MAYBE IT’S YOU: Staying Creatively Centered When Creativity Changes Things

A few days ago, I wrote about how people who are less than gracious about our creative efforts. I’ve learned that some relationships change when we begin our creative journey as an artist. I shared how some friends and family members will react badly–or not at all.

Today I want to talk about the other factor that changes:

You. (I can almost hear you…. “Wha-a-a…???”

Here’s a quick story to illustrate.

I start every day with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. I use the same coffee maker, the same filters, the same amount of coffee, and the same mug. (My favorite one!)

Why do I love this mug? Big (16 oz.), beautiful aqua color, holds the heat, flat bottom that doesn't collect water in the dishwasher.

Why do I love this mug? Big (16 oz.), beautiful aqua color, holds the heat, flat bottom that doesn’t collect water in the dishwasher.

Yet every single time, something feels different. And this happens when I pour the finished coffee into my mug.

Some days, the pot feels light. “Dang!” I think as I pour. “I didn’t put enough water in!” Other days, the pot feels heavy. “Dang!” I think. “I won’t have enough room for cream!”

And yet every day the cup is filled to almost exactly the right level. Because I put almost exactly the same amount of water in each time.

The reality of the coffee hasn’t changed. What changes is my perception. Daily.

This morning I realized this is also a big piece of why creativity changes things.

If your creative efforts are new, or if you’ve made a major shift in what you do, you’ve changed, too. You’re on strange new ground. You may feel excited, anxious, happy, scared. You most probably feel open–and vulnerable. What people say suddenly matters–a lot. The things people do and say may carry more power, more impact on your psyche.

This is what spiritual, emotional growth does–it changes how we perceive what is going on around us. The same stuff is there, but now we’re reading it differently.

The person who was a little less supportive than you’d like? Well, that imbalance of who-does-what-for-whom has probably always been there. But now you see it’s falling short.

The person whose center of the universe is always themselves? That’s been there, too. Only now you actually see how quickly the topic changes from your new venture to theirs, or their kids’, or whatever.

The person who’s always been hyper-critical? Or worse, silent? Perhaps you didn’t notice it when you stood on more solid ground, or you were confident enough that it rolled off your back. But now it hurts.

YOU have changed. They haven’t.

Is this good or bad? Neither. Or rather, irrelevant in the long term.

You’ve taken a major growth step. It isn’t easy, not for any of us. Being open to growth, being willing to learn in any major life change, is an acquired skill. Some people learn early, some late. (Me? I’m kinda behind schedule. But I’m getting there.) Some are not nearly as far along on their journey as you are, and some are way ahead of you.

And yes, even other artists can be shadow artists. No matter how long they’ve been at it, no matter how excellent their work, no matter how well-known they are, some artists may not actually be very far along on their own spiritual/emotional path. These “big circles” may still try to take a few bites out of you. (For an excellent, quick, simple read on this phenomenon, grab yourself a copy of THE NIBBLE THEORY by Kaleel Jamison. It’s a little book worth its weight in gold. I still reread it!)

In the end, your job is to make your art and get it out into the world. Sometimes that’s easy, sometimes it’s hard.

But don’t make it harder by focusing on the drama these people will try to bring into your process. Focus on what you need to do, and how you need to grow, as an artist.

Don’t take the silence, the criticism, the lack of reciprocity alarm you or anger you too much. You’ll get over it, and you’ll get better at ignoring it. You can choose to forgive, you can choose to accept and move on, you can choose to set boundaries, or you can choose to hurt.

I’m still a little stuck at “hurt”. But those life travelers who are further along than I am keep reminding me that this is my journey.

And my time and energy are better spent concentrating on that, than on the direction of, or the lack of, “journeying” by others.

P.S. In the spirit full disclosure, me telling you to do this, helps me do it, too.

