Creativity Under Pressure: The Weight of Insecurity

As creatives, most likely the toughest critic we have to deal with is ourselves.  We’re our own worst enemies. Because, truth is: we’re broken and wounded people. Broken and wounded people who are birthing creative things into the world, that to us, embody our highest joys and deepest fears…and our most awkward, ugly, painful, misery-making insecurities.

We write a witty blog post, and pray that people find us incredibly clever…clever enough to retweet on Twitter.
We put paint onto brush and brush onto canvas, and hope that the world approves of our amazing artistry.
We combine words with melodies, and wait in agonizing silence for the world to deliver their verdict and somehow validate what came from our very soul.
We speak into the microphone and feel empowered and important…and we obsess over whether what we said had purpose and meaning.
We move to rhythm and music, defying gravity and invisibility, and we long for the world to truly see us…in all our transcendent beauty.
We write books to validate our perspectives, our opinions…and sometimes our very existence, blurring the lines between what we think and who we are.
We embody characters with honesty and transparency in an attempt to connect with the audience…and oh, the audience with their timely laughs and gasps and cheers…legitimizing all our hard work, sacrifice and glorious talent.
We craft words into feelings and feelings into visual form, and we crave the commendaton for having done so in ways that no one has ever achieved before…ever…on the face of the earth…or in the universe, for that matter.

We dream and we create.  We create and we fret.  We don’t just create for the beauty of what’s created.  We create to say something about ourselves.  We create to be noticed, seen and heard. We create for the response from the crowd.  We create to draw a crowd. We create and it defines us.  It not only tells us who we are, it conveys whether we are valued, loved and accepted…or not.  It can be delightful or devastating.

But imagine if we didn’t have that inner pull for validation, that itchy question of whether we are loved, that fear of being rejected.  What would our creativity look like without the pressure of public scrutiny?  If we were painting for our eyes only, what would we do differently?  If we were playing an instrument in the privacy of our own space, what would it sound like?  If we were singing in the shower or dancing in the rain what would it feel like?

You see, when we create toward the end product, we cheat ourselves out of the breathtaking beauty of true abandon.  Creative Abandonment is fresh, vibrant, and risky.   It takes chances and isn’t afraid to experiment.  It peruses and discovers and explores and questions and wonders.  It makes mistakes without fear of consequence!  It isn’t concerned about marketability and return-on-investment ratios.  It is investment in the sweetness of the moment.  Those moments when you create without anyone watching or any end product in sight, are at the top of God’s favorites list. That’s what He has on His iPod!  It’s not the project that’s produced to perfection.  It’s the one birthed in the innocence of who He created you to be.

And to be honest, if we aren’t able to get to that place of simple abandon, then our creativity will become contrived, stale and predictable.  When we start creating with the public response in mind, we defile the purity of the process.

So, you might ask,

“How do I find that state of abandon in my craft?”

You might not like the answer:  STOP making identity withdrawals from your creativity account!  You were created to only draft love, value and acceptance from one account, and that account has all of the funding you’ll ever need for an entire lifetime.  If you keep trying to pull creativity funds from your identity account…Baby, those checks are going to bounce!  Write enough bad checks, and one day you’ll be creatively bankrupt!  You’ll be stumped and befuddled that all of your fantastic ideas have suddenly vanished into thin air.  But the problem isn’t your creativity…it’s just a misappropriation of funds!  Your creative gift was never designed to shoulder up under that much pressure!  Your creativity was never meant to define you!

If you’re not sure if you’re loved…if you’re questioning what your life is worth…if you’re feeling lost and alone, there is only one place you can go to find those answers.  Lean into the Creator, not the creativity as your source of satisfaction.  Look to God and God alone to define your identity.  He’s more than willing to tell you how He sees you!  Work those issues out with your Maker, and you’ll find a renewed sense of freedom in your creativity that you’ve never experienced before.  Find your security in him, and I guarantee you, you’ll find joy in your artform again!

So what about you?

  • What insecurity pulls at you when you create?
  • What is your mind fretting over (will they like me?  will they think I’m smart?  will they need me?)
  • When was the last time you simply created to create?

Scared of Your Imagination?

“The imagination does frighten many people. Too many of us think of it as a specialized skill or talent, the gift of the literary imagination, for example, something for which we need expert training as we do to paint or to design a dress. Even those who are specialists, such as people in religion, can be markedly scared of the imagination. It is not exactly in vogue in church, synagogue, or temple. It promises to take us far outside what religion defines as allowed; our imaginings may compete with scripture.”

– Ann and Barry Ulanov, The Healing Imagination

Think of your favorite company, organization, band, or artist. We are in love with them because they make things that amaze and delight us. They dream of new worlds and then, here’s the catch, they go and create them. This is why we love them.

You imagine new worlds I assume, yet you do not create them.

Why is that? Perhaps what you’ve imagined is just too risky to pull off. Perhaps you’re afraid that what you might dream up will actually require something of you, so you stop before you begin.

Seth Godin, in his new book, Poke The Box says,

“Risk to some, is a bad thing, because risk brings with it the possibility of failure. It might be only a temporary failure, but that doesn’t matter if the very thought of it shuts you down.”

It must be the mystic/prophet in me that believes that nothing new, or good, or special ever gets made without significant risk and a great imagination; both have the potential take you well outside of your comfort zone, mind you.

However, if you allow yourself to be taken away – to dream of new worlds and then to attempt to create them – you just might give us courage to do so as well.

~ By Blaine Hogan