Are These Two Creativity Myths Holding You Back?

Two spray bottles with Kreativitat written on themI was walking down the street near my home in Berlin a few days ago when the image at right caught my eye in a shop window, and I couldn’t resist snapping a picture through the glass. ‘Kreativitat’, as you may have guessed, means ‘creativity’ in German, and the idea that it could be bought in a spray-bottle and kept on hand to be deployed as needed, appealed to me somehow.

Of course things aren’t quite that simple; the irony was presumably intended, but it got me to thinking: what if they were? What if it really weren’t that complicated? What if it could be? What if, just possibly, for some people, some of the time – what if it really were that easy?

The Genius and the Tortured Artist

Of course, this is in part what the myth of the Creative Genius is based on – the idea that there are people with Special Talents who simply do not have to work at it. The river of original and striking thoughts is always flowing by their door. They spend their lives idly lounging, and once in a while offhandedly turning out a finished, polished masterpiece. Any idea becomes brilliant once they pour on some of their Special Sauce.

Now I will not deny that there are people with remarkable talents, but I’ve been around enough of them to know that the idea that they don’t have to work at it is preposterous. If they are at all serious about making the most of their gifts, they work like crazy at it.

Let’s take an extreme example: Mozart. The popular imagination has it that in brief interludes between gallivanting around being chirpy and mad, he whipped off stacks of exquisite music as easily as breathing. This image does not stand up to much scrutiny. Mozart wrote his 25th symphony (the opening music from the film Amadeus) at age 17; unbelievably talented, yes, but also driven. He was able to sustain a workload that defies comprehension for about 36 years before it killed him.

Which brings us to the second great popular myth about creativity: the Tortured Artist. He lives in squalor or at the very least chaos, pulling out his hair and rending his clothes searching for the elusive key which will unlock the door, release the flood. His life is mostly pain, but will all be worth it in the end when his genius is finally revealed – usually, tragically, posthumously – after he has died a pauper, never recognized in his lifetime but celebrated down through the ages.

The trouble is, of course, that like all good myths these are based to some extent on fact; there is some truth to them. Not much, but at least a grain. Things do come easily to some people, and others do struggle and suffer. Furthermore, like all good stories, they appeal to us because they engage our emotions, our dreams of effortless mastery, our pathos for the waste of unfulfilled possibility, our desire to feel something passionately enough to sacrifice everything for it.

Are We Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill?

I have noticed a trend of late that posits our creative demons as monsters to be confronted, dragons to be slain. We must don our armor and ride forth to do battle with them as warriors. Face the enemy, slay the beast. And I think that merits a closer look, because I am not sure it is helping us out as much as is perhaps intended.

Now, I do feel there is something to the ‘Warrior Spirit’ idea – staring down and overcoming our ‘resistance’ (to use Steven Pressfield‘s excellent term), all the myriad distractions and excuses that keep us from realizing our creative potential… but I also have to ask myself sometimes if perhaps we’re not making a bit too much of it, for drama’s sake.

Are we not giving our fears and anxieties even more power over us when we envision them as fearful and terrible monsters? What if instead we imagine them small and weak and helpless? Better still, what if we simply ignore them? Tune them out, and create something amazing right under their noses?

I’m going to go a bit further. What if it’s really not such a big deal, this creativity thing? What if everyone has it – different flavors and strengths of it, to be sure, but still – what if it’s not special, and we who seek after it are not unusual or inherently remarkable?

What if this whole mythology of the tortured artist, the demons and monsters that stand in her path, the hero’s journey she must undertake to confront and slay them, is mostly self-aggrandizing – to make ourselves seem braver, stronger, and our work more dangerous, more significant? What if creativity is really not a Herculean labor, nor the preserve of certified geniuses, but rather the natural state of humankind?

It’s Only Creativity

There is a saxophonist in the town I used to live in, the father of a drummer friend and a kind of elder statesman of the jazz community there. He’s a wonderful player, one of the most elegant, relaxed and tasteful musicians I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Let’s call him Al, since that’s his name.

