In all the years I’ve worked as a therapist and creative career coach I have found in general people avoid being uncomfortable like the plague. I think it’s our natural human instinct to steer clear of anything that may cause pain or discomfort. Even if there’s no physical threat and it’s psychological discomfort, our brains will fight to snap back to old familiar patterns and ways of doing things.
But what happens when those old familiar patterns keep you from your success, creative potential, getting unstuck or making a needed career change? When we stay with what is familiar and comfortable we risk becoming complacent, especially, in areas where we’re being called to make pivotal changes or to take our creativity to the next level. Staying complacent can hinder our full creative potential. It can eventually keep us trapped in an unfulfilling career leaving us feeling uninspired and passionless about our creative work. As scary as it can be to embrace the unfamiliar and especially the unknown, this is an invitation to stretch yourself so you can be the creative person you were meant to be.
Clients I’ve worked with in the past, who were willing to face that uncomfortableness and sat with it, experienced powerful changes and lasting growth both personally and professionally. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen over night. They just made the “choice” over and over again to stretch themselves beyond that comfort zone. They knew deep down inside this was necessary in achieving forward motion and ultimately their goals and dreams.
If you have found yourself complacent or stuck when it comes to your creativity or creative career, perhaps it’s time to evaluate if you have been staying within your comfort zone. Whether that’s adopting a new perspective, a new way of doing things, trying something completely out of the ordinary, what areas have you kept yourself from stretching?
Contemplate the following questions?
What areas (developing a new skill, making an important call, embarking on a new body of work, submitting my work, career decision, etc.) have I been avoiding?
Has avoiding these areas hindered my creative success?
What could I gain from moving beyond my comfort zone?
What 3 action steps (in 2013) could I do to begin stretching myself?
“I am 57 years old, have been painting since the age of 30. I have recently earned my associates in fine art degree from our local community college. Recently I have been thinking of continuing for my bachelor of fine art degree on a part time basis. Then I have the feeling of why would you do that. It’s very expensive and you are creating all the time anyway. I feel at a crossroad and thinking my age may have a lot to do with my decision.” – Marita
Hi Marita, so glad you asked this question. It’s wonderful that you feel prompted to go back to school for your bachelors. It shows you are inspired and motivated to grow as an artist. There are many successful artists out there who don’t have a degree and are self taught. Although you can gain so much from a formal education, it’s not necessarily a determining factor for success. Like you said you’re already creating on a regular bases, which is essential to your artistic pursuits. I believe there are a lot of alternative ways to continue your artistic development. Once you have the foundational skills, you can apply it to other mediums and creative projects. However, fully immersing yourself in a degree program can accelerate your development and expose you to new concepts, theories and skills. I’m also here to say, it’s never too late, no matter your age, to go back to school. Don’t let age hinder you from doing what you want. Some of the masters didn’t hit the prime of their career until later in life. Also keep in mind, sometimes we do a great job intellectualizing ourselves out of what we really want to do. So, it’s important to get in touch with how you really feel around the idea of getting a degree. The true answer lies within You! Ask yourself the following questions: What is the primary reason I want to go back to school? What am I hoping to gain from obtaining a bachelors? Do I feel a degree will validate me as an artist? Do I really want to invest the time and energy or is it because I feel I should? When I visualize myself back in an educational setting do I feel excited and energized or trained and uninspired? I hope this was helpful and wish you the best in whatever direction you decide.
In the last few months I have been immersed in creating a body of work. Throughout the process and from my own experience, I have learned a valuable lesson about the creative process. The assumption is that in order to produce work, you simply show up in your studio, be productive, put in the hours and you will produce work. Although that is an important aspect of it, what I’ve discovered is that each day I choose to create, I not only experience creative fulfillment but more often than not I am faced with an internal battle zone. I come face to face with doubts, fears, self-judging and especially that voice that repeatedly questions what I’m doing. I’m sure many of you are familiar with that voice. The one that says “Who do you think you are? Do you really think you’re creating something worthwhile?”
