“Brutal” Truths About Creativity?

janav Creativity, Productivity, Writing Leave a Comment

Several people have forwarded me this article: 11 Brutal Truths About Creativity That No One Wants to Talk About, wondering what I think. See? They say. Creativity is hard! As though I’m some creativity magical-thinking Pollyanna. Yes, it is hard. It requires effort and attention. The best things in life do.

I winced a little at the word “brutal” in the title. Creativity, it seems to me, is not best served boot-camp style. But the tone of the article is positive overall, and I agreed with its points. All of us are born creative. Some use our creativity more than others. Some give up at the first hint of “failure” i.e. when the world responds with a yawn or a criticism.

And that is what is brutal about creativity, in my mind: that often, we’re just doing it for ourselves, because even what we truly hope will resonate with people doesn’t always. We can work hard, but when we put our work out into the world, we cannot predict its welcome. Even if we’re not looking for fame or fortune, exactly, we’re looking for validation, or connection. And many of us are looking to make some sort of living from our creative gifts. And yet, the outcome is unpredictable: we experience failure (it doesn’t work) or rejection (no one likes it, or no one cares).

Which is why I often liken creativity to meditative practice. You have to show up, and do the work, no matter how you feel, or how it seems to be going. We focus on process, more than product, even as we may harbor hopes that this will be our breakthrough. One of the “truths” in the article is “it doesn’t get easier.” This can be dismaying to those of us who think if only we work hard enough, we’ll find the magic formula to make brilliant work on a regular basis. But those creatives I’ve spoken with who are “successful” in the sense of being published, or showing their work in galleries, and so on, say the same thing. “I always thought it would get easier, but every time I start a new project, it’s like starting from scratch.” To me, that’s uplifting news. I get to experience “beginner’s mind” all over again. I never arrive, but I’m always on the journey.

As we close out this year, make a commitment to your practice. Embrace the process. Be vulnerable. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Recognize that you have just as much to say about the world as anyone else, and just as much creativity to express it. Get support, set your goals, and allow your creativity to flow.

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