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Inspiration

Do You Have the Courage to Live a Creative Life?

By Tanya Goodall Smith on September 19th 2014

Welcome to Time Out with Tanya, where I’ve put my fast paced graphic design career on hold in favor of adventures in motherhood. I’m capturing every moment on camera and you can come along, if you’d like. Sign up for my weekly email here so you’ll never miss a Time Out.

Do you Have the Courage to be Creative? Via slrlounge.com

In case you missed it, I went to the Click Away women’s photography conference last week and it was awesome! Read my highlights here: CLICK AWAY 2014 WOMEN’S PHOTOGRAPHY CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS. There were a few things I took away from the conference that I just had to share with you in their very own article, and one was the theme of author Elizabeth Gilbert’s keynote speech, The Courage to Live Creatively.

I arrived at Click Away feeling pretty down about my professional life at this point. Being a creative is difficult, especially if you have also committed yourself to being a “stay-at-home” mom. There aren’t enough hours in my day to keep up with the laundry and dishes, let alone the abundance of creative ideas that are constantly popping into my head. Ideas that need to be let out. That are calling to me to be created. Sometimes, I’ve felt it’s a curse.

Do you Have the Courage to be Creative? Via slrlounge.com

So, when Elizabeth opened with a question that went something like this, “Do you have the courage to bring forth the jewels that are inside of you, against all odds?” my ears perked right up. Are you lacking the courage to really live creatively? Is fear getting in the way of creating what you’re really meant to create?

Fear has most definitely played a part in stalling the creative process for me. I confess that when I went to college over 15 years ago, I wanted to be writer. But I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid I didn’t have anything valuable to say. I was afraid I would never make any money as a writer. I was afraid to put my genuine self out there. So, I chose a different course of study. Graphic Design was less personal to me than writing. Less painful to work through. It was comfortable.

I later stumbled into photography and I’m so grateful that photography as a platform gave me the courage to start writing again. But every time I post something here at SLR Lounge or on my blog, I hear that little voice of fear in the back of my mind saying, “What if they don’t like it? What if they find out you’re a fraud? What if…”

If you can relate, here are a few tips I picked up from Elizabeth’s speech that might help you work through the fear and get you over to the other side where creativity drives your decisions. I’m working on this constantly. Come with me on the journey to creating something amazing!

Make a Commitment

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Are you sure you want to live the life of a creative person? Because it requires commitment. Decide what you want to do and then make a vow to do it (I’ll talk more about this later when I give you a run down of what I learned from Sue Bryce!)

Elizabeth mentioned she knew she had to be a writer when she was about 14 years old and she basically took a vow of poverty right then and there. She would be a writer at any cost. She would wait tables to support the higher calling of being a writer. She wouldn’t let anyone or anything stop her. She saw her path to being a writer as a vocation or calling instead of a career. I love that.

So, when you compare yourself to others and find you are lacking, and question your desire to continue, ask yourself this… “Are you in it for the long haul? Do you have the courage to endure the rejection and your lack of skill in the beginning?” Great questions to ask yourself. Write down your commitment on paper. Decide what you want to do and then do it!

Stop Your Whining

At times when you throw your hands up in the air in frustration because nobody “appreciates” your work, remember these words…

Stop your whining! Nobody wants to hear it. It’s not the world’s fault you want to be an artist. Fight for your calling. Fight for the jewels that are within you.

In my notes I wrote, “Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.” Hello, ah-ha moment! Be positive about your work. Be enthusiastic about your potential and your ideas. Put positive vibes out there for the world and you’ll get positive feedback. This can also take a commitment and practice. Be intentional about the message you put out there on your social media and when you talk to your friends.

When people ask, “How is your photography coming?” I have been guilty myself of going on and on about how business is slow, how nobody wants to pay for portrait photography, how I’m not making any money. Enough already! I’m not doing that anymore. I’m going to respond with enthusiasm about my latest project and show them some pictures I’ve taken recently. Sounds like a good plan, right?

