Why We Can't Expect to Arrive Overnight
Written By Regular Contributor, Michelle Anthony
Unlike the ability to code a website or build a kitchen table, creativity is a skill we’re born with.
We’ve all heard that there are no rights or wrongs in creativity - we innately have the tools we need, and we can use them however we choose to. The “how”s are limitless, and we’re free to write our own rules as we go. It all sounds so easy and freeing, right?
But as creatives, we know it’s not always that simple.
We’re told creativity is natural, and something we’re born with. So why can it feel so impossible to access?
Late last year, I felt a pull to find a creative outlet that didn’t center around words. I love writing, but I’ve found that words keep me firmly in my head – and I suddenly felt like I needed to get out of that headspace and into a place of freer, more abstract expression.
For years, dance was the physical outlet for my creative energy and it taught me how to make that same shift from mind to body. But these days, as a pseudo-adult whose hamstrings have tightened and whose feelings about the world of ballet have grown more complicated, painting felt like a manageable, less body-shamey alternative.
And let’s be honest, swapping out the tights and leotard for a smock and a paintbrush didn’t sound so bad.
So, I registered for an intuitive painting workshop (the name just sounds amazing, doesn’t it?) and I arrived ready to let my inner artist roam freely in spite of my inexperience. My mind felt open, my mood was optimistic, and I indulged in visions of the vibrant, meaningful piece of art I’d create by the end of the day.
This was going to be exactly what I needed. We settled in, we meditated, we let go of the stress of the everyday. And then, with dollops of paint on our palettes and brushes in hand, it was time to create whatever our intuition called us to.
And yet, all I could do was stare like a deflated deer in headlights at that giant blank canvas.
The thing that drew me to an intuitive painting workshop in the first place was that stunning lack of a prerequisite. All you had to bring was your intuition, and the art would just happen!
And yet, the expectation that my creativity was ‘supposed to happen naturally’ created pressure all its own. Was I doing it wrong? What was so wrong with me that something so natural felt so out of reach?
I could actually feel the creative energy leaving my body as these thoughts and criticisms swirled in my mind, breeding tension and utter dejection.
The frustrations I felt that day as I wrestled to tune into my creativity look a whole like the frustrations we face when we struggle to access our intuition in moments of personal crisis.
Intuition, like creativity, is a natural gift we’re all born with - and in fact, I’d say the two are absolutely related. I’ve become a huge believer in the role of our intuition in making decisions and charting our path forward. It’s what allows us to find our center, embody gentle strength, and articulate our boundaries. And it’s naturally there within us! So all we should have to do is listen…. right?
And yet, like creativity, intuition can be fickle.
The voice is in there in its purest form, but after years of unknowingly piling doubts and other people’s expectations (and maybe even our own) on top of it, it becomes harder to untangle it all. The more we grit our teeth and try to force it to reveal itself more clearly, the more muddled it sounds. The cycle is vicious, and all too real.
Our creativity is like our intuition: they’re both in there somewhere! But they become harder to access as they get buried under the weight of judgment, unfair expectations, or fear.
Learning to quiet the noise, to listen in past the voices of fear and judgment, and to access these innate gifts within us is a skill – and it’s a really tough one to master. But finding the clarity we’re looking for is so possible once we can acknowledge that it’s a process, and patience is key. Above all, we have to be patient and gentle with ourselves.
If you’re stuck on where to start or how to stay on track, here are a few ideas to help you find traction, and keep your momentum going when things get tough:
- Remember: the best way to find your voice is to use it. In other words, practice practice practice, and the clarity will come. We don’t find our creative voice or our inner compass but simply lamenting that we haven’t found them. Instead, it’s important to simply get to work, even if that means fumbling around at first. Which brings me to…
- Embrace bad art! (Both literally and figuratively.) Expecting ourselves to be stunning successes at anything new out the gate only sets us up for disappointment. Instead, see if you can gently shift your mindset to be more welcoming of ‘bad’ or failed attempts at first. Building some initial letdowns into your expectations will help alleviate the sting of disappointment as you start to find your way.
- Know when to walk away and give it space. Sometimes in our most frustrated moments, the best gift we can give ourselves is a change of scenery. Take a lap, let your mind release its grip on all the things it’s pushing to try and do. Giving yourself mental and emotional rest will not only help you feel refreshed, but it can lead to unexpected epiphanies or fresh waves of inspiration when you least expect them.
- Stay present throughout the process. The more willing we are to sit with our frustration and gently notice what’s happening, the more we can learn. Take note of what works, what’s difficult, how it feels, then get those observations out of your head. Write them down, record a quick audio memo on your phone, type yourself a quick email – whatever is easiest for you. The clarity will come.
No matter where you start or what method speaks to you, the most important thing to remember is no one ‘arrives’ overnight. Listening inward and zeroing in our creative and intuitive voices while tuning out all of the rules, expectations, and judgments that cloud them is a task that calls for practice and patience. Start small, and stay present. It can be tempting to look ahead at where we wish we were and to get lost in the frustration of how far away it feels, but don’t let that discouragement stop you from starting, or being willing to keep chipping away at it. I promise the process is worthwhile.
When it comes to tapping into our inner creativity and intuition, it’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to arrive overnight.
But that’s not a permission slip to stop trying.
Michelle Anthony has been called “too sensitive” her whole life, but she's come to believe our natural warmth and empathy don’t make us fragile - they make us powerful. She created Bloomology.co to be a sanctuary for fellow sensitive people to get recentered and reconnected with themselves, so they can unapologetically own their natural softness and tap into their inner power, without sacrificing one for the other. (Oh, and side note: Liz Lemon is her spirit animal.)