Embrace your mistakes...
Perfectionism … it’s the most debility part of the creative process. Where does it come from and why does it show up when creating?
Actually it shows up even when you’re living your every day life. We tend to call it something different like “I learned if you want do to something …you do it right the first time.” And while that makes perfectly good sense from a survival position, to not to waste your energy on repeating tasks until you get it perfect ... you might not get anything done.
We disguise it as education. In this process are some repeated behaviors socially conditioned to be necessary. We blindly accept rote processes of learning grammar, mathematics, or any sport. So why isn’t it accepted to be the same for creativity? Well, there lies part of the problem. There are myths, preconceived ideas passed along about creativity such as “you have to have the genes to be creative,” “there are creative geniuses, and you’re not one of them,” or “only a few have the talent, and I don’t, so why bother trying.”
Once you have been infected with limited creative thoughts, any attempt to be creative which does not give you the positive feedback you may need, turns quickly to avoidance or resistance. New beliefs form around creative attempts, justifying the originating memes of “only a few can be creative.” And further block any attempt to try something new as “you have to be an expert in this other wise you’re inept.” Survival takes over and rigidity controls any process of new discovery.
One small way to move past perfectionism is by paying attention to your thinking. Notice if you are judging too harshly. Give yourself permission to lower your expectations for the outcome of any creative adventure. Open to the practice of understanding the creative process. Embrace your mistakes.
From the dump...
What are the materials needed to create art?
Some would say you need sophisticated easels, canvases, and paint to create art. But the Masters, at least some of them, did not always use these materials. For example, a very famous Picasso sculpture – “The She Goat” (1950) is made entirely of materials Picasso found in a garbage dump. From the basket he used for the rib cage to the ceramic flower pots he used for the udders, and various pieces of metals, all found in the garbage dump close to his home, he used to create the sculpture he later bronzed.
Creatively takes play. And just a guess, but I bet Picasso walked daily in the dump to find things he could create with…such as the bicycle seat and handle bars that became “Bull’s Head” (1942) which he welded together. In 1944 when the visitors to his show at the Salon d’Automne in Paris saw his exhibit, they were shocked to see these found objects repurposed as art.
A powerful message can be made by using materials that others cast off as garbage. A message the material possessions we use in our culture which we think of only one purpose, can be repurposed, can be reused, can be recycled into art. Art that carries a message beyond aesthetics can also be very aesthetically pleasing.
Focus on landing...
November 10th of 2010, 440 passengers boarded Qantus flight 32 in Singapore headed to Sydney. Twenty minutes into the flight, one of the plane’s four engines exploded. Immediately multiple alarms went off in the cockpit of the airbus 380, one of the largest and most sophisticated flying machines ever manufactured. Pilots would solve one problem, only to have five new ones; each with its own alarm, arise one after the other. Miraculously, the pilots were able to return and safely land. What saved flight 32 from disaster was the pilots’ willingness to reframe their thinking, remaining focused when overwhelmed with all the plane’s alarms distracting their attention …all while in a nose dive.
These highly trained pilots knew if they continued to focus on what alarm was going off next, they would become so distracted they would crash. The captain, with his hands covering his face, asked his copilot, “what if this was not a 380, but a Cessna? We would not have all these alarms. Let’s fly this plane as though it was a Cessna.” And they did. They focused their attention on landing the plane, rather than focusing their attention on not crashing.
So what does this story have to do with artists or creative people?
While we are not in the same dire consequences as a plane in a nose dive, our metaphorical nose dive is our creative resistance.
What is that you ask?
You might be familiar with creative resistance – that is the time we spend putting off working on our painting, sculpture, or writing because we might be overwhelmed in knowing how to complete a project. Or we are fearful our creation will be criticized by others. We are focused on the alarms going off… that is the fear that our painting will not looking as we want it to, or our sculpture not be as perfect as it could be. When we focus our attention on the alarms, we limit our creative potential. We do not finish what we start. We crash.
Resistance is the opposite of creativity. Creativity is energy - constantly moving. Resistance is suspended energy - stagnant, not moving. Resistance is a safety mechanism designed to ensure survival. Its purpose allows us to make sense of our issue and work through the details or obstacles before we spend the energy. When resistance blocks creativity, it is not ensuring survival, but like the airplane alarm, distracting us from what is really needed.
There are many forms of creative resistance – we will focus on three of the big ones: Procrastination, Criticism and Self-doubt. Each of these serves as an alarm, calling our attention away from the creative process.
The alarm of Procrastination is easy to spot. For example: when you set a time to create and find yourself cleaning out the cat box – you can be sure the alarm of procrastination is ringing.
The Criticism alarm has different tones – the tone of others’ criticism and the tone of you criticizing another. Often well meaning others will volunteer what they see as weaknesses, flaws, or errors in your creative project without a request for assistance. (Like a friend who reminds you that you might have over committed to your art project.) This alarm can make us want to abandon not only the project, but the entire creative endeavor. And how easy it is to focus on another person’s creative flaws rather than to do our own work!
The Self-doubt alarm is even more shrill, but is often so continuous we don’t even recognize it is blaring. “I’m not good enough.” “I’ll never be able to make realistic shadows.” “I shouldn’t even try” are common ones.
What are some of the alarms that go off for you? You may have to pay close attention because you have heard them so often.
The antidote to the alarms of creative resistance is focus. Focus on landing the project. Keep focusing on what you want to accomplish. The alarms will still go off. You do not have to pay attention to them.
by Kelly Penrod
I consider myself a midwife assisting others in their discovery of the abundance of creative resources in their lives.