A lot of people write to me saying they would love to be more creative, but they don’t believe they can be, they’re not able to create, they don’t have it in them, or their perfectionism hinders them in even starting. As long as they copy, they feel fine, but if they want to create something from within them, they feel lost. Anxiety starts to creep in, and they put down the pen before they have even started properly.
Why your creativity is stifled
When has this begun? How did you come to believe this? Have you always been like this? Let’s look back for a moment.
Can you remember doodling for hours when you were a child? Did you have self-doubts then? No, because kids just follow their heart, they do hat they like to and express theirselves freely. I happen to believe that every kid is an artist, until they’re told they’re not. Usually it’s when they enter school or any surrounding where they’re told what they can do and what they can’t, at what is important and what’s not, that they begin to lose that natural gift for self-expression and begin to believe that they „are not good at drawing“. That’s because someone told them. Usually art and drawing aren’t seen as terribly important, which is a shame, because I believe they ARE that important. That said, I’m not against school or systematized learning (in fact I have great respect for anyone in this field), I just think that aspect of it is very unfortunate and may end up stifling a lot of people’s creative side.
But then again, as a kid, I also still got grades for how my writing looked. Maybe it helped me keeping my interest in writing and drawing, maybe I just doodled inspite of what everyone said was important, I don’t know, but maybe it also made some of the other kids hate their handwriting, because all they remembered was the negative experience and the bad grades. And with that came the believe that they still believe today: that they’re not a creative person.
Everyone can be creative
As I said in the past: I believe every human has an inherent creativity, I think it’s hard-wired into our brains and it allows us to tackle problems and find creative solutions for it. Everyone has a different kind of intelligence (or combined talents), and so for some people it’s easy to come up with visual and spatial solutions (like everything that has to do with art, design, but also architecture or crafts), and for others it might be easier to think themselves into a language or in mathematical systems. That’s what makes humanity great, all the diverse talents and interests.
You can call this the predisposition. But does that mean that, if I’m naturally drawn to art, that I won’t ever understand basic mathematics or even grasp the beauty in it? Or see the patterns or the musical qualities in lanuage? I don’t think so, and I think people who have a predisposition towards another field can nonetheless appreciate and even make art, and enjoy the creative side within them.
Also, art, and especially calligraphy, has a craft factor, that can be learned with enough patience. Just as everyone can learn the basics of a language or of music theory if they’re patient, very often people who thought they’re „not creative at all“ discover that amazing things will happen if they learn a few basic rules, and thus activate their inherent understanding of visual things.
Creativity has to be activated
Another aspect of this is that creativity, like every skill, has to be kindled and practiced. Creativity is not something that just happens, as a lot of people who do this every day as their profession know. It has to be activated again and again. What a lot of commercial artists also know is that the doubt never entirely goes away. You just can’t let it have the upper hand. Let me tell you: most of the time, when I sit down to work, I don’t feel like I’m bursting with creative energy, and I almost never have, when I start out, one of these heureka moments as if I was struck by lightning and then the art just flows out of me. Sometimes this happens, and of course I love those moments, but most of the time it’s quite a bit of work and thought to create something coherent and aesthetically pleasing on a daily basis. It has to do with deliberate decisions, thinking, and patience for yourself and for the creative process. This doesn’t means it can’t be fun, too, it just means creativity needs some help to start, and that sometimes you’ll have to drag it out of its hiding. There are also times when I ask myself if I have talent at all and why I’m even doing this, but since this doesn’t help with carrying on and doing my work, I try not to listen to this.
Sit down and ignore your self-doubts
So my best advice for you is: when you sit down, ignore the self-doubts and just start to think about your project. Then the thoughts will flow and something you like will emerge. Try to ignore those self-doubts and sit down and create in spite of those doubts. Stop believing what someone else told you about yourself – that you’re not creative, that you don’t have talent, that you can’t make beautiful things. These judging voices come from the outside, essentially from people who are not you and don’t know what you truly want to do and want to express. Who says you can’t be creative if you want to be? Why should you listen to them? How can you know they are right?
Don’t allow those self-doubts, they don’t serve any purpose and are there to hinder you from expressing yourself, feeling what you want to say, and living how you want to live. If you want to learn calligraphy, great – do it. Who cares if someone thinks you shouldn’t? Allow yourself to think differently.
I truly hope this post helps some of you with self-doubts and anxiety to start creating, no matter what, and to not listen to that inner voice that much. For those interested, I have written in more details about the process of activating your creativity in this post.