How can tuning into your internal authority and being true to yourself support your creative process? And how do you fight against the fear of stepping out of your comfort zone and potentially losing your audience and balance with doing what feels right for you? What role does intuition and personal truth have in the creative process? How do we navigate the fine line between sharing our truth and not compromising ourselves?
Staying true to yourself creatively can feel like a minefield so join me in this episode as I share some tips to help you find out how to be true to yourself creatively.
To find out how to work with me visit www.camillafellasarnold.com/creativepower
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Take the Sparketype Assessment: https://sparketype.com/sparketest/
Welcome to Creative Power! In this episode I’m going to be talking about something that seems obvious and easy on the face of it but in actual practice it can be harder than you think.
In fact I’ve even been challenged by it myself in the creation of this very episode. So what, pray tell, is this thing that got even me having a wobble?
That is the topic of staying true to your creative self and how it can help you really step into that powerful, creator space.
So let’s dive right in and explore what I even mean by staying true to your creative self?
It’s actually something we can spin in many different ways depending on how you look at it but to start with I feel it has its roots in the concept of meraki. Meraki in 25 words or less is the act of pouring your heart and soul into what you’re doing. I discussed it in more detail back in episode four so do give it a listen because it’s a beautiful concept for creatives to understand how to work with it.
Pouring your heart and soul into what you do gives your work a depth and richness that simply cannot be forced or created artificially. This in turn creates a more authentic connection with our audience so of course we as creators will want more of that energy in our own practices.
As our audience craves more, we try to do more. And that can manifest in a variety of ways such as creating work on similar themes or colour palettes. Writing stories about characters people have come to know and love. Perhaps it’s creating the same products over and over.
For some people, this may be fine but others can start to feel bored, stagnant, unfulfilled… even stressed and overwhelmed. The thought of spending years churning out the same old stuff can be equally as terrifying as it is knowing you’re onto a consistent winner.
So here is the moment when you as a creative have a decision to make. Are you happy creating variations on the same over and over for the foreseeable future? And if you’re not, what do you do about it? Suddenly the prospect of entering uncharted territory can be as scary as it is exciting for your personal creative growth. Impostor syndrome and fear might rise up saying… But what if everyone hates my new work? That fear of rejection alone is enough to stop you in your tracks. We are hardwired to seek the approval and acceptance of others after all. And if you want to hear more about that and how we can address that fear within ourselves, skip back one and listen to episode 8: How To Stop Fear Arresting The Creative Process.
But back to the topic at hand, staying true to your creative self. Admittedly, this is a hard topic to pin down because when I say that, it’s going to mean different things for everyone.
For me, it’s all about the honesty piece. This is where it can get a bit tricky because sometimes we hold a truth inside us, something we know and believe so innately but sharing it is the real kicker. Because once again it comes back to this fear of judgement, fear of rejection and once again, we’re stopped in our tracks because it can feel safer to stay inside the familiar even if it is a crappy place to be and doesn’t align with our dreams and desires.
And there’s also the barrage of strategies and advice that is thrown around in the online space. I see it so often the message to be authentic, be honest, be raw, be vulnerable as a coach, entrepreneur, creator, practitioner etc. “Be real with your clients and customers” and I get it, I really do. But when we take this to the nth point and step into oversharing, it can compromise ourselves and our own comfort.
Before I go any further, I realise you may be wondering if I’ve just become paradoxical because a mere two sentences ago I was talking about how staying in your comfort zone can be paralysing in terms of creating or doing anything. And that IS a valid point. I believe if you truly want to achieve those dreams and desires, part of the process is accepting you will be walking into unfamiliar territory and it won’t be a comfortable experience. What I can tell you though is it will be an extraordinary experience.
However, there’s no point striding out into the unknown, sharing the real, raw, vulnerable you if you’re not actually ready for it. With my clients, I often talk about the idea of sharing from a space of wisdom, not the wound. That doesn’t mean that you can’t create from that space. Creativity, art therapy, journaling etc are all incredible ways of helping us process our emotions and experiences and can be very cathartic.
I know from experience how good it is in this case because I’ve been using writing poetry as a way of processing past memories and it’s been a very powerful process. But will I share them with the world from that same space? Of course not! I’ll give myself some space from what I’ve written, look at it with fresh, objective eyes and then reflect and ask myself… do I even want to share them? What’s the benefit to me and to the world in my sharing?
The answer doesn’t have to be yes. No is a complete sentence and does not require any further justification or explanation. There’s this persistent myth that anything and everything we create must be for public consumption and I’m here to tell you categorically, it isn’t. Write for yourself. Draw for yourself. Sculpt, paint, bake, sing, dance, photograph, dream entirely for yourself. No one quote-unquote has to see it unless you want them to. Don’t compromise yourself for the sake of the creation if it’s not sitting right with you.
And this is where I come back to the overarching topic of this episode, staying true to your creative self. How often do you really listen to your feelings and intuition? How much airtime do you give the feelings in your body? Your body is trying to communicate with you just as much as your mind. Because you know that feeling when your stomach feels like it’s falling through the floor? Trying to tell you something is off. Or that feeling of your throat being really constricted or your chest is tight? Something isn’t quite right. Listen to yourself!
Sometimes we are in situations or asked to do things that just don’t sit well with us. Maybe they never did or perhaps you’ve grown out of them. You may have started out painting miniatures and have built up a strong audience and suddenly all you want to do is paint on a 10 foot canvas. That’s okay. You’re allowed to change and evolve. Growth is part of what we sign up for as creative beings because the simple act of being creative in itself is an invitation to explore, grow and evolve into something new.