Al has a saying which he likes to unfurl at rehearsal, backstage, or whenever anyone seems nervous or too tightly wound:

Hey man, it’s only music, don’t freak out. No-one’s going to lose an arm…

In other words, if you screw something up, what’s the worst that will happen? Will you be immediately fired and driven from the stage? Not unless you’re working for James Brown. Will the entire audience get up, en masse, and walk out in disgust to smear your name all over town? Very unlikely.

Will they really throw things at you and point and laugh? Are they all sitting out there poised and just waiting to hear you make that first mistake so they can feel superior to you? Again, no, unless you’re sitting an audition for Juilliard, and then you’d better be prepared for it.

No, they’re here because they want to have a good time, they want to enjoy the show, they’ve paid to get in or bothered to show up, they’re invested in it. They are, in short, on your side. The only thing you can do to really screw up is to wreck their good time by not having one yourself.

There is really no great danger in making mistakes – but there is danger in being afraid to make them: if we are terrified to put a foot wrong, we may be too scared to begin.

I believe this is true of all creative endeavor. People generally want to enjoy art, dance, poetry; they wouldn’t bother with it otherwise. They don’t really want to pick it apart finding things to hate – and if they do, there’s not much we can do but pity them. Most people actually want you to succeed, they want you to entertain and uplift them. We could choose to feel overwhelmed by the pressure of this, but why not instead experience it as support, as encouragement?

Make Fun, Not War

Perhaps this approach is not for everyone. Some people do not seem to be in the art game for fun or enjoyment, and while I think this is sad I accept it and accept their goals and their process as being different, but not less valuable than my own.

However, if you’re like me and would like to have a less antagonistic, more relaxed and affectionate relationship with your creative demons, try something different with them next time. Rather than visualizing them as immense and terrifying, and then striding out to fight them to the death… try having some fun with them – imagine them in pink tutus or big purple bunny suits. Instead of a warrior, try being playful, like a child.

Then, while they’re distracted, get into something and let creativity happen. It isn’t all that difficult, if we get out of the way and stop making it harder for ourselves.

And remember: it’s only music (art/poetry/dance/sculpture/design/whatever you live to create)… no-one’s going to lose an arm.

Over to You

Have you ever been trapped by the myth of the Genius or the Tortured Artist? How did you escape?

Do you agree that having fun is conducive to creativity?

What difference does it make when you visualise your creative demons dancing around in pink tutus?

About the Author: tobias tinker is a musician and composer best known for his haunting score to the online Motion Comic Epic ‘Broken Saints’. This and his other music, including the ‘continuum’ solo piano series, can be found at Aeos Records. He writes about creativity and fearlessness on his own blog, Cliffjump!

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Responses to this Post

Comments

  1. This post reminds me a lot of some of the advice Anne Lamott gives in her excellent book on writing “Bird by Bird”, as well as Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk. Good advice!

  2. I’m not familiar with “Bird by Bird”, I’ll have to check that out. Becky Gilbert’s TED talk is fantastic, well worth watching for anyone who hasn’t yet. I’m glad the ideas spoke to you!

  3. Many of us (I am one of those) need to give ourselves permission to play. Not as something seperate, or as a break, but as an integral part of our working day. This has been something that I have been working towards and this post, well it hits the head of the nail. Thank you.

  4. I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed reading your post. I love your laid-back attitude. With most of us feeling like we need to be over-connected to compete, remembering that “it’s only music” really comes in handy. Fun is good. Thanks!

  5. Great post Tobias.

    I think we often give too much power to our fears and performance / creation anxieties.

    Shed light on them, they thrive in the darkness.

    The pedestals need to be torn down and the myth of the creative genius destroyed.

    Thank you for the reminder :)

    Conor

  6. Motivating post!

    I can relate to allowing yourself to make mistakes. I sing with a band and we all love playing, absolutely love it. No one is immune to making mistakes, and it used to terrify me if I forgot the words. We now realise that mistakes don’t determine your performance, being able to bounce back and still enjoy the experience with your audience does.

    there’s no shame in messing up, only in not trying.

