Updated: May 1, 2021
Guest post by Elaine Biss of https://elainebiss.com/
I used to work as a k-4 teacher’s assistant. Those days were filled with small happy people and fun little projects. One thing became very clear, if you handed those children a box of crayons, they never remarked:”I am just not in the mood to draw! My muse hasn’t arrived!” Those kids were always ready to create.
As we get older, we get interference from events, traumas and people who mean well or not. The part of us that wants to create, gets bogged down with responsibilities, pressure to make money and everyone else’s idea of how your artwork should “be”. Your creative work starts to suffer from lack of confidence and you may even feel low on self-esteem. Even worst, when you most need a boost of inspiration, it may never arrive under the weight of financial responsibilities. These disruptions will cause you to avoid your creative outlet, if not, quit it all together.
So, how do you stay creative when you may be running low on confidence and self-esteem? How about inspiration? The mood, muse or the desire to create is triggered differently in every individual. The good news is, you can create the basis for positive sense of confidence and self-esteem. Let’s troubleshoot 4 pitfalls that keep us from making art.
⁃ Fear. Yes, this is probably the number one cause for most artists to censor or not create art. The blank canvas, whether digital or otherwise, can be intimidating. But ask yourself, what do I fear? Wasting time? Ruining art supplies? People not liking my art? Not paying me what I am worth? Make a mental note of the fears you have. I will give you some ‘rebuttals’ to keep you on track.
⁃ Imposter syndrome. This is defined as the inability to see one’s accomplishments as deserved or earned. It’s basically feeling not good enough to enjoy the process of creation and the fruits of your labor. This thought often sounds a lot like this “Why try/do/make it when I don’t feel I am good enough?”
⁃ Analysis paralysis is Comparison analysis. Many have been the times that when researching something, I overwhelm myself and give up. But comparison analysis is more toxic than that. You see, it is EASY to make yourself look successful when you are on social media. And social media is the easiest place to ‘make believe’. It is where ‘goals’ and ‘squads’ are formed. But, are they really your goals if you just found them on Instagram? I will explain how to detoxify from this.
⁃ Feedback. Any art endeavor usually means you will receive criticism or feedback. From total strangers, fellow artists, friends or family. They might take it upon themselves to tell you how they feel about your creation. If the feedback was less than favorable, it becomes the crutch for allowing yourself not to make anything new. But if receiving feedback is destroying your work, how can you make it constructive? I have some tips that will keep you sane and your self-esteem intact.
These aren’t all the problems artists face. However, these are the most common. Below are some of the game changing thoughts you can make your own and win at creativity.
⁃ The Courage Factor vs. Fear Factor. Fear is incredibly powerful. It is there to serve a purpose-to keep you safe and comfortable. But what do you do when you are overwhelmed with fear? Artist Jessica Licciardello says:”No matter what, put a blank piece of paper in front of you, grab a pencil, put the pencil to paper and go.” She added, “There it’s a Matisse quote, ‘creativity takes courage’.” Knowing what is causing you fear also helps redefine the reasons you cannot create. What do you fear? Wasting time? Art is a lot like a law or medical practice. If you don’t put time in your craft and practice, how will you improve or learn a new skill? Ruining art supplies? if money is an issue, it's okay to use student quality art supplies until you build your skills. I suggest buying one artist quality notebook and a student one. Warm up on the student quality stuff and then create your masterpiece on the artist quality paper. People not liking your work? Then ask yourself, are you creating art because you are trying to make others happy, or yourself? I make art to make me happy. Change your priorities and happiness follows. Not paying you what you are worth? Then make a clear and concise list of what are your fees are and for what work. Know what is the least amount of money you will take to create your art. That way, when a prospecting client offers to pay you, you KNOW what you are worth and accept the best offer.
⁃ Live your truth; Imposter Syndrome remedy. The most important thing that was ever said to me was, “Your creative expression is UNIQUE to you.” Being creative should be something that brings you joy and pleasure, not self-doubt! Your worth is never determined by your accomplishments or how others see them. Choosing inspiration that is of a higher standard puts you in an unique place to create. So if you get inspired by flowers, don’t stop. Old movies? Keep going. Better yet, ask why try/do/make it when I don’t feel I am good enough? Because even at your least desirable moment, creating can be an uplifting force that can change your mood and build your confidence. What you create is unique to you, an expression of you! So when you ask yourself, ‘Why should I?’ Confidently reply, ‘Why not me?’ and go for it. I would like to add, that this goes beyond the fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude. There is no faking anything when you KNOW who you are. Even if you haven’t created your career, you know the direction in which you are headed. There is nothing fake about who you are becoming and how your creative career will unfold by planning it well.
⁃ Comparison analysis is a green eyed monster. Whether you are ready to admit this or not, this is a form of envy. We all have goals we want to reach. When we see someone else has reached them, we conclude that maybe we’re too late and there is nothing left to accomplish. Pay attention to that feeling! This a sign that you know the direction you are headed and what you want to create in your career life. Acknowledge that this person put in the work and time required to reach it. That way, you know what you need to do to make your goal a reality.
⁃ Discern what feedback builds you up. Feedback can be defined in two different categories- constructive & deconstructive. One will offer insight into what you need to do to improve your weaker points. Deconstructive feedback is window into the feedback giver’s desires and flaws. The ability to sift through words and find pearls of wisdom, if any, depends on you. Confidence is never extricated from feedback. You can gain knowledge on how others perceive your work and possible ways in which you can improve. This doesn’t mean all feedback is valid. Real feedback is like a compliment sandwich. It has a compliment, says something you can do better, how to improve, and another compliment in closing. If the feedback you receive is just an insult or a statement of dislike, ask yourself if they answered this- how can I improve? If that wasn’t answered or the person cannot answer this question, IMMEDIATELY dismiss the feedback. I had a ‘art friend’ who seemed to only critique and express how my art may be inspired by them. Despite the fact that I have a different style and avoided looking at the artist’s artwork to avoid such pitfall, there it was. Again, this is a window into that artist’s mind and feelings. In the past, this artist had expressed that other artists were copying their work. What does this mean to me? Besides rethinking the friendship for my sanity, knowing my process creates self-confidence and the ability to stand for myself if the attack is unwarranted. In knowing where your truth is, the feedback becomes unnecessary. I would prefer the opinion of people who really understand where true confidence comes from.
Though I am sure you will face your own challenges, these are a good start for keeping you sane. As you grow as an artist, you will learn your strong and weak points. Being aware of what you need to improve on allows you to accept guidance when it comes your way. Best way to illustrate this-Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing tomatoes don’t belong in fruit salad. I have seen some weird recipes for tomatoes, including a peanut butter tomato sandwich. Some people love that recipe! Is it for me? I KNOW that I can confidently say, ‘no thanks!’
So where does true confidence and self esteem comes from? Ask yourself there two questions, what is the one thing that you can pay for and can never be stolen? And what do you gain when you continually do your creative work? Knowledge and experience cannot be stolen, thrown away or depreciated in any way. Your knowledge and experience build your creative skills and will create a solid foundation for your self esteem. Getting your confidence and self-esteem from knowledge and experience removes the variable of anyone demeaning your work just because.
So now that you have created a solid foundation for creating with confidence while building your self-esteem, it’s time to invite inspiration to the mix! In my next article, I will have tips to help you invite the mood to draw anytime like a HAPPY-GO-LUCKY k-4 student.