The ache is real: I want to make something. I have been dreaming about a book of trees, designing in my head some wedding invitations for a friend, holding moments that I hope will become poems, itching to ink up a block print. Does it ever feel as though the ideas will burst out of you?
Winter always brings us close to the reality that there are seasons. The purposes of those seasons are for good, and the incubation of ideas can be compost for our creative dreams. Sometimes, though, there are things that keep us from creating. Of course time and responsibilities, but there are deeper inhibitions that whisper in the corners of moments that might be for making. When we listen, we can be convinced to stop creating. What are these sinister songs? Here are a few of mine:
Fear is a topic that could take a lifetime to unpack, but I think that I, and maybe you too, are afraid of some simple things. Fear of failure is the most vivid of all. Why do we fear we will fail? Even when we know failure is a part of the process? When who we are is defined by what we do, then failure will always mean the crumbling of our identity. When I stake my confidence on creating something beautiful and perfect, there is bound to be a desperate disappointment in failing. I also fear what my ideas will ask of me--they will ask me to sacrifice time and energy, and combined with the fear of failure, is it worth it to invest?
I want everything I create to be wonderful. I want the words to flow like a sweet brook, easy and soft over even the sharpest stones. Creative work is rarely so fairy-tale-beautiful. Creative work is hard work, and it is messy work. This poem did not turn out quite right yet, this painting needs some tweaking, there is a basic design here but it needs more work before it becomes what it was intended. Intentions are difficult to carry into fruition. The ease at which we get overwhelmed can be quite startling. It is easier not to begin.
Not everyone is a writer, but we've all experienced this feeling--the feeling that we have no creative inspiration. It is like walking into a room and forgetting what you came in for, or staring at a wall. You want to do something, but you just don't know what.
There are conflicting reports on where to give credit for this quote (Either Theodore Roosevelt, a writer named Dwight Edwards or Mark Twain) but the thought rings true: "Comparison is the thief of joy." My work won't look anywhere near as good as that artist. My poem will sound cheesy. My idea is so unrefined, so juvenile. How could I make anything that good?
How do we overcome the things that keep us from creating? How do we see the creative journey differently? How do we just sit down and make something? There are many ways, many thoughts, but here are some rebuttals to those three things that keep us from creating:
Music for the Soul
The sound of a violin soaring or a timpani rumbling is a way to rise above the heavy thoughts. As much as the word-lover in me adores lyrics, it is always the instrumental music that inspires. I could write poem after poem about this or that concert, and I always leave a classical concert feeling refreshed and encouraged. Maybe classical is not your jam, but there is music that speaks to all of us. It can be slipping through headphones or echoing in halls, but its creative power moves like few other arts in this world. Maybe the music that moves you isn't music at all, but a walk in the woods, a favorite book, a sweet memory, or a cup of tea with honey.
Sometimes we just need the creatives and makers who seek the beauty as much as we do. Friends who create can be our allies. They know the feelings, they know the inhibitions. An honest, kind, creative friend can be the catalyst for courage and commitment. Sometimes, too, a friend can be a writer we have never met, whose words echo in our hearts. In other words, a good, inspiring quote can go a long way.
Perspective and Hope
Remembering is a powerful habit. When I forget that the messy process of creating is as important as the end result, that process becomes a burden unbearable. When I forget who I am, I believe what fear, expectations, and comparison try to sell. I must remember that I am more than what I do. I am more than the sum of my accomplishments. My faith informs my identity, and that identity is secure outside of my failures and fears. When I remember that I am a writer, but more than a writer, that I am a creative called to encourage and to share hope, what falls away are the fears, the expectations, and the comparisons. The fears, though still real, are less important than the task at hand. The expectation for work, though not as fun as the idea-building, is sweet, and rewarding. The comparison is forgotten in the effort to serve with my gifts. To serve you. To serve family, coworkers, friends.
So fight the fear. Erase excess expectation. Break through the creativity blocks. Cut off comparison.
This is your invitation to create.
What are the things that keep you from creating? What is one project you are itching to start?