    :-)

  7. Thanks for kind comments all!

    @Mark Coffey – “integral part of our working day” – definitely, I think that one problem people have when ‘trying’ to be creative is making a distinction between creativity and normal life – it’s always cast as this special activity, a rarified space that is somehow hard to get into… instead of being the normal always-on state of being. Easier said than done perhaps, but I do feel we make it more difficult than it needs to be much of the time

    @Conor – “Shed light on them, they thrive in the darkness” – definitely true, and not just of fears about creativity.

    @Rena – “fun is good!” – it’s definitely one of the reasons I got into this whole thing in the first place… I mean, on one level I take my work seriously, it is important to me and I always hope that it will reach and be important to others as well; but thinking about that too much beforehand tends to get in the way of that effortless creative ‘flow’ that I’m really after – the ‘zone’, if you will. I like to be in the ‘zone’ and trying to do something ‘important’ tends to pull me out of it.

    @Amy Harrison – did you ever hear the recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘Mack the Knife’ where she completely forgets the lyrics and literally starts singing about how she’s forgotten the lyrics? Brilliant, she’s so relaxed about it and turns it into a wonderful moment.

  8. Hi, this is great – and great timing. I’ve applied it to a real life concern and as creativity is really about living creatively, i found seeing my thoughts as weak and pathetic, even disappearing, really helpful in what could have been another one of those moments giving the b******s some of my sacred power. Many thanks.

  9. @Johnny – “giving the b******s some of my sacred power” is priceless… I’m not even sure I can accurately fill in the blanks, but it doesn’t matter – the message comes through loud and clear… And if in some small way I’ve helped you to hold on to your sacred power, I think that’s pretty cool – maybe I should put that on my resume somewhere!

  10. Before I forget, since I’m in the middle of about 18 things here, I’d really like to thank Mark for the opportunity to publish this piece here! I know he’s been busy and offline this weekend but hopefully he’ll pop his head in at some point. In any case, it’s nice to be in such good company… this place has played a role in bringing about some real personal change for me, so it feels right to share some of that here.

  11. Great post, Tobias, nice to see you here.

    One of my favourite art school profs gave me words I’ll never forget, and they go nicely with your ideas:

    “Don’t get precious with it.”

    I’ve carried that wisdom with me for a long time. You can’t be afraid to make a mistake. Too many great innovations come as a result.

  12. Hi Stacey, figured you’d pop in sooner or later… glad you liked the piece… That word ‘precious’ conveys a good deal of what I’m talking about here and, well, trying to avoid in my own work. This is really all about finding a balance – having fun and being playful without becoming flippant or trite, doing work that you believe in and take seriously but don’t get ‘precious’ about… and finally, observing your own process and being conscious and present but not overthinking. Sometimes this seems impossibly complex, other times it all flows like water… so it goes I guess!

  13. “…they’re here because they want to have a good time, they want to enjoy the show, they’ve paid to get in or bothered to show up, they’re invested in it. They are, in short, on your side….”

    I love this, thank you, it’s a great approach to keep in mind. =]

  14. Love it! I especially enjoy the comment – “It’s only music – don’t freak out!”

    I’ve been coaching creative people for years and have drawn a few conclusions:

    The more making art is a struggle or something to dominate, the more creative people will resist and rebel. I always get my clients to tap into the love and joy that’s at the heart of creating.

    Why is it such a big deal? I think executing on anything (health, art, business) is directly tied to self-esteem. I’m not a psychiatrist, so this is garden-variety pop psych, but it seems that the people who have done their personal, mental health work have a lot less struggle with creating.

    Ironically, I also believe that it’s through making art that we empower ourselves.

    For instance, it took me ten years to write my novel. Fourteen revisions.

