5 Cautions for Creative People

5 Cautions for Creative People

Every virtue in excess can become a vice. This is true of creativity. Here are five ways creativity can be a vice and how to deal with them. They are:

  1. Distraction
  2. Loneliness
  3. Sensitivity
  4. Perfectionism
  5. Competition
    1. Creative people are easily distracted. There are so many options and ideas to choose from. Learn to focus, work hard, and finish what you start. Finishing what you start will bring the needed closure, clarity and motivation to move forward. It will teach you things that you can’t learn any other way. I know of this first hand. In a conversation with my mother, I made an exasperated statement in discouragement and overwhelm, which was not only self revelatory, but has helped me to overcome the very frustrations that plagued me. I said, “It’s exciting to start new projects, and it’s gratifying to finish them, but the middle part just feels like work.” I remember my mother laughing, and it was her laughter which helped me put things into proper perspective. I realized where I was struggling and what I needed to do to overcome it.
    2. Creative people are subject to loneliness. Learn to balance the introvert that has learned to focus so intently that they inadvertently cut themselves off from the outside world. Introverts risk loneliness and depression if they become too isolated in their quest to create. Learn to collaborate. Get out and meet new people. You will be surprised how this gets the creative juices flowing. Likely you already know, but you need to learn to recognize and regulate when you’re isolating yourself. But also be careful not to self-sabotage because you think your ideas are the best. Creative people are proud of their ideas- all of us. Give yourself both time to socialize and stay connected. Don’t starve your inner muse because you must always be working, but don’t procrastinate by not taking the time to focus on your work when independence and quiet solitude is needed to do this. Remember that it is not only in isolation that we risk loneliness. Being present in public is not the same as connecting with people and maintaining healthy relationships. This too requires work and skill. Loneliness can also stem from feeling misunderstood. It is one thing to create a work, but it is an entirely different skill set to help others see the vision of your work. Know that communicating the vision of your work to others is separate from the work itself. Be patient with others and yourself as you learn this skill too.
    3. Creative people are sensitive. Learn to disassociate your identity and personal worth from your work. You are not your work. This sensitivity is a blessing, but it can also feel like a curse. It is a rose, complete with thorns. This sensitivity infuses your work with meaning that resonates with your audience. You put your heart into your creation, but when it’s finished you have to learn to take it out again. A University professor of mine, Jeffrey Carter (you can see his work here), shared a perspective on this that helped me recognize this mentality in myself for what it was. Recognition is the first step to dealing with it. He said, that his ego wasn’t tied to his art, but that it was tied to his music. I hadn’t thought of this consciously before, but I had felt it. I saw my own experiences in a new light. It shifted my paradigm around my work. It was a message I could implement because it was one I related to. Before I began my journey as a fine artist, I thought I wanted to be a singer, but I had a hard time disassociating myself from my work. My performance never seemed to live up to what I knew was my potential and this was discouraging. Looking back I recognize that although I had learned to sing, I had never learned to perform. That too a different skill set. As a painter I discovered I could stay behind the scenes while my work was on stage. Another professor, James Lorigan, shared this advice with the class: When you create a work of art it’s like a little puppy. You love that little puppy and become attached to it. Sooner or later, every puppy becomes a dog. “Sell it before it’s a dog.”
    4. Creative people are prone to perfectionism. Like distraction, this to can lead to feeling overwhelmed. Creative people constantly face the need, and the desire to improve. This is because we learn and improve in the process of doing. In the time it takes to do something, you’ve learned how to do it better. Leonardo DaVinci said, “Art is never truly finished, only abandoned.” I have learned to tell myself, “I’ll fix it on the next one,” and move on. Another hopefully positive message on this topic is a quote from Ira Glass. ira-glass-quote
    5. Creativity is not a competition! Competition is merely a vehicle for improvement. There will always be those who are better than you and there will always be those who are not as good as you. Let those who are better inspire you to new heights, new ideas. Then turn around and inspire someone else. To lift another is a truly fulfilling experience. One of the most beautiful things about creativity is that it promotes an abundance mindset. Creativity is a well of possibilities that will never run dry. Learn to have the same abundance mindset with your peers that you have within yourself and your work. There is not a limited number of ideas and you won’t run out. Two people can come up with the same good ideas. Your voice is unique even if your ideas aren’t. But so is everyone else’s. Learn to see these would-be competitors as opportunities to network and collaborate not as opponents to beat. Don’t get too hung up on praise. Praise does not make an idea good, just as the lack of praise does not make an idea bad. Recognize that the primary purpose of praise is not accolade or affirmation but connection and rejuvenation. The audience is having their own creative experience that must be respected as part of the whole. Be quick to praise another.

How have you overcome your creative vices? Share in the comments.

2 thoughts on “5 Cautions for Creative People”

  1. Lots of good universal points here. Thanks for sharing. I used to get really down when my creativity wasn’t recognized as much as I thought it should. I put a lot of time into that project. I’ve learned to appreciate when it’s recognized and not get too down when it seems overlooked. Mostly I have issues with “selling my work” before it becomes a dog. With each new project I’m finding myself analyzing from an objective mindset and not letting myself get too attached or rigid in what I think is the best way..learning from each project to improve on the next. No matter who notices. Thanks Norma.

    1. You’re welcome. I’m glad it resonates. I really was preaching to myself with this one as I’ve struggled with all these.

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