Most art and design programs usually don’t equip us with the skill to constructively work with that negative voice. Instead we master the skill to muscle through those doubts and fears versus really learning how to embrace them and work with them.
One of the keys to mastering these feelings is developing the skill to become comfortable with the uncomfortableness that comes from insecurities and fears. Developing an acceptance that these fears will always be there and most importantly embracing them as part of the creative process. Having doubt and fears is not a sign that you are not talented, capable or creative enough, but that you are embarking on something deeply meaningful to you.
Why is it vital to our creativity to learn how to constructively work with our fears? Well, for me personally, I have found that when I make the conscious choice to surrender to the fear and I sit in that space long enough, something emerges. I tap into my most authentic and real creative self. I then have the opportunity to access some of my most creative ideas, instincts and expression. Although it’s not always easy to do, I realized if I let myself ride the wave of my own fears and doubts, I reach a point where it becomes easier to work with. That voice that was once screaming “Who Do You Think You Are?” becomes fainter.
If your creativity has been stifled or paralyzed by your own fears and doubts, why not try on a new perspective. Tell yourself it’s “Okay, they’re suppose to be there. They are part of the creative process.” And then create none-the-less. The better you become at mastering your fears and doubts, the more you will be able to access your true authentic creative expression.
I was reading over some of the most inspiring quotes from Steve Jobs and although I’ve read them before, they still re-inspire me over and over again. This one really hits home for me and something I often encourage my clients on.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – STEVE JOBS
Pursuing a life as an artist and creative professional is not a straight road, but one that includes many twists and turns. Throughout my own process in discovering what is truly aligned with my heart and intuition, I’ve learned to welcome those twists and turns. They are essential in the process of defining and uncovering what it is we really want to do.
Don’t get me wrong those twists and turns can be sometimes painful and no doubt uncomfortable to be in when you’re right smack in it. Those periods are often plagued with uncertainty, self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy and disappointment. But I’m here to say that it’s okay to be in that space.
It takes a lot of courage to ride out those twists and turns to see what is waiting for you on the other side. That other side might simply be a change in your career, redefining your design or artistic style, quitting a job that is uncreative or finally writing that novel you’ve put off for years.
My wish for all of those out there pursing a creative career is that you don’t need permission to do what it is you really love to do and really want to do. When you finally give yourself the “OK” to do what you love, you get creative on making your biggest dreams a reality.
After years of working in your creative industry it’s easy to get settled in the routine of your career. But for many of us come mid career we start yearning for something to rekindle that passion for our work and inspiration in our creativity.
It can sneak up on us and suddenly one day we find ourselves feeling bored and uninspired with the projects we’re working on and questioning the direction of our career.
It’s typical to try to brush this feeling off by going on vacation, taking time off or introducing new activities into our personal life. Although these things are important to explore, what I have found with my clients is that these avenues didn’t resolve the real issue at hand.
Being able to recognize the signs that you may be in need of a career change is vital. It’s paying attention to the prompting coming from your own creative self.
Believe me, I understand if it comes down to having to consider making a serious decision around your career, it can be a scary reality to look at.
What I’ve discovered working with countless creative professionals is that part of being creative is that your creativity craves new ways to express itself. The nature of creativity is that it always wants to expand and maximize it’s potential in whatever avenue or form that is.
But like many of us creative individuals, we weren’t taught how to recognize the signs that our creativity might be starving or in need of a career shift.
What signs should you look for?
Lack motivation to do your creative work
A sense of dissatisfaction with a job or work you once loved
Easily distracted by what other people are doing or suggesting you do
Unable to focus on one direction because unclear where to take your career
Grasping at possible solutions hoping to awaken passion in your work
Feeling unsure of what you really want to do
Lack of creativity or inspiration
Feeling an urgency to make a drastic career decision
Struggling with being productive
Feeling of dread when starting a new project or assignment
Feeling disheartened around not utilizing your full creative potential
Seriously questioning if you should stay in your profession or industry
Maybe you need to consider learning new skills to add to your existing expertise. Perhaps it’s seeking out more challenging projects or something more pivotal like a career change. Maybe you just have a sense you may need a change, but feel unclear on where to start.