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14 thoughts on “MAYBE IT’S YOU: Staying Creatively Centered When Creativity Changes Things

  1. I find it so hard to believe that you, Luann, who makes the kind of intelligent, primal and gorgeous artwork that you do, could possibly have these kinds of personal doubts and such negative experiences with people. For over 50 years, ever since I was a little kid, I was convinced it was just me, that when people, especially the ones who professed to care about me, called me crazy and weird they must be right. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing.

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    • I’m so sorry I didn’t see this until today! I would have rushed to hug you (cyber-ly) and reassure you: It happens to ALL of us, who ever march to a different drummer. I heard a great quote from Mad Men recently. (Yes, I’m recently hooked.) “Are you doing what you WANT, or what’s EXPECTED of you?” Can’t get it out of my head. Probably because it’s finding a permanent home in my heart.

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  2. Great perspective and always timely. The best part for me is hearing another artist voice my inner wonderings and wanderings. Thank you. And welcome to California (soon).

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  3. I will have to re-read this one again and let it sink in. I am in the middle of a year-long project of my own making that is consuming me. A friend has noted I am re-inventing myself, a perception I had not seen coming.
    Another good set of thoughts comes from The Four Agreements By Michael Ruiz, the last of which is “Always do your Best.” One would think this should go without saying.
    The changes are coming. Your post nails many things I am seeing from the corner of my eye. Thanks for saying it out loud. Focus!

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    • We call it the “reboot”, but then, my hubs is a bit of a computer nerd. :^)
      And I love that those who truly love us, can often see what’s going on, even better than we can see ourselves.
      And yet….they still love us! THAT is a miracle, too!

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  4. Luann, your article leads me to write some thoughts about friends making critical comments. Many years ago I tried a new technique. I was pleased & excited with the result & showed a friend. “What went wrong?” she said. That comment slammed me into such self doubt that I began years of nit-picking & over perfecting my work so as to squeeze the life out of it & I became burned out. I now teach her how to make similar types of things. What I’ve learned is she has completely different likes & dislikes in design & art than i do. She’s a black & white thinker, (grey is good, green is bad).That years ago I must have been so close to the edge of self doubt that one comment tipped me over it. That my association with her has finally actually given me more clarity, strength & commitment to define my style. I can now show her things I make & know pretty well certain she will not like them & I know it doesn’t reflect on my workmanship, my designs or me personally.

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    • A friend recently said, “I sometimes think we should stop being victims of our past.” It’s hard, really really hard. But it DOES give true freedom, even if we can learn to simply make peace with it.

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  5. Hello Luann,
    I came across your blog with all its sensible and sensitive things you say (and your breathtaking art!) that I just had to subscribe to it! It feels as though I finally found someone who understands… I have started “letting go” 2 years ago by making the art (if one can call it that) I stopped making in my childhood. It has transformed me, it has saved my sanity, it is like a therapy which makes inner happiness shine. And yet – I also have trouble with close friends and loved ones who either try to ignore this new side of me or who are jealous of it. It’s hard to explain to them that I am still the same person as before. That the art in me was always there only that now it is flowing out of me into something visible. What are they so affraid of? How can someone be jealous of another persons happiness? I am as discreet as possible about my art just to avoid hurting their feelings. But isn’t is sad not to be able to share one’s joy and happiness with the people that count most in one’s life? It hurts. Even when I tell myself that it shouldn’t and that these people have a problem with themselves.
    Anyway – thanks a million for this great blog and for people who are sensitive and think the way I do.
    Regards,
    Sonya

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    • Sonya, thank you so much for sharing your experiences, and for your kind comments on my article. This is EXACTLY why I write–not only so that I can get myself to a “better place” with these feelings, but so others who are going through the same thing can have validation for THEIR feelings. Know that no matter what reactions those “nearest and dearest” may be having, somebody, somewhere, needs to have your art in the world. As you said, it heals us, it lets us shine. But it also has the capacity to make others heal and shine. Knowing that gives us the courage and confidence to continue. Shine on, girlfriend!

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  6. Pingback: NERVOUS NIBBLES and a Very Humble Apology | Luann Udell

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