    From that, I learned that I am more tenacious than I ever thought I could be. I learned that I can be relentless in the pursuit of excellence. Over time, I became much more confident not only in my novel, but in my ability to execute on my ideas.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective and reminder to lighten up a bit and enjoy creating!

  15. great observation – “it seems that the people who have done their personal, mental health work have a lot less struggle with creating…”

    What’s interesting to me is that the motivation for me to start really drilling down into some of my own issues has come mainly from trying to sort out my relationship to the business and marketing side, rather than the ‘pure’ artistic side. Perhaps that’s just where I have more ‘issues’ to deal with, but the process has been far more interesting and challenging on a personal, spiritual level than I could ever have imagined!

  16. Nazima Ali says:

    Tobias,

    Great post! Love the idea of letting go and having fun with our creativity instead of being caught up in our own outdated notions of how a creative person creates. I think the more I let go and just do the easier the flow is. Thanks

  17. That’s an excellent post! I actually just realized that I may have been expecting bit too much from myself when the most I can get has been already covered. I guess the warrior mindset is good but it can be counter-intuitive and could result in unnecessary stress or disappointment.

  18. Tobias,
    I doubt you have more issues than the rest of us. We’ve all got our fair share of ‘stuff’ to work through!

    I agree that business holds as many if not more challenges for us to grow. I like telling people, “If you want to work through your stuff, go into business for yourself or take up a creative practice!”

    After ten years in business and sixteen years focusing on writing, I should be perfect by now, right? ;)

    Alas, life isn’t quite so linear. Still, no matter how human my issues are, I still embrace the inner and outer challenges of both art and business.

    Thanks for encouraging this discussion!

  19. @Cynthia Morris – well, thanks for contributing to it! I had a look over your site and subscribed, looking forward to digging into your work when time allows!

  20. Brilliant post! The myth of the ‘Creative Genius’ is one that especially irks me. I am a firm believer that everyone has creativity inside them.

    Your point about not being afraid of making mistakes is very important. Most people shoot themselves in the proverbial foot before they even get to the point where they can be visibly creative. Then, because the inspiration never seemed to come, they believe they’re not a creative person.

    I totally agree that having fun is conducive to being creative. I also think that trusting yourself and your creativity is equally important. I’ve written about trust just recently:
    http://creativitysworkshop.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/building-trust-in-your-creativity/

    Thank you for putting these thoughts into words. It was a great read! :)

  21. Katie Tinker says:

    Hey bro, awesome post! I’ve thought a lot about these things at various times, and one of my favourite reflections on the subject – which echoes some of the same things you talked about here – comes from a neat little filmed conversation between Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois (it’s part of Lanois’s movie “Here Is What Is”). There’s a youtube clip of it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We1Cvs44i-Q

    Since I saw this, every once and a while I take great pleasure in saying to myself “I’M an unpromising beginning! I could start something!”

  22. Oh Fun and Play and above all Passion are definitely the most important ingredients for creativity.
    It’s when you want to make money with creativity when it all starts to go haywire. Because then the sillyness, the innocence of it all disappears and things have to serious, grown-up, believable.
    I have two small children and they teach me creativity everyday. They ALWAYS ask WHY or WHY NOT. They always challenge assumptions. They always want to understand EVERYTHING.
    Curiosity never killed creativity :-)

  23. Hey again folks. Thanks for all your thoughts and reactions, I know it’s a long piece so I’m very pleased that people are finding it worth getting through – if it inspires some conversation, so much the better, but hopefully it will also inspire you to go off and get your playful/creative on as well.

    @Jessica – good point, trust is huge – and as others point out as well, expecting too much of ourselves can be really debilitating. My crazy creative cousin Brooke has just done a little video piece about the quest for ‘perfection’ which is worth a look!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIAnFCKgBBk

    @Katie – thanks for posting that Brian Eno bit – definitely great, and starting something, even if we believe it is ‘unpromising’, is way better than not starting anything because we’re waiting for ‘inspiration’ – or even something ‘promising’.

    @Mimi – small children are an amazing source of creativity lessons, I catalogued a few of them in my ‘toddler creativity’ piece, linked in the article – have a look!
    http://cliffjump.net/toddler-creativity/

  24. David Tinker says:

    Disclaimer: I’m Tobias’ Dad.
    One of the most brilliant scientists I ever met, Ivar Giaever, a theoretical physicist, once told me “The time I spend writing papers is work, not physics. The physics happens when I am not working.” This may have been galling to people who thought Ivar was just goofing around, but on the other hand they didn’t get a Nobel prize, did they? (1973).
    My current “work”, if you can dignify it with the term, is coming up with a weekly essay for a newspaper Op-Ed page. They don’t pay my meagre wage because I have ideas (which I do), but because I spend time and energy producing something other people will read. In the writing field we also have the example of Trollope, who worked as a bureaucrat 8 to 5 six days a week, then came home and spent two hours every night writing novels.
    The point is, we don’t ever see the creative process in another person, we just see its outcome. I suspect ‘creativity’ is a word we have made up to describe a very broad spectrum of internal actions.

  25. Haha! Result – a son and Dad first! Brilliant Sir! Logically, you had a direct creative role in your son’s existence and he is certainly a credit to you! ; )

  26. You need to send me one of those spray bottles, stat! =)

    Excellent post, T – you covered everything with intelligence, insight, and a sprinkle of humour – beautifully ‘You’. (though I suspect somewhat Effortless…being one of those creative geniuses, and all ;))

    So excited to see your thoughts inspiring so many others!!!

    BB

  27. OK this is turning into a family blog party… Brooke is my cousin (I’ll try to snag you a spray bottle!), my sister’s up there somewhere too, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a brother or two made an appearance – I have a pretty great family that way.

    I’m actually glad to see someone from the sciences chime in (my father’s main career, before he retired and took up writing a quirky and rather remarkable small-town newspaper column, was in medical biochemistry)… and here’s why: too many people equate ‘creativity’ exclusively with professional artistic endeavour of some sort. And even though that is in fact my own reference point I am interested in getting beyond it and, moreover, in what can be learned if ‘creative’ people from different worlds – art, science, business, politics, whatever – share their viewpoints, insights and understanding.

    This has definitely been part of my development, growing up as a musician in a family full of scientists, with a window onto that world which is so much more ‘creative’ than I think non-scientists often assume. I also think this kind of dialog is particularly relevant here at Lateral Action! So if there are more of you ‘creative scientists’ out there with something to say about all this, bring it on!

  28. As expected (but not scripted), one of Tobias’ scientist brothers chimes in. I read this blog last night but was too clumsy on the iThingy to type a reply. So here I am – during “work time” — posting a reply. Actually, I am busy writing reference letters and research proposals and annual reports, something which is currently identifying itself to me as pure “work”. But it isn’t always that way. I’ll explain.

    I like the developing theme here that work is often the necessary encapsulation and dissemination of true creativity. It often is in science, where there is a lot of formal slogging needed to make your ideas heard and understood. That might be seen as the opposite of some performing arts: I am picturing the jazz musician on stage, full of exuberating pleasure in the improvisation of a new delivery. But occasionally I have had fun delivering a scientific talk about something that I am passionate about to a receptive audience, when the delivery borders on creativity. Other times, just as in the performing arts, it’s just something to deliver and get over with.

    My creative time most often happens on the days that I run to work. I have a 7km running route through fields and woods to get there. Invariably, I have a sequence: enter woods, say to self “wow, am I ever lucky”, remember something I have to do that day (or maybe something I don’t have to do), slip into free thought about how to do it, arrive to work euphoric, maybe act on the ideas, then get bogged down in details and “work”. It would be easy to think that the only fun and creative time is the running and thinking, or other occasional times in between the doing. But the run also serves as a reminder of how lucky I am to have such a varied job, and that memory comes back during the day sometimes when I can insert little moments of “hey, this is fun” into the tasks. My biggest enemy is being too busy, because that feeling can completely squash fun and creativity. So having those little “hey, this is fun” moments are incredibly important to me, as, I suspect, they are to artists and everybody else. The work is never gone, but they us down enough to make the work matter.

    Back to work….

  29. Oops, the last line should read “The work is never gone, but they (the creative and “this is fun” moments) SLOW us down enough to make the work matter.”

    And I just had another relevant thought: Here is how government scientists in Canada are evaluated: We write a document about ourselves every year, and every several years (at our choosing) we can write a really big document about ourselves in hopes that a committee of other scientists will promote us to the “next level” (meaning we can suck up more taxpayers money ;-). But here’s the point: the four key headings in our evaluation of ourselves are:

    1) INNOVATION (five brand new things we invented or made happen – read “CREATIVITY”)
    2) IMPACT (i.e. the result of the innovations)
    3) RECOGNITION (evidence that scientists and other people actually care)
    4) PRODUCTIVITY (evidence of other tangible outputs – mostly publications)

    Passing the Innovation and Impact criteria is absolutely essential. Sadly, I just sat on a committee where we had to decline many promotions of good scientists because of their inability to explain how their work was innovative (or what their creative role was) or what the impact was.

    If artists and others were lucky enough to be able to submit a document asking for a public salary, what would it look like? It might be harder to separate these four items, but I bet they would be there. What would your promotion document look like?

  30. told you… ;^)

    @Nick – I guess it would look like a grant application!…

    Alternately, readers who are students or practitioners of marketing (gasp! the dreaded Black Art!) would say, it might look like a good sales page, with clearly defined USP (Unique Selling Point – that’s your Innovation), benefits (as opposed to features, that’s your Impact), Social Proof (Recognition / Productivity)…

    Interesting. See?

    OK, anyone else (even people who aren’t closely related to me) want to get in on the fun?

  31. I guess the difference is that you are talking about asking for money to do something before it is done (we do that too) whereas I was wondering how an artist (or other creative person) would be evaluated for “past service and performance” if they were applying for a promotion from “junior” to “senior artist” etc. Strange concept, but what if?

  32. Define ‘artist’?
    Back to the beginning…
    I’m just about to graduate as BA (Hons) ‘Contemporary Fine Art’ student. The course is very heavily philosophical. This is / was a real challenge (and heavily contributed to a major life change of my life half way through it) because my deepest roots are spiritual. I’ve recently been asking what ‘value’ means as an artist in the most universal terms. Mostly the pedagogy would have it that the artist that raises the most questions has the most value. I see that as embodying an intrinsic negativity.

    People need answers. At least, people need affirmations that there is a creative force. This cannot be proven as such but neither can God. No problem, just look at the flow of Tobias’ post and the first few reply posts and reflect how they make you FEEL. Then the mental questioning comes in (Nick, no offence). See, once you start to try and fomalise in relatively artificial, systemic terms (govt. bodies / sociology / scientific etc) you lose the SOUL which we all now know exists, right? ; ).

    Oh well, this is only English language on a digital page, limitations abound, but you get my drift…?

    The intention CAN be measured, and the proof of a good leader (ie. someone who is a benefit to the greater good) is in the pudding. Simply put, value, for me, is measured by the highest force (call it ‘god’ / ‘collective soul’ etc. – above individual people or our systems) and the purity of intention (which is governed by CREATION being intrinsically GOOD) can be sensed within the outcome of the artists’ work.

    Yes or no?

  33. Hi Tobias, I have never stopped by before and I am so glad I picked today to do so! Thanks for a wonderful post, and putting into words so much I have been struggling to figure out lately. Sometimes you lose sight of the “play”, and once it takes the corner to “work”, it simply loses it’s charm and we lose our passion..
    Your readers are wonderful and insightful as well! What a great read over my morning coffee…

  34. Oh, the boundaries and limitations we set for ourselves when we don’t ask and honestly answer “what’s the worst thing that can happen?”

  35. Good post. I definitely think a lot of people underestimate themselves, or overestimate those who have become successful.

