Being creative is easy for those to whom it comes naturally, right? All it takes to be an artist is to make art… But is it really as simple as that?
All those glass ceilings.
Recently I took part in an online workshop with Melissa Dinwiddie called “Shatter Your Self-Installed Glass Ceilings”. It was an intro to how everyone can pursue their passion and creativity if we identify and get past the mindset that is holding us back.
Ever since I realized that I wanted to be part of the contemporary art scene I saw it as this circle surrounded by a gigantic glass wall: I could look inside and see all the wonderful (and the less wonderful) things going on but I couldn’t find the door to get in. Now, years later, this image persists. Melissa’s workshop helped me realize that the glass wall is… me. It is my private glass ceiling I have managed to erect with the help of self-doubt and the doubts of people around me.
The Not-Enough Monster
Reading “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey is very reassuring on several levels. The book describes artists at work: how the famous writers, composers and visual artists throughout history got out of bed each morning and did their Creative Work.
Firstly it demonstrates that there is no right or wrong: some people work better at night, others get up at 5AM, some stick to strict schedules, others perpetually battle with procrastination, some rely on coffee, tobacco, alcohol… some live in utter chaos. There are no rules, so whenever I start thinking “oh no I slept in today” or “if I don’t live by a military schedule I’ll never make it” or “if I’m having trouble with procrastination then it must mean I’m not cut out for this work” I have to remind myself: it’s the Not-Enough Monster talking.
Another important thing this book has demonstrated to me is that creative work is a process. I constantly feel like what I’m doing is somehow inadequate; that I’m wasting time or losing time and not getting anywhere. When you are your own boss and your only employee it can be a challenge to keep your priorities straight, to know if you are doing the right thing at the right time or if you are just getting distracted. I guess (or hope) this understanding and clarity comes with experience. Even though I have really been actively pursuing my creative goals for only 5 months, I have been dreaming them up for over 5 years, so I have to constantly keep reminding myself: “I’ve already done this and I’ve achieved that, that’s not bad at all.”
In her workshop Melissa said that many of the signs that are telling you to give up are actually encouragement to keep going and that we are simply misinterpreting. Hugh MacLeod says in “Ignore Everybody” that good ideas have lonely childhoods – the better/more unique your work is the less encouragement and good advice you will get from people. Let’s hope they know what they are talking about!
Having said all this, I still wonder every day how do our glass ceilings get shattered? Maybe they don’t. Maybe living a creative life means endless persistence and limitless supply of energy (and hope) to make small cracks here and there? And how do we know that once you break through there won’t be another glass ceiling waiting up ahead?
Either way I think it’s important to share the doubts that come with the creative territory because knowing that you’re not alone can make a huge difference. If reading this made you feel like you’re not alone please drop me a line in the comments or via email to share your thoughts!
And if you’re an artist and can not relate to what I am talking about then please get in touch, I would love to get your perspective on this!