imperfect. An imperfect short story that is on the page is much better than a perfect one which is still in your head. Once you have something on the page you can either improve it or chalk it up as a learning experience and move onto your next piece.
I have often found in my writing that days can go by and everything I write is crap. But from that I suddenly have an amazing idea or a character in a novel does something that really tugs at my emotions and I know it is good. I would not have arrived at that point if I had not kept writing through the rubbish.
It’s like being a miner. You have to chip away at a lot of worthless rock to find the seam of gold.
Tip 6: Surround yourselves with supportive people
Don’t show your work to people who pride themselves on being brutally honest. Their comments will destroy you. Very often these trigger happy folk like to mouth off loudly about something they know nothing about.
Instead seek out like-minded people who will nurture and support you. Whether online or in the real world, hang out with fellow artists. These people understand your struggles. They will be able to point you in the right direction when you need help and encourage you when you are despondent.
Tip 7: Accept who you are and where you are at
Don’t compare yourself to others. Their life is not yours. They will be better at somethings and not so good at others. The problem with comparing ourselves to others is that we compare the worst of ourselves to the best of someone else. That’s hardly a fair comparison is it?
Don’t put pressure on yourself to work at a fast pace. Creativity has its own rhythm. It is different to your day job where if the deadline is the end of the week then you get it done by Friday. My motto is to plod gently. In Aesop’s fable, The Hare and the Tortoise, the tortoise won in the end.
Talent is not something you can passively sit around and wait for. It is something you have to generate yourself. You can only get better and overcome creative obstacles by getting on and doing it anyway. Consistently plugging away at your creativity will increase your skill and mental fortitude. Those things won’t come if you do nothing.
Rest assured that every artist or writer or musician that you admire has the same struggles as you. They doubt themselves, they are scared, they have time pressures and they get tired. They go through all the things that you go through, so you are not alone. It is often a monumental task to be true to yourself. Many have waged that struggle before and many are waging it alongside you.
They are winning on a daily basis. So can you.
Now I’d love to hear from you
Feel free to write a comment on the blog and tell us about your favourite tip for going from soul crushing fear to creative joy. I love to hear what you have to say.
If you are struggling to get going on a creative project then sign up below for my Stop Procrastinating, Start Creating mini course. Every month I also share the ups and downs of my own creative journey – but only email subscribers get that insider view. Sign up now.
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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.