    We’re all just people, after all!

  36. Hi again, sorry I had to step out for a day or two, I’m back and happy to see this is still getting a few comments, and good ones too!

    @Nick — is it a strange concept? Why stranger than junior / senior scientist? I think we’re just not used to it, and our culture does not validate artistic work in the same manner it does scientific research. Perhaps that’s as it should be, I don’t know – but I am learning that the ‘rules’ for artists are in most cases much more closely aligned with those for other entrepreneurs (which is really what we are). This means that we get to decide our own status and promotions – but the proof, as Johnny points out, is in the pudding, so we also have to walk the walk… just like you do.

    @Johnny — I am definitely on the same page as you in terms of the spiritual/philosophical side of creativity, – the two things are inextricably linked for me. Music IS my spirituality, nothing more or less. That said, a lot of art and music that wears that badge proudly on its sleeve leaves me pretty underwhelmed. I’ve arrived at a point where that spiritual side of my work is kind of private, and I’m less interested in advertising it. Of course, if everything is flowing as it should, then it should come across to anyone who’s tuned in on that level, but I’m not going to go around waving big a purple Spiritual Artist flag.

    @April — well I’m happy that I’ve been part of making a good first impression… stay and have a look around, there is a lot of really fantastic content here… Mark is one of my favorite ‘bloggers’ anywhere, with a wealth of insight and experience and a really clear style, and the other guest writers rock too!

    @Charley — you’re right, that’s an enormously powerful question and can defuse a lot of our fears and limitations all on its own. Getting into the habit of asking that question – with, as you say, a high degree of honesty – is immensely liberating. Suddenly most things seem possible!

    @Justin — We definitely generally underestimate ourselves and sell ourselves short… I’m not sure we overestimate those who achieve great things however. I think I know what you mean, which is that we overestimate their talent – we assume it is because they have capabilities we lack or (worse) could never have. However, I also think we often greatly underestimate the amount of work they have put in. Mostly this is because we’re unwilling to make the same sacrifices and this gives us the ‘out’.

    I’ll be writing more about all these topics in my soon-to-be-launched creative Manifesto, on my soon-to-be-launched NEW blog, fearlesscreativity.com … and quite likely in these pages too. Stay tuned!

    Thanks again all for a lively and inspiring conversation!

  37. Loved this post and found it via @CafeNirvana on Twitter. Hope you don’t mind but I re-posted link to your article on my own blog. I blog about writing, teaching and creativity, but you’ve said it better than I could.

    Thanks for writing this! I hope to see and share more.

    EC

  38. I just happened upon this blog while exploring this morning and I’m so thankful I did! This is great stuff! Real meat.
    Tobias, in your original blog, you proposed that, just perhaps, artists are not the only creative ones…that, maybe all are infused with a glass (or two) of creative juice. I believe that we are all made in the image of The Most Creative One/God and are, consequently and inherently, endowed with a large dose of creativity. We are all creative beings, albeit in many different areas, and all definitely benefit and derive satisfaction when exercising our creative muscles. There are no limits on the WAYS we can choose to expend our creative urges, but we do have to create within the limits of the time and energy we are given. Therein lies the rub. Where do we channel the limited energy and time we have? That’s a topic for another blog.
    Thanks for creating this stimulating conversation!

  39. The lovely Stacey Cornelius made a very accurate observation in one of her articles at Studio Source, about how artists create this self-imposed stress and fear of their work being lost amongst a sea of mediocrity.
    Creative people seem to run with a double edge sword- striving to stand out from the crowd and be different and being overly critical of the results at the same time.
    Once you come to terms with NOT HAVING TO BE ANYTHING but yourself or achieving a level of fame BY A CERTAIN TIME FRAME, your creativity will flow unburdened.

    I also agree whole heartedly with the remarks on making mistakes.
    A great peice of advice my old guitar teacher instilled in me was “if you play some bum notes whilst your soloing, play the exact same mistake again and own it. The audience will think its part of the song”