Are you feeling pressured to create and be perfect all the time? Do you find yourself exhausted, forcing yourself to show up or even stuck in paralysis at the mere thought of being creative?
In this episode, I’ll be sharing my own vulnerability around struggling with flow, pressure and perfection as a creator. With reflections of how characters from Disney’s Encanto movie can help us understand and move through the pressure and perfection to find where the real magic is, I’ll be sharing tips so you can free yourself from expectations and get back to creating again.
To find out how to work with me visit www.camillafellasarnold.com/creativepower
For episode transcripts visit: https://camillafellasarnold.com/category/podcast/
Welcome to Creative Power! For the last few weeks, I’ve been talking a lot about being true and honest to yourself and feeling into those natural rhythms and seasons of creativity. And it’s really important for me that I practice what I preach and be real with you. So although I’ve had quite a few ideas in mind for upcoming episodes when I found myself completely exhausted and not inspired to record… I simply didn’t. And it’s okay!
The world hasn’t stopped turning.
I haven’t been eaten by a bear.
But I have been true to myself and that’s the most important thing for creativity. Our honesty, our truthfulness, our vulnerability shines through in our work and it’s magnetic. The old adage that people buy from people IS true. People want to know who the person is behind the words or the art. They want to feel like they could be your friend. They want to feel like you are a real person, not a faceless corporation that doesn’t have their best interests at heart.
However, I’m not being entirely truthful about how my week went down so in the interests of my own honesty and vulnerability, being really real with you listening in… here goes.
I batch recorded my first eight episodes of this podcast when it launched. Recorded, scheduled, the lot. I had every intention of continuing to batch record and keep ahead of myself because I get stressed when things are last minute.
Having watched a friend of mine pull an all-nighter recently in order to finish an assignment before a deadline I think I was more stressed about it than her. Not technically true, I KNOW I was more stressed than her because I couldn’t sleep on her behalf. Therefore keeping ahead of myself with podcast episodes was always really important for my own stress levels!
So there I am eight episodes ahead of myself and suddenly I didn’t quite know what to say next. I figured it was because we’d be in a new year so I wanted to feel out the fresh energy of the year but the days and weeks ticked on and still nothing.
A few days before the next episode was due to come out, a flash of inspiration gave me the next two episodes so I quickly got them recorded and was ahead of myself by a couple of weeks.
Then once again, I didn’t know what to say next in advance. It’s not that I don’t have anything useful to say but I didn’t know where or who I would be by the time the next episode aired so how could I know in advance what I wanted to say?
So when the inspiration stalled, instead of forcing myself to say anything, I looked around me instead. What was going on in my life? In the world? In the people I was working with? Inspiration sparked up again which lead to the most recent ongoing theme of the episodes being about being true to yourself and giving yourself permission to follow the ebb and flow of the creative process.
I was excited to see those episodes map out in my head and yet… I couldn’t bring myself to hit record until the day before the episodes were meant to air. I felt a real resistance to it when I tried anytime before that.
I’d love to say that I was gracious about it and let it be what it was but hey, no one is perfect!
What I did do was get very stressed out and berated myself about the fact that I hadn’t got myself organised in advance even though I knew roughly what I wanted to say.
Now if you remember from episode 8 when I talked about fear, fight and flight stopping the creative process – the minute I put on my stressy head about showing up here to talk about creativity, the first thing that went down the toilet was… my creativity. The words wouldn’t flow, I had no idea what to say about these topics.
I tried different ways to get around this as all problem solvers do. First I forced myself to show up. Short of chaining myself to my desk, I cleared my schedule and refused to talk to anyone or work on anything else until the episode was recorded.
It would have been more fun to draw blood from a stone, let me tell you.
Then I tried distraction and flow to record an episode. So I went and worked on everything else EXCEPT recording and then the minute I felt less stressed and inspiration popped into my head on the topic, I dropped everything I was doing and hit record.
In the short term, these techniques worked for about a minute. Neither of these techniques was going to work as a long term plan though, that much was clear.
So when we ticked into the day before release for this episode you’re listening to now and I wasn’t feeling it AT ALL I knew it was time to try something different.
At first, I felt bad, what if my listeners hate me? What if you’re angry or disappointed that I haven’t shown up? All that nasty self-talk came out in a big way. However, it was clear I was in no fit state to say anything useful so… what was the worst that could happen? Listeners might notice a new episode didn’t drop but is that the end of the world?
Isn’t it actually better for me, for you, for US as we navigate the creative process, that I show up as authentic and honest as I possibly can? That instead of spouting words and advice at you that I don’t truly mean, that I actually walk my talk and I’m real about it. Surely in terms of building a relationship and making me relatable as a creator, that’s a much better way to work and create.
And to illustrate my point further, I want to talk about the latest Disney movie Encanto which I saw recently and I loved it instantly. Colourful, great story and characters and some catchy tunes to boot. But what I found most interesting and relatable was how the three sisters Luisa, Isabela and Mirabel represent parts of us as creators.
There’s been a lot of talk about how relatable the Surface Pressure song is to people. For those of you that haven’t seen the movie, Luisa who is the eldest sister to protagonist Mirabel has the power of being incredibly strong. And yet, this super strength becomes a burden of doing things for everyone else. She feels so pressured by being this pillar of strength when what she’d really love is to chill out on a hammock and not carry donkeys all day.
As creators, we feel that pressure too. Pressure to create and perform on demand. Pressure to always show up, to show our best face to the world. But reality isn’t like that.