We all have our blind spots. That is why it’s important to get the support and guidance to help get clear and define what steps to take so you can begin to get a sense of a direction. For this reason it’s crucial to invest in a program, join a group of other professionals, talk to a mentor, hire a coach or simply begin to ask yourself the following questions:
What things (type of work, form of art, hobby, etc) excite & energizes me?
From my dear friend and guest contributor John Sovec
“You have to have a life to bring your best to the table as an actor” These words where surprisingly enough from my agent when I was talking to him about turning down a job because I was burned out and run down. Although his percentage as my agent was on the line as well, he emphasized how vital it was for actors to get out and live a full life as an important facet of being a fully realized performer. Living a full life is a valuable catalyst for fueling the creative spark in all of us.
As kids, we tend to be more open to the idea of learning just for the fun of learning but as adults the cues aren’t as clear and we often lose our inspiration to learn new things amid various commitments and responsibilities that demand our attention and time. When we do make time to learn a new skill it is often related to career advancement with the learning seen as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Perhaps, just like kids returning to school, we can find methods of inspiring our adult selves to learn something new in an area that interests us and brings us enjoyment, just for the sake of learning.
So how can you apply this concept to your life? A powerful way you can inspire and motivate that growth process is to view learning as a constant evolution of refining, and polishing. Just as you need to eat well, exercise and get your rest, learning is a way to stimulate the mind and feed the spirit to keep you active and engaged in life.
It is easy to come up with reasons not to take a class, workshop, or online course including lack of time, money, confidence, or interest, and lack of information about opportunities to learn. But in reality, these are just excuses.
When you overcome the internal resistance, entering into a learning environment can open the doors to making new friends, boosting self-esteem, cultivating hidden talents and discovering new aspects of your creative self.
Learning is an ongoing experience where you can commit to growth and self -expression not just as an artist but also as person. Seeking knowledge satisfies an inquiring mind and can stimulate you to take risks and chances, giving a welcome break from the routine of work and home that can become a source of resentment if you’re not careful.
So take a chance and put some energy into learning something new. Seek out local colleges, community centers, online courses, books, yoga studios, meditation centers cooking classes. Ask friends about any cool courses that they are taking not directly related to your artistic genre. Use these classes to re-energize and invigorate yourself. Its’ a good bet that these classes will open up your artistic side and allow you to bring even more to the table for your next creative project.
Dare yourself to step outside your comfort zone and learn something new just for the fun of learning.
John Sovec is a therapist in Pasadena, California who will help you to rediscover the passion in your life. With a compassionate, focused, and humorous style he will assist you in overcoming the challenges that are keeping you blocked and empower you to Experience Your Life. To learn more visit JohnSovec.com
In the past week I’ve been watching the Olympics and have been fascinated by the fearlessness these Olympians display as they compete. What we are seeing isn’t the absence of fear, but years of learning how to work past that fear or doubt in order to tap into their potential. The same applies when pursuing a creative career.
In my past experiences whether it was an interview with a renowned design firm, writing my first article for publication, a career change or experimenting with a new form of art, there was always an element of doubt and fear.
I have come to know these two very well, because I have recognized that they will always be there whenever you are facing the unknown or pursing a path that doesn’t promise a guarantee. I have learned to accept them like fellow companions on whatever journey I’m on.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I necessarily “welcome” their presence and in fact they always bring their share of anxiety and uncomfortableness. But I’ve grown accustomed to becoming comfortable with the uncomfortableness.
I think whenever we are pursuing our passion, our dream, especially when there is no clear map for success, there will always be doubt and fear. Because deep down we really want to see our dreams become reality, but a part of us fears it won’t happen.
When it comes to pursing a creative career, the goal isn’t to pursue your passion without fear or doubt, but instead understanding that is it a normal part of facing the unknown. It’s to be expected when pursuing something that means everything to you.
To pursue your passion with a fearlessness means taking the necessary steps to move forward despite the presence of fear and doubt.
