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Self Help

This was going to be So You Want to be Creative Part Three but the reality is, I just wasn’t feeling it.  The topics go together – there is a real reason I would never be a successful self help book writer.  It’s the same reason, I don’t think I can be a motivational speaker.  It comes down to this – I grew up in a family where complaining was only acceptable the first time.  If you complained about the same thing over and over again, then you’d get one response – why haven’t you done something about it?

That’s a simplistic version of my family but it boils down to this – if you have a problem and there is a solution presented, then you can no longer complain about it.  If you were hungry, you were expected to make your own snack or wait until mom made a meal.  If you were injured, you got treatment and that was it.  If it still hurt – take some pain medicine but don’t complain.  No one wanted to hear you complain.

Growing up that way, I developed an intolerance to complaining.  At first, I was more than willing to help someone who complained.  In my family, you don’t complain if you don’t want a solution.  When you work in social services, you burn out even quicker when it comes to complaining.  There is always a solution to a problem but solutions often mean work.

Complaining is often a way to justify why you are not successful.  There are many levels of complaining – some is quite justified.  You lose your job over something stupid – you will probably complain over the injustice.  If you complain for a day or two while starting your job search, most people are going to sympathize with you.  You may even complain over time when it comes up, because it affected you but you moved on, right?  If you spend the next six months eating potato chips on the couch and complaining about how you lost your job, the sympathy is going to fade.  People will start avoiding you because you are no longer fun to be around.

So how does this apply to creativity?  Well, I believe in the Yodaism – there is no try, only do (I don’t know if it’s a real quote but it still applies).  How many people have used this one – I can’t create because I don’t have …..  There are a lot of creative items I would love to have but I don’t let that stop me.  Want to sew – get some fabric, thread and a needle.  Scissors help too.  You don’t need a sewing machine to sew.  It makes sewing easier and projects go faster but you don’t NEED it.  Now you can probably borrow a sewing machine or find one secondhand, if it will make a difference.

But you wouldn’t believe how many people I know can’t do anything because they don’t have enough tools.  Drawing requires pencil and paper – I can almost guarantee most people have some in their home.  I often use blank computer paper for my drawing.

Painting – paint and a paint brush gets you started.  Any paper will work.  Find cheap art at a thrift store and cover it with gesso – you have a new canvas for experimenting.  (Actually, you can find rather inexpensive student canvases all over the place.)

Make your own tools.  Figure it out.  But stop complaining.  All complaining does is keep you from actually doing something.

Put down the duckie and start creating.  You want to write a novel – write a novel.  It’s not that hard to start – get a pen or pencil and some paper.  It will probably be bad – so what.  Someone out there said you have to create bad art in the beginning so you can make good art later (something about getting all the bad art out).  Maybe it won’t be bad.  Maybe it will need a lot of work.  Finish it and go on to the next one.

I’m going to tell you a secret.  When I was a kid (jr high/high school aged), I was a brilliant writer.  Everyone told me so.  I was going to be a great writer.  And I believed them.  Well, I kept writing and reading and learning.  Then one day, I decided it was time to be serious.  I pulled out all those wonderful stories I wrote when I was young (because they were brilliant and maybe all they need is a little polishing before sending them off – right?).  They were terrible.  I don’t think I ever laughed so hard.  The writing was great for a kid.  The stories had brilliance in them but they were not good at all.

Now I could have just stopped writing.  I was terrible then, what makes me think I’d be any good now?  Well, I’m not going to write a gem every time but I know I have grown as a writer.  I’ve become good.  I’ve become happy with my writing.  I can read my stories over and over again.  Now I’m not published but that’s not what makes me good.  What has made me good is that I practice.  I let myself create crap, then take time to figure out what I learned and how the project went wrong.

Most of all – I stopped complaining.  I give myself permission to create – good or bad.  I find time to organize my creative projects and then I work on them, sometimes minutes at a time.  I work on a project while watching tv.  I keep my mind and eyes open for things that would make my project easier or better.  I learn.  Mostly, though, I stopped wishing and complaining.

So how can you be creative – stop complaining and just do it.  Make a plan if you must but take the time and initiative to follow through.  Live with the results and move on to the next project.  Find yourself a good support system of creative people.  Don’t accept their complaining.  Challenge them and yourself.  Most of all – just create!