Mapping Uncharted Creative Territory
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
What kind of creativity have you always wanted to pursue but never have because you're too old, you're too embarrassed, you're too scared, etc., etc.? For me it's painting. I've been putting off trying it for years.
STARTING A NEW CREATIVE VENTURE (PAINTING) GIVES ME ANXIETY BECAUSE...
Well, because of every possible reason. I'll list just a few:
I'm afraid of being judged.
I'm afraid I'll end up hating myself because I won't be good at it right away.
I've only ever expressed myself musically; I'm afraid I won't even know how to express through paint on a canvas.
All of the anxiety and self-hate that I discussed in this post has come bubbling directly up to the surface when entertaining the idea of trying a new kind of creative expression such as this.
But you know what, after some deliberation and an out-loud, resounding "FUCK IT," I drove down to Michael's and bought everything I needed to try painting for the first time. With some cursory guidance from my dear friend Tassia, I sat down in front of a blank canvas this morning and I painted a damn picture.
I honestly can't tell if it sucks or doesn't suck. I actually like it - which surprised me. I anticipated many more feelings of self-doubt and shame but most of what I'm feeling as a result of finally sitting down to attempt painting is straight up, unadulterated accomplishment.
This process was a mental health win in many ways. Not only did I simply DO it, but a lot of unprocessed feelings got worked out in the process. My Great Grandma Sharon was an incredible painter when she was alive. Even after she had a stroke and lost function on the dominant side of her body, she taught herself to paint with her other hand; and her pieces were just as stunning as they were before her stroke. Perhaps even more knowing the struggle she went through to still create, despite the physicality of it. She died a few years ago and it was a huge hit for our family. My painting started out first as trees and mountains, but as I started thinking about Grandma Sharon and how excited she would be that I'm trying to paint, the piece changed entirely and emotions about her death that I didn't realize I needed to process started coming out onto the canvas. This little piece is nothing all that special but I'm extremely proud of it because of the vehicle it provided me to acknowledge those deep, dark, tucked away feelings. I think Great Grandma Sharon was with me for this one. She would be proud of me for looking my anxiety in the eyes and painting over it.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO START A NEW CREATIVE ENDEAVOR?
I'm going way outside of my comfort zone in posting this painting for everyone to see, but I hope that it can help you feel that you could do that thing you've been wanting to do too. If I can do it, anyone can. So, how to start?
Say "FUCK IT": This point may seem like it's in here as a mood-lightener but this is very much a serious point I want to make. I had to say those words out loud to myself in order to be able to shake off the anxiety that was overwhelming me into almost chickening out and putting it off for more and more years.
Tell people about what you want to do: If your anxiety functions the same way mine does, often positive reassurance can do wonders for your sense of confidence going into this uncharted creative territory. Before doing this, I told Hayden (my incredible partner) and I told one of my closest friends, Tassia, who also happens to be a painter. Talking about this desire of mine that I had been so embarrassed of for such a long time was incredibly healthy and allowed me the space I needed to stop being embarrassed and own the fact that this is something I want to do.
Release your expectations: The mental health portion of trying new creative expression will be a much easier pill to swallow if you can start thinking of ways to release expectations you put upon yourself. While saying "fuck it" did help me a lot with this, the other thing that really helped me was looking at other painters' work on Instagram. There were so many different kinds of pieces by people of all walks of life and while not all of them were my speed, I didn't once think "Oh wow, that's not good art." Because the truth of the matter is that the art is in the process; it doesn't have a permanent home in the outcome (nor should it).
I currently have about a million anxiety-toned alarm bells going off in my head that are trying to waver me from posting this because of those fears that I mentioned earlier: being judged, not being good enough, you know the drill. I'm going against everything in me and posting this anyway because I really believe that we can overcome these feelings of creativity anxiety if we all work together to do so. That way, we can get our art out and make more space within ourselves for infectious compassion that can be spread much farther than just you and me.
Paint on, my friends. Love, Zoloft, and creative spirit to all of you.