We build connections by being relatable and honest with people. By showing our vulnerability, by knowing it’s not weakness, it is in actual fact, real strength. And the world will still keep turning regardless of what we do so isn’t it important to do what’s best for us?
For me, that meant walking away from the desk instead of trying to make myself create an episode that I wasn’t feeling. And the next day I checked in with myself and wasn’t feeling it. Only this time I didn’t give myself a hard time over the fact. I just told myself it’s okay. My creativity hasn’t disappeared forever, it will come back when I’m less stressed and being kinder to myself because creativity simply cannot thrive in survival situations.
What happens instead is we start churning out the familiar, the same old as we work on auto-pilot. Or perhaps we stop creating entirely. Either way, it’s not a fun place we want to be or stay.
And it’s much like another sister from the Encanto film, Isabela. She has the ability to grow flowers and plants and constantly fills the entire town with roses. Isabela gives off the air of perfection, much to her younger sister Mirabel’s frustration. They’re always at odds with each other. But when the sisters finally start talking, Isabela confesses that she is unhappy, doesn’t want to marry her boyfriend and feels burdened by perfection.
It’s another reflection of the creative process that really struck a chord with me. Because so many of us are either afraid to get started in case it isn’t “perfect” or as we build an audience, the pressure of their expectation grows and can be so stifling. It can become “safer” to keep creating the same things, the roses over and over again because you know you’re onto a winner. Everyone will be happy, except perhaps… you.
In the film, the sisters talked and Mirabel helped her sister break free from this need to be perfect and she started creating all sorts of weird and wonderful plants. Her passion and excitement ignited when she stopped being afraid of getting it wrong just to see what else she could create, to push herself beyond the boundaries of what she knew without fear of what anyone might think or say.
And I think it’s a really important lesson for us all. Because what it lead to was an even higher level of creativity and most importantly, joy and self-fulfilmnent for Isabela.
Let me ask you, how many times have you created, done or said something because you knew it was expected of you? How much did it cost you?
I don’t mean cost in terms of monetary value. I mean, the cost to your sense of self worth and value. The cost to your integrity, inner peace or core values. How much did it cost your inspiration or creativity?
The trouble with being a creator sometimes is that we can easily become wrapped up in pleasing our audience at the cost of ourselves. Now I understand completely, it’s not so easy to walk away from projects or clients in the name of integrity. I’ve been there in the trenches with the feast and famine cash flow issues so I totally get where you’re coming from.
But if you don’t find another outlet for the true creativity you want to indulge in, the stuff that truly excites you, that is FOR YOU, that IS YOU, then it’s going to be a long slog and you’ll eventually get disillusioned with creativity entirely because it’s not fun and fulfilling anymore. I’m speaking from experience here.
And this is where we come full circle in my reflections of the three sisters from Encanto to the protagonist, Mirabel. Unlike her family, she wasn’t bestowed with any gifts or miracles and felt overlooked and unimportant.
But by the end of the film what she learns is that the gifts, the miracles weren’t the defining feature, they weren’t the most important thing. The miracle, the true gift, is the person themselves.
It is in us and the way we see the world. It’s how we translate our ideas, hopes, inspirations and dreams into something tangible that connects us to other people.
Creativity, inspiration, without us as the creator, is a process that doesn’t actually happen.
Imagine that creative ideas are entities in their own right. Floating around looking for the right person to latch onto and work with. But here’s the key, they work WITH us. The creativity needs us as the vehicle to manifest in the physical realm. Without us, it’s just ideas floating around in space.
It’s okay to get it right or wrong. It’s okay to try. No one ever turns up to this world fully formed, functioning and writing sonatas on day one. It’s a process. And in the process, you’re allowed to experiment, to explore. You’re allowed to do what lights you up and have fun with it.
Because the truth is, the thing that makes the work special… really is you. It’s YOU stepping up to the plate and infusing something into it that no one else can – your heart and soul. Your meraki.
So when I wasn’t feeling it with my episodes or work for the last couple of weeks. That was okay. The world still turned.
And today, my work is better for me listening to myself. For me giving myself room to breathe. For me allowing myself to follow what was joyful and fun. When I set out to do this episode, I didn’t have any intentions of talking about a Disney film, it really wasn’t on the agenda at all.
However, it is a part of me. I’ve always loved the magic of Disney, even when as I grew older, it wasn’t particularly cool to do so. It matters not! What really matters is showing up as my whole self regardless.
Chasing perfection is a myth to stop the genius flowing out of you.
If you’re listening to this episode and really feeling what I’m saying, that you’re resonating with any part of it, here’s my advice.
Go inwards and find what lights you up. Find the tiniest little spark and nurture it like it’s the most delicate flame.
I have created what I call my Love List. What I’ve done is anytime I find something new that really excites me, that lifts me, gets me passionate and activated, I write it on the list. There’s films, TV, music, books, poems, hobbies, you name it. All of it goes on the list.
So on the days when I feel like I’ve lost the plot or can’t get motivated. On the days when the world has drained of all its colour for me, I go back to my list. And even when I’m not feeling it, there’s always a least one thing that I can do on that list that will remind me of who I really am and give myself a lift. Because sometimes, that’s all you can do and that is really okay.
It might be one song that feels okay to listen to right now. Listen to it on repeat to get you back in the room. And when you’re back in the room… go make something for you, for fun. No one needs to see it except you.
Who knows, it might spark off something else for you that’s completely unexpected! Creativity feeds off creativity after all.
Give yourself permission to be, create, do and make without expectations. Give yourself permission to believe in your own magic and genius. Let go of the pressure of perfection and expectations, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Allow it to light you up and see what happens.
I bet it will be amazing.