I was watching a documentary about the dying art of Jazz music. It showed a group of Jazz musicians coming together, combining their talents to create music by spontaneously improvising. I was intrigued by the trance like process as they lost themselves in the slow emergence of music only defined by a common rhythm and key.
In an interview with the trumpet player, something he said really got me thinking. He shared something that one of his favorite musicians said. That the music he created came from “who he was.” This was a scary realization for the trumpet player, because it meant that as a musician he had to get in touch with his true self.
During our education, training or when we’re working for someone else, it’s easy to get thrown off track from how we originally envisioned ourselves as a creative professional or working artist.
Perhaps you pictured yourself becoming a jazz musician, but ended up playing background music for a TV show or maybe you yearned to create beloved animation films and ended up working on video games. Perhaps your true desire was to be a mixed media artist, but ended up painting murals for hotels.
Although it’s important to find ways to financially support yourself throughout your career, it’s equally important to stay aligned and connected to your authentic dreams and goals. Most importantly connected to what works for you and who you are.
Part of conveying your authentic creative expression is getting in touch with who you are and giving yourself the permission to stay true to that vision without being hindered by parameters, expectations or ideas of the world and others.
When you stay aligned with your true self, you are more inclined to create work that comes from the heart and soul of who you are. When you risk being truly authentic in your work it adds a depth and richness that reflects what is truly meaningful to you.
In a world filled with reality shows, the next miracle diet, false images of success, I do believe the world is craving authenticity. As you create authentically you give the world the opportunity to connect with what is real and those genuine parts of who you are. Your true gift to the world.
Life Experiences. Don’t be afraid to explore experiences from your life in your work. Keep record of day-to-day experiences, connections, conversations with others that ignite inspiration, ideas, etc. Sometimes our own life experiences give us valuable material for our creative work. Staying connected to those experiences that move you or trigger a deeper meaning or understanding is the genuine ingredients to authentic creative expression. Therefore, our work becomes a reflection of ourselves.
Transforming fear and self-doubt. Sometimes fear and self-doubt can hold us back from fully exploring our most innovative ideas and taking risks in our work. Developing the skills to work through fear and self-doubt transforms it into productive energy, which you can channel into your work. This opens up the space and provides the opportunity to access rich material for authentic creative expression.
Stay True to Your Vision. Don’t conform your work to what the world wants. Although it’s important to take in consideration your audience, it’s important that you are not allowing fear of not being accepted or embraced dictate what you’re creating. Be aware if you are conforming to what everyone else is doing. Are you taking the safe approach or solution to your work? Or are you allowing your unique style or voice to come through? Some of our most innovative creators did not become well known by conforming to what everyone else was doing, it was because they broke out of what was expected.
Continued Personal Growth. Most design or art programs in colleges don’t always provide you all the life and personals skills necessary to thrive and succeed in pursuing a creative career. Don’t under estimate how closely your creativity is tied to you personally. Make your own self-growth an essential part of your career path. Hire a coach or therapist to help you grow in areas that will keep you connected to your true self. The more self-aware, the more you understand your own process the more authentic you will be in your work.
Always check in with yourself. Check in with yourself periodically during a project or a piece can give you valuable information. Ask yourself the following questions: How am I feeling about how this piece is coming together? Does it align with who I am and what I’m trying to express? Sometimes we get lost in the process of producing we become disconnected from the original meaning and purpose that inspired us to create. Make sure you take the time to reconnect with your core inspiration.
In my experience coaching creative professionals who are in the process of looking for a job, I have come up against a common theme. A preoccupation with proving that they are creative enough, skilled enough, educated enough to be hired. This perspective will set you up for a one sided interview, making it all about proving you are “worthy” enough for the position.
Although it’s equally important to make sure your talents and skills shine, it is also imperative that you interview the company to see if they are a good fit for you and your ultimate vision. Remember if you are considering working 40+ hours a week for this company, it is vitally important you are also evaluating them.
When it comes to working as a creative professional, it is essential that the company you are considering to work for possesses a mindset and environment that will support your creativity.
In an article on OnlineMBA.com titled “13 Ways Companies Kill Creativity,” it points out aