03 Aug Why creating can make us feel anxious and vulnerable
Creating can make us anxious and vulnerable – which is scary and can threaten to stop us in our tracks. This week, having been spinning my creative wheels taking care of a long litany of technical computer issues, I was finally able to get back to creating again. But I felt oddly vulnerable. I had been so eager to get back to painting, designing, and making that I was surprised to feel anxiety as I sat down to paint, rather than glee.
Like many people, facing a blank screen or sheet of paper makes me feel vulnerable. It has so much potential and I am the chosen one to bring it to life… except that responsibility comes with weight and responsibility, so that what should have been a pleasure becomes an anxiety-producing moment… or hour. Why vulnerable? We all feel a level of discomfort around what we produce through our creativity. We feel we are being judged at levels that we don’t otherwise expose to the scrutiny of strangers when we create. Even if we love what we have made, there is a sense that others might feel our work is immature or simply bad.
The sad downside of these feelings of anxiety and vulnerability is that we start to avoid doing anything creative. If we don’t put a mark on the page, and just walk away, we feel our anxiety subside which feels good… but we’ve also failed our creative selves in the process. As I’ve become older I have also come to realize that sometimes we just have to do creative things regardless of the outcome. We seldom face the exposure or judgment we fear, and can often surprise ourselves by what we can produce when we are pushed beyond our comfort zone. It has been the pieces I’ve created when I ‘just do it’ or have been pushed into a corner by a deadline that have most often surprised me. When I luxuriate in overthinking an idea, pontificate by trying to explain it – or simply procrastinate, my work is seldom very good. It tends to be polite, slightly apologetic, bound up in itself – and safe.
One of the reasons I wanted to build this site was to create a ‘no judgment zone’ – a place where it is all about the creative process not the final created product. When we are able to relax and feel that we are not being judged, we feel much freer to try new techniques, put pencil to paper, splash paints onto the page – or dance or sing! The vulnerability remains at some level as by drawing out something from within ourselves we are sharing deeper aspects of ourselves, but knowing that the work we produce is only for our eyes and enjoyment, makes the anxiety levels much lower.
So how do we overcome these feelings of being anxious and vulnerable? One way is to make creating as mundane and everyday as cleaning our teeth. If we set aside time each day to put pencil to paper or paint to paper – or whatever creative thing it is you fear to do – doing it slowly becomes a habit. Habits tend to be less fearful than new and unfamiliar tasks, so the anxiety and vulnerability diminish. Will you become a creative genius if you do this? Possibly not! But you will have learned the pleasure of creating without anxiety, and amongst the weird and wonderful pieces you will create will be some amazing and beautiful pieces you wouldn’t have imagined you could have made! Give it a go. What have you got to lose apart from being anxious and vulnerable – and they are both very time consuming and frustrating places to live!