Un-Crippling Creativity

This post was sparked by something a friend said to me:

 

“I was writing something else yesterday and then watched ‘Midnight in Paris’ (Woody Allen). The genius of that film and the portrayal of genius within it completely paralysed me creatively. You ever get that? What do you do?!?!?!”

 

The answer is yes, sometimes I think that happens to everyone.

I haven’t seen that film so can’t comment on that, but even though true genius can be pretty intimidating, I think I’ve generally found ways around that issue.

Here I’ve broken this issue down into four areas that affect us as creatives.

 

Fear

Being intimidated by artistic greatness is a bit like being in the school playground afraid to play ball with the big boys, or even to play ball by yourself simply because everyone else seems better and has had more experience doing it. You’re worried that everyone will laugh at you or pick on you for it. Really, it’s by putting in the time regardless of outcome and solely for the purpose of getting better that you stand a good chance of outshining the masters anyway.

 

No one really has any greater artistic resources to draw upon than anyone else, it’s just a matter of what people let stand in their way – even if they put the obstacles there themselves.

 

Permission

Once you recognise that it is fear that is holding you back one way or another, the way to conquer it can be as simple as deciding that none of it matters. All the stuff about who and what is better than anything else is just dry academia and nothing to do with the real process.

 

Be kind to yourself.

 

Give yourself permission to fail. And fail repeatedly until you succeed.

 

Know that your mission is only to explore, to keep growing, to share your creativity. When you have fixed ideas about who you are, what you are supposed to be and what your creativity is supposed to be like, then you start to censor yourself.

 

Inspiration

As much as it can make us feel shitty when we compare something and find our work lacking in some way, it’s important to take on board the lesson that the world is trying to teach you – that you’ve got a lot to learn and a long way to go. That should be inspiring in itself because you know you have a journey to make, but someone has just shown you the map. It’s far worse to be lost in the dark without a clue what to do to improve or which way the light is for you to grow towards.

 

I find the quote below very powerful in dispelling any of the excuses we give ourselves not to try.

 

“The notion of the past as somehow representing certain limitations for you today is bogus.

I used to have so much reverence and respect for the great accomplishments of past artists that it stifled me into thinking, “Gee, I could never do any of this.” But the whole point of making music is that it’s an expression of who you are, be it angry, happy or sad. If you can somehow reflect that musically, you’ve achieved something.”

– Billy Corgan

 

 

Action

When your mind starts doing funny things, often the best way to counter it is just to take some action.

 

Here is an excellent article by Steve Pavlina about Passion vs Self-Discipline where he argues that it is more important to take the actions regarding doing the work than whether you feel like it or not.

 

One of the mantras from The Artist’s Way that I’ve been trying out, despite being hugely skeptical of it is this – you say to whatever muses or higher power you hold to – “Great creator, I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality.”

 

I think what I’m seeing from this, and what should be obvious in a way, is that you treat it all as one big stream of creation. If you do lots of work, there’ll be plenty of great stuff in there.

 

Take Woody Allen – he doesn’t even watch his own films when they’re done. He moves onto the next one already.

This may be an assumption on my part but it is as if each film is the manifestation of a creative urge and once completed he has satisfied that need and moved on. How other people view it is almost irrelevant to him at this point.

Some of his films get savaged, others are considered great works. I’m sure he has his own views on which are his best and worst pieces, and those views are no less or more important than anyone else’s.

The point is that the work gets done and the energy to produce them gets spent on creating rather than inflicting damage on himself by worrying about how they might turn out to be unpopular etc.

 

None of it matters as long as you can find someway to share your creative energy and put it out there.

 

Keep playing and being playful.

 

 

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3 Responses to “Un-Crippling Creativity”

  1. Rousing stuff, Gid! And thank you taking the time to answer my question so thoroughly! 🙂 I think that you’re absolutely correct – particularly with regard to the nature of the ‘creative journey’ – it is okay to fail; each endeavour is a step towards success even if the step itself falls far short of the work of your idols or even your own best work.
    We all have cultural and creative predecessors. The canon, your personal expectations of yourself and the ‘genius’ of contemporaries can feel suffocating…but next time, I think I’m going to follow your ‘steps’ and see whether I can continue to work despite my sense of self-doubt.

    PS And you used Woody Allen’s life and Billy Corgan’s words to demonstrate your point – it’s like this post was tailored to me! (See all Allen movies; huge Smashing Pumpkins fan! PPS You gonna try to get tickets for the SP gigs in November?)

  2. Thanks, glad you liked it.

    Maybe you don’t even need to work ‘despite’ the self-doubt – why not create work expressing it? A writer I know once told me “Go to where you are weak”. What he meant was that in confronting issues and tackling them we mine the true gems of our soul, rather than avoiding them. Besides, vulnerability is sexy. 😉

    The Woody Allen quotes were definitely tailored. The Billy one’s I knew you’d like, but I quote that bit all the time because it’s such a good and impassioned statement.

    I don’t know about Pumpkins in November. I’d love to go, but are they not already sold out?

  3. Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10am! Aaaaahhhhh! 🙂

    Thanks again for the post, lovely. 🙂

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