“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”― Pablo Picasso
Do you want to be more creative in your life?
Even without taking a survey, I can be sure that many people will say yes.
Yes, most people say that they hope to be more creative in their life and in their work.
We navigate the busy landscape and the delicate balance of home, work and everything between. And despite being busy, most of us also hope to be creative forces in our life.
- We could be consistently creative.
- Have more creative ideas.
- Promote and be a creative influence on others.
- Be creative mentors.
- Solve creative problems at work and at home.
- Develop habits that express our natural creativity and lots of it.
- Write more, draw more, have more ideas, construct more, you get the idea!
So what is preventing you from expressing your inner creative force?
And what prevents you to harness creativity to do greater good in your life and in the lives of others?
You hear all these tips on being creative. In fact, you may have read all these stories and ideas on how to be creative right here on LYG and on other places. Science also throws in some great research-based ideas on how to be creative.
What is the secret sauce that allows some people to be more creative while makes others wishing for more?
What makes some people go out and be all out creative forces and others just have to settle to consume all the time?
I came across the word creative confidence from the remarkable work of David Kelley of IDEO.
The story that is worth repeating is from David’s Ted talk on how creative confidence gets lost. David had a friend named Brian in elementary school who was molding a block of clay into a horse.
The teacher kept the clay under the sink and Brian was having a go at being creative.
David says that a friend at the same table happened to see the clay Brian molded. She mentioned that it looked terrible and did not look like a horse.
David says that he remembers seeing Brian with sunken shoulders and throwing the clay away back in the bin where it belonged.
Brian never ventured to be creative again and risk ridicule by his peers.
Sounds familiar? This story deeply resonated with me.
David says that in his workshops or with clients at IDEO when the time comes to be creative, executives become uncomfortable. They begin looking at important messages on their phones. When asked, most people have similar stories of their own.
David says that this happens a lot when the process becomes fuzzy and unconventional. This is exactly when people begin to feel and believe that they are not the creative type.
But at IDEO, they know that this is not true. When people stick with the creative process, they can do amazing things and even end up surprising themselves.
He says in his TED talk:
“And I wonder how often that happens. It seems like when I tell that story of Brian to my class, a lot of them want to come up after class and tell me about their similar experience, how a teacher shut them down or how a student was particularly cruel to them. And some opt out thinking of themselves as creative at that point. And I see that opting out that happens in childhood, and it moves in and becomes more ingrained, even by the time you get to adult life.”
I have many stories that I can remember when people crushed my creative spirit by being a critic of how I sang, drew, and so on.
Do you have any stories that you can tell us from your past when others crushed your creative spirit? And you developed a deep sense of shame or guilt over being creative? Send me your story here.
Let us jump right in about how to enhance creative self-confidence:
1. Allow Yourself the Permission to be Creative in Your Life
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”— Chuck Close
I believe that this is the first step to being creative. The first step is the repeated allowing yourself to be creative.
People often think that this is a one-time deal and once you proclaim your creativity, things will follow.
But from my experience, I know that this is not the case.
Even the most creative among us have significant amounts of creative doubt. You will have to give yourself the permission to be creative, sometimes many times during a day.
It is a struggle but the rewards are well worth it.
Keep reminding yourself that you have the permission to be highly creative today.
“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” — Edward de Bono
2. Recognize Your Stories Around Creativity
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” -Georgia O’Keeffe
Society has been feeding and will keep feeding you stories that may not be true or relevant to your creativity.
It is upon you to build the muscle of creative self-esteem and recognize some of the stories for what they are.
We base our creative self-image on many many assumptions that we have built up over the years.
And well-meaning friends and family rush in to corroborate that claim of your lack of creativity.
Now you have social proof of your proposed creative incompetence.
Hush the critics and recognize the pervasive stories of lack of creative self-worth. Shine the light of creative awareness on these false assumptions and embrace your creative powers.
“We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own and other’s people’s models, learn to be ourselves and allow our natural channel to open.” — Shakti Gawain
3. Creative Shame and Guilt
“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.” -Brené Brown
Do you have shame and guilt associated with being creative?
Here is an example:
Guilt: I am not creative enough, I could have done better. There is scope to improve here.
Shame: I am not a creative person. Who am I to be creative? I am deeply ashamed to express my creativity because I think it is not cool. I feel like a fake.
As you can see, like the work on shame and guilt done by researcher Brené Brown, creative shame has little room for improvement. But, creative guilt you can improve upon.
In any case, have you internalized the belief that to be creative, you have to be uncool or different?
This is a powerful myth that gets internalized in middle school where the creative types are often treated with scorn and disrespect.
All these stereotypes are not good templates and motivators for unhindered creativity.
There is research that shows that when asked in elementary school if students were creative, many hands went up.
But this self-belief of creativity decreases as we progress in school. Somewhere in late elementary or early middle school, few or no hands go up with the same question about being creative.
“Conditions for creativity are to be puzzled; to concentrate; to accept conflict and tension; to be born everyday; to feel a sense of self.” — Erich Fromm
4. Creativity And Trust Issues
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” — Joseph Chilton Pierce
Do you trust yourself to be creative?
Do you trust the creative process?
These are important questions to ask because trust is a powerful influencer of creativity.
If you do not trust yourself or the creative process, chances are that you will quit before you see any results.
This is what the dancer and famous choreographer Twyla Tharp calls “the empty white room.”
Similar situations that invoke trust issues:
- A blank canvas.
- The first slide of a presentation.
- The blank computer screen word processor staring back at you.
- A piano and the silence before the music.
- A shapeless mass of clay.
Do you trust the process to move forward?
Do you trust your inner creative intuition?
“When I say artist, I mean the one who is building things … some with a brush – some with a shovel – some choose a pen.” – Jackson Pollock
5. The Idea of Completion of The Creative Project
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
Do you have a problem with completion?
Do you have many half finished creative projects lying around waiting to see the light of day? Are you a creative project hoarder?
These are all important questions because incompletions do not invoke creative inspiration.
Often, half finished creative projects simply weigh you down. They remind you why you are a failure and should not attempt anything new.
What are you doing with your incomplete creative projects? Archive them and get done with them for the moment.
Do not allow creative clutter to weigh you down and create completion issues for the present.
“Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes; work never begun.” – Christina Rossetti
6. The Idea that Creativity Should Come Easy
“It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”- Steven Pressfield
The idea that creativity is easy and should come fast and quick is a big myth. The idea that some people are naturally left brained or right brained and some people have all the creative luck is another damaging idea.
Brain scientists are now showing through functional MRI’s that it is not as simple as left brained and right brained and we use both sides of the brain more that we thought we did.
Some parts of the brain may light up more for different types of projects, creative or analytical.
The point is that if your excuse is that you are not the creative type and certain brain typed then you may be buying into the myth.
Stop buying into the myth of left and right brained dominance for a huge boost in creative self-confidence.
“I feel such a creative force in me . . . I am doing my very best to make every effort because I am longing so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things mean painstaking work, disappointment, and perseverance.” – Vincent van Gogh
Another idea that we need to explore is of creative expectation.
If you have a lot of unrealistic expectations around creative results, you might disappoint yourself. The idea is to deep practice and take up creative challenges with little expectation.
While expectation itself is neither negative or positive, all the associated emotional charge can be.
When we get disillusioned over creative expectations, we may have to reconsider our stance on expectation.
Too much Creative expectation = Not productive.
Less or no expectation = Better for creative self-confidence.
Create the conditions to make art possible or even inevitable.
“Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.” -Alice Walker
7. The Permission to do “ok” Work and not Produce a Masterpiece all the Time
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams
This is a big one. Whenever I stop creating and have a pause, I question myself if the pause is a much needed creative break.
Or is the pause coming from a place of perfectionism and my disallowing of creating work that is just mediocre?
The point is that you should not expect creative masterpieces all the time. Allow yourself to do the best that you can in a given situation.
Sometimes that best that you give will be mediocre and sometimes it will be an amazing piece of work.
The bottom line is that to be consistently creative, you have to allow mistakes and the occasional poorly done work.
