I’m writing this article for all of you creative souls who believe you need to study or take courses (or maybe even get a degree!) before you can paint or draw, write a book or create a play. For all of you who were told you weren’t creative and stopped trying. For all of you who have kept quiet at work and held back ideas and insights you’d love to share but don’t because you’ve judged them outside the confines of the acceptable.
What I’m going to tell you now might make some of you a bit defensive. Especially those of you on the other end of the scenarios I’m describing – the mentors, bosses and experts who believe firmly in certain ways of doing things, rules that need to be followed, the importance of being realistic, and the past as the best guide to the way forward.
I’m totally fine if you disagree. I’m putting this out there anyway because I believe that the best way for me to serve the world is to honestly share what I’ve seen and experienced, even when people don’t like what they hear. I’ve learned not to worry about complying with common “wisdom” when I notice it’s not serving my clients and, in fact, is preventing them from being all they could be.
So here’s what’s bothering me. Far too often when my clients describe their back stories, they sadly reflect on how they’ve ignored their own creative spirit in some way. They regret not having created something they would love to have created – in whatever sphere it was that called to them. And they’re still labelling their creative aspirations impossible.
What so many people do is to let the weight of other people’s judgments and rules – imagined or spoken – govern what they allow themselves to do. My clients lament that they’re constrained by “shoulds”. They don’t realize they could broaden their frontiers and live from a place of unlimited possibility.
Here’s a typical scenario. Della feels inspired. She wants to express her inspiration. She picks her favourite means of expressing it. She creates something joyfully, something that comes from the deepest part of her.
But then she makes a strategic mistake. She does the one thing that will squash her creativity. She looks for external validation. She decides that her own instinct is inadequate and she seeks out the opinion of another human being about the merits of her creative project. She defers to another person she’s deemed an authority – a teacher, university professor, more established artist, colleague, coach, boss or seasoned entrepreneur. And Della listens to that person’s judgments as though what they said were the rule of law.
Because they’re the expert, right?
But what the expert says boxes in Della. He voices a strong opinion about what should be changed in her writing, artwork or business idea. She tells Della some things she should know. He warns Della to be realistic. She tells Della how things are done. He tells Della what sells and what doesn’t. She tells Della that this is accepted by the market, but not that.
So often, what transpires is not a learning. It’s not a downloading of wisdom. It’s actually an unlearning. It is an unknowing. Although the advice is usually grounded in good intentions, it often acts as a disservice.
Della’s deepest self already knew what to do. Her deepest self knew what colour to apply, what word to choose, what message needed to be heard, what new business the market might entertain, or what new human need might be satisfied.
But she rejects what she knows to be true. She adopts the views of the expert. She learns how not to be creative.
I saw this even with my own daughter. When she was six or seven, she drew a freehand drawing of her Dad sitting in an armchair. She captured the essence of him. She captured the delicious, lazy feeling of the moment. It was a wonderful drawing.
By the time Alanna was nine, she was drawing people as stick figures. Perfectly round circles for their heads. A triangle for the girl’s dress. Straight lines for legs.
No more beautiful moments or feelings captured in her art.
By age nine, Alanna had “learned” how to restrict her drawings to be similar to what her peers were doing and what her teacher expected. If she was doing her art differently from the others, it must be wrong. After that, Alanna’s drawing always conformed to the rest of the children’s artwork.
When Alanna got older, she laughed when I referred to her as “artistic”. “Oh, Mom. I can’t draw at all!”
And so begins a typical story of how our disconnection from the source of our creative spirit begins. We allow our teacher, mentor, boss or peers to put our creativity in a box and close the lid. We make ourselves small, when we could be big.
So often, we are left feeling dispirited. Unenthusiastic. We feel the opposite of the “room without a roof” in Pharrell Williams’ song. We feel more like a room in the basement. With the door closed and locked.
We shut ourselves off from our intuition and knowing. We don’t permit ourselves access to the unlimited creative potential that is available to all of us.
So here is my recommendation.
When an expert tells you how to limit your creativity, thank him for his views. Tell her that you appreciate her sharing her wisdom with you. And then go out and do exactly what feels right to you.
When I used to be a partner in an accounting firm and there were so many rules and limitations, it was easy to notice how often those rules stifled good ideas. So I used to advise my mentees to just trust their gut and run with their ideas. To always beg for forgiveness instead of seeking permission ahead of time. And guess what – my group outperformed!
The habit of seeking expert advice, approval or permission – that is a habit that guarantees fewer creative ideas will emerge, the quality of the ideas that do emerge will be dimmed and the best ideas will remain unexpressed.
So, artists, please don’t change your painting to add more blue because a friend said your painting would look better that way. Authors, please write from your heart and not for a market defined avatar. Trust that the audience who needs to hear what you say is waiting to hear it. Employees, please bravely put your new ideas on the table, even if they’re not within the confines of what is expected in your role.
Remember that it is the rule breakers amongst us who cause society to evolve, technology to advance, new products to be created and inspired art to surface. Remember that Monet broke the rules of what good painting should be. Remember that every truly great person in history did something brand new, thought something no one had thought before, or created something previously deemed impossible.
Just this week, try being a rule breaker! And notice what shifts for you.
If you’d like to explore how to create the life you want, I’m regularly onboarding clients for my 12 week and 20 week Love Your Life Again one-on-one online coaching programs. I’ll help you connect with your dreams, learn how to navigate through obstacles and challenges, and create a life you love. Sign up for one of my free personal strategy sessions to discuss your issues and see if you’re a good fit for one of my programs. To schedule your free session, just click on one of the links throughout this website or cut and paste this in your browser: https://gracedcanvascalendar.as.me/schedule.php.
I’m also offering two ways to step out of your busy schedule, relax, experience nature and coach with me live at my beautiful property and workshop space in Prince Edward County. If you like community, join me for my Love Your Life Again group coaching retreat from November 23-25, 2019. If you’d like a customized coaching experience and a way to kickstart out of the box thinking, join me for a solo one day Creative Soul Intensive retreat experience at a time that suits both our schedules. If you’d like more details, just DM me here or write to me at email@example.com.
If you’d like to receive my monthly newsletter with coaching insights and selected information about my coaching programs and retreats, just DM me here with your email address, click on the email link under the Work with Me tab on this website, or send your email directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.