The life of a creative can be plagued by uncertainty and fear. These feelings permeate all stages of the creative process, including that time when you first see the final product.
My first blog article was published a week ago. It was almost an out-of-body experience to see such an intimate part of my life in print. As I read it, I could hear my internal voice saying, “No, that’s not exactly right.” Neatly sequenced words seemed distant from the rich untidiness of life.
That feeling is why I did not share my work in public for years. I learned music but did not perform. I sat on a book of poetry that I never sent to an agent. My talents never seemed ripe enough. My work never seemed right enough.
Doubt, fear and judgment can be common among us creatives.
Their voice doesn’t matter
Now I match her step. She does her thing. I do mine. She is vicious. I am persistent. I have learned that the artistic process opens me up to something bigger. It silences the inner chatter and makes me more alive, as words appear on paper and notes appear in midair. The process is the destination.
Fear can stem when we begin to transgress what we have been told our ‘right’ place is. As a middle-class coloured woman from a developing country, I was told to put my own truth last and family and societal expectations first. Whenever I owned my truth in full view of the world, I felt uncomfortable.
This is not just my experience. It is shared by people and communities around the world who have been told that they do not belong and that their voices, their truths, do not matter. At some point, we start believing this, and acting in a way that makes what we have to say the last thing anyone (including ourselves!) wants to hear.
Through practicing mindfulness, I began to notice that these judgments were not coming from me. I started giving them space to ‘be,’ but without so much power.
I began to see the truth in what Dr. E.J.R David, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Alaska Anchorage and author of Internalized Oppression: The Psychology of Marginalized Groups, shares in his Psychology Today article: “When we accept or ‘buy-in to’ the negative and inferiorizing messages that are propagated about who we are, then we have begun to internalize the oppression that we experienced.”
If you are not part of the dominant minority in the world—if you are not an English-speaking, Caucasian, middle-aged, heterosexual and economically-secure male—chances are, the process of hearing your own voice scares you.
If you come from a marginalized group and your creative work is characterized by starts and stops, and if you struggle with putting your thoughts down, second-guessing yourself or procrastinating, that’s really all the more reason for you to create and own your truth.
There is no shame in doubt. It can even fuel your creativity.
Creativity connects us
One example of that is given in the viral Ted Talk by best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert. In her talk, “Your elusive creative genius,” she talks about the fear and trepidation of creative work.
This is faced by all of us creatives, whether you are a best-selling author or a mother trying to squeeze in some writing before the sun rises. By putting her humanity out there for the world to see, Gilbert helps us realize the universality of fear.
I am better, and my life is richer, because of her commitment to her truth. As you are reading this piece of writing, even with oceans between us, something is keeping you with it. That energy, the energy that draws your attention to these words, is what connects us.
We are all connected. We arise from one consciousness. As you let go, others will, too. Given how short life is, there is only so much time for us to spend living in awe or in fear of an internal voice that is not even our own or who we are.
This article was published originally in The Mindful Word on October 24th, 2018.