“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” – William Faulkner
8. Staying with the Discomfort of New Creative Frontiers and Critics
“An artist paints, dances, draws, writes, designs, or acts at the expanding edge of consciousness. We press into the unknown rather than the known. This makes life lovely and lively.” — Julia Cameron
Everyone is a critic. Never forget that when you give others the opportunity to tear your work to pieces, they often will.
But that is not a reason to get discouraged. Even negative attention means you are on the right part to be a creative force.
When you are in the creative zone, you will experience:
But none of the above are reasons to stop doing creative work.
You need to keep creatively working despite the fear and the anxiety for a boost in creative self-esteem.
Why should you keep creating when you experience anxiety you might ask.
The short answer is that the emptiness of a life where you do not launch your creative work is eventually more defeating.
Now the temporary creative anxiety and worry becomes suddenly meaningful.
But of course, that should not be a model to aspire to.
Even the worrying artist persona is just that, a persona. If you can create with joy and happiness as you will often do, that is wonderful.
Do not be overly attached to any one creative persona for greater creative confidence.
“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” – Soren Kierkegaard
9. Setting up Creative Habits and Structures that Work for You
“The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” – Robert Henri
Enjoy the process by engaging and confronting the following:
- Creative flow situations.
- Creative challenges.
- Creative triggers.
- Creative environment.
- Creative restrictions and manageable bites of creative goodness.
- Intrinsic motivation, enjoying being creative for the internal joy.
It is crucial to remember that to enhance creative self-esteem and confidence, you need to set up the relevant habits and structures. What is your creative habit? Tell me here.
10. Make Creativity Simple
“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity” – Charles Mingus
Wow. Just think for a moment about the quote from Mingus. Making the simple, awesomely simple is truly wonderful advice.
If you are getting stuck and lack creative self-esteem, consider the possibility that you are making things too complicated.
Come back to basics:
- Write 1000 words a day or less.
- Paint a small part of the picture.
- Complete one part of a challenging presentation.
- Learn one new improvisation in music.
Do not make huge and complicated plans that you will be averse to follow.
Come back to what Richard Branson says about ideas and plans: If you cannot explain something on the back of an envelope, it is too complicated. I believe that he actually said that it is rubbish! 🙂
Take tiny creative actions forward today. Make it absolutely clear on what it is you have to accomplish.
11. The Conflict of More vs. Less
“Work inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you’re interested, keep working. If you’re bored, keep working.” – Michael Crichton
Do you agree with the following?
Having fewer creative projects = more creative focus.
More attempts and hours put in for the same work = More deep focus and creative productivity.
More creative productivity = Enhanced creative self-confidence.
As a creative person, you will always experience what I call the push and the pull of more and less.
You will be excited to take on more and more creative projects. But as you take on more, your creative focus becomes more diffuse.
Make a choice of working more in a few selected projects and see them to completion.
Have a clear focus and direction and make progress in your creative work, and your creative self-esteem and confidence will soar.
Be selective in your creative work.
12. A New Model for Creative Self-esteem and Confidence
“When we engage in what we are naturally suited to do, our work takes on the quality of play and it is play that stimulates creativity.” – Linda Naiman
A super effective way to become more confident is to expose yourself to a lot of high-quality creative material in your field.
- If you are a fiction writer, read a lot of good books.
- If you are a designer, expose yourself to great designs from all over the world.
- If you are a musician, try to listen and enjoy a new genre.
- If you are a filmmaker, watch lots of great movies.
Here is the model:
Creative Self-Efficacy = Permission to be more creative+ Confidence in the self + Dealing with anxiety + Dealing with uncertainty + Knowing what to do next and not being overwhelmed + Trusting in yourself and the creative process + Developing creative habits that work for you + More deep focus and more work in limited areas + Growing in your creative realm + Exposure to a lot of great creative work.
Do you agree? Let me know here or on social media or in the comments below. I would also appreciate it if you found any typos or creative bloopers. Those errors…do let me know for sure! Thank you!
“The inner fire is the most important thing mankind possesses.” – Edith Södergran