End Perfectionism Now

Another epiphany moment I had during this speech was regarding perfectionism. Elizabeth said:

Perfectionism is fear dressed in really expensive clothes. We don’t have to be perfect to be loved

She also said that “perfectionism doesn’t come from a place of self love. It’s a scarcity emotion.” This was very eye opening to me. Perfectionism is something that has always held me back. It’s something endemic in women, really. If it’s not perfect, we can’t show it to anyone, right? We can’t put it out there until it’s absolutely perfect, which means we never release it. Stop it!

So, when you have an idea, but never move forward with it or put it out into the world because it’s not perfect, you can read this quote (I’m going to post in giant letters above my desk) “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be DONE so you can move on to the next thing.”

Don’t Feel Guilty

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Since Elizabeth was talking primarily to women, this one is particular to us. GUILT. The one reason I considered not going to this conference was because I felt guilty for leaving my kids with a sitter for 3 days. So, so guilty. I heard it from so many women around me at this conference, too. And I feel it when I leave the kids for a couple hours to go do my creative thing on a regular basis. Like right now while I’m typing this article at the library…But I’ve gotten over it, because if I don’t create, I will die. Maybe not physically, but I’ve spiraled down into the depths of depression and pretty much lost the desire to live when I stifle my need to create meaningful work or connect with interesting people.

Don’t feel guilty for taking time to create. One of my favorite Elizabeth Gilbert quotes I wrote in my notes is, “Women’s creativity has always come out of stolen time and stolen materials.” Like quilts, made from discarded scraps of materials while the children slept at night. Or like one of my favorite painters, Minerva Teichert, who created over 400 gigantic murals, piece by small piece, in the kitchen of her tiny ranch home in Wyoming while raising five children. This was during the early 1900’s, when women had few rights. She had no creative community around her. No social media network, no free YouTube videos. Just paint and canvas and the need to paint.

Follow Your Curiosity

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Elizabeth mentioned following your “passion” is maybe not a good thing. Passion is impulsive. Passion is consuming. It can make you crazy. (For the love of all things holy, please don’t write “photography is my passion” on the about page of your website. For more bio writing tips, read HOW TO WRITE AN AWESOME BIO PAGE FOR YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE). She suggested instead, to follow your curiosity. What interests you? What do you want to learn about? What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning. Photography does that for me. There’s always a new technique to learn (how to add texture to your images in photoshop, for example) There’s always a new subject to photograph or an inspiring photographer to interview. Love it.

Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Historically speaking, we have more time and resources now than ever before to allow us to live a creative life. So many men and women have paved the way for us to be entitled to live creatively. Let’s not allow our own guilt and fear and self-doubt be the only thing standing in our way!

So, do you have the courage to live a creative life? How do you put fear behind you and move forward? I want to hear your thoughts…

Tanya Goodall Smith is the owner, brand strategist and commercial photographer at WorkStory Corporate Photography in Spokane, Washington. WorkStory creates visual communications that make your brand irresistible to your target market. Join the stock photo rebellion at workstoryphotography.com.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Aaron Cheney

    Wonderful article with absolutely stunning images!

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  2. Greg Krycinski

    Sound advice, I especially like the bit about perfectionism. I think people obsess too much with it (especially the gear, just look at all those pixel peepers) and get hung up on a single project for too long. It is finishing and moving on that will show best effects and will benefit your skills the most. I have recently wrote a little bit about this as I find myself a victim of it way too often. If you are interested you can have a look here: http://www.ditchitall.com/blog/creativity/embrace-imperfection/

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  3. Steven Pellegrino

    Intense topic Tanya!

    Something I try to keep in mind is that art happens in two minds, the mind of the artist and the mind of the person viewing the art. I can’t control what the viewer is thinking or how they feel, so I can’t worry about it. At times it’s difficult not to worry about it, but you can’t be all things to all people.

    The late actor George C. Scott would ask acting students – “Do you want to be an actor or do you NEED to be an actor.” If you need to be anything, you will find a way to make it happen.

    “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” – Richard Bach

    I first read that in his book Illusions.

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