I experienced the struggle of trying to stay true to myself in the process of creating this very episode. The idea for it came to me a couple of weeks ago and I was full of enthusiasm but for whichever reason, I didn’t immediately write down my notes and ideas for it other than the title. And then I sat on it because I simply wasn’t feeling it.
I kept telling myself I needed to record this episode for my own peace of mind. I’m not a person that generally copes well with things happening last minute, I like to be organised ahead of time so doing this only hours before it goes live is causing me a whole load of stress but that’s my stuff to deal with at a later date.
Equally though, I simply couldn’t bring myself to record it any earlier. But this is where it was crucial I was true to myself and to my feelings. Because yes, I could have forced myself to record this episode but then it wouldn’t have come from the positive, joyful, powerful space that I want these episodes to arrive from. And if I had done it earlier, it would certainly be a very different episode from what it is now – hopefully this one is better than the original version I had in mind but I guess we’ll never know, such is the nature of creativity.
And truthfully, if I’d said to myself today, I’m still not feeling it, I’m going to give this week a miss, that would have been okay. The world would not have ended. Because the most important part of my message in this episode would have been what I was practising, staying true to my creative self. And if my creative self wasn’t feeling it, wasn’t inspired, wasn’t ready to hit record then… okay. I didn’t get eaten by a bear, I could start again tomorrow.
What ultimately happened was I decided that I simply wanted to do this episode. I realised that evidently the concept of staying true to myself was triggering me and I decided I was going to face it, show up and do the thing anyway. So here I am with some real talk.
Because here’s a real truth for you, no one cares what you do THAT much. People are interested, yes. Cheering you on, of course. Curious? Always. But if you shifted your focus and started creating or doing something new because it felt good to you, they wouldn’t mind nearly as much as you think they would.
And going back to my earlier point where I mentioned that arising fear of, ‘what if everyone hates my work?’ Well think of it this way, yes when you shift gears, not everyone will come with you for the ride. That’s okay, not everyone is ready for it. But what you will find is that the ones who are truly aligned with you, your vision and what you do, they will be there for the duration. They are the fans that endure through thick and thin and they are worth their weight in gold. Think of it as an opportunity to let the people, fans, clients that aren’t a match for you, flow out of your orbit to create space for new people that are in love with you and what you do.
As I speak, I’m reminded of my podcast title itself: Creative Power. And this episode I think encapsulates what I truly mean with the phrase creative power. Because once we shake off the thoughts, judgements, opinions and expectations of everyone else and start listening to ourselves, that’s a truly powerful space to create from. I think it’s a massive shame that we’ve been conditioned to disregard our own internal authority in this way across the board but in terms of creativity, listening to everyone else’s opinions over your own is such a handicap to our own creative process and one that can live in our blindspot completely.
So how do we address this? How can we stay true to ourselves creatively?
I’m going to be honest with you, there’s no right or wrong answer because… I’m not you. Staying true to yourself in a creative way is going to look different for everyone. What suits me won’t suit someone else.
But one of the things that I feel has really helped me in the process of learning to stay true to myself has been increasing my self-awareness and understanding. The more we can learn about ourselves, the better because the more we can understand our behaviours, thoughts, actions and habits and potentially change or accommodate them better as we see fit.
Most people start down this path by doing personality tests like Myer-Briggs, Jungian Archetypes and so on, there are tons out there to choose from and they will all help you start to understand yourself on a deeper level. I was also introduced to the Chinese Five Elements and learnt my constitutional type (I’m an earth type!) which has had a profound impact on my understanding of myself and what does/doesn’t work for me. You could explore things like Human Design, numerology, astrology, you name it. There’s something out there for everyone and I do invite you to go exploring and learn about yourself.
It can be harder to find solid diagnostic tools for self understanding that are geared towards creatives but I do have one I’d like to share with you today and that is the Sparketype assessment by Jonathan Fields. The concept of the sparketype is that is your underlying essential nature that informs you as a creative being and as quoted on the website, quote-unquote “Your Sparketype serves as one of the single biggest clues in your quest to figure out what to do with what the poet, Mary Oliver, called your “one wild and precious life.”
I’m going to link to the sparketype assessment in the show notes, it’s free and I found mine hugely insightful so do give it a go. As I said, learning as much about ourselves as possible is crucial in the quest to be true to yourself creatively.
The other key component is listening. We lead such busy lives that it’s easy to not create space to hear ourselves think and feel but if you don’t, how will you know what you truly want? Start by looking at what you currently do creatively (or not if you’re not currently in action) and ask yourself if it lights you up. I harp on about joy a lot because it’s my word of the year but actually, it’s a really valid point – where is the joy for you? Are you following it? If not, why not? How can you bring yourself closer to that joy creatively?
Let go of other people’s judgements and expectations because honestly, much like fear, their opinions will be there whatever you do. Whether you do the thing you really want or not, someone somewhere is going to have an opinion. You can either sit there on the fence while they think it or you can go out and live your best life and leave them still thinking about it. No one will chase your joy for you or create the things you want to create on your behalf but everyone is going to have an opinion about it so you might as well do it anyway!
At the end of the day though, staying true to yourself creatively really does come down to this; genuinely listening to yourself, what you want and then honouring that. So I invite you to ask yourself, as a creative being, what do you want right now? It’s time to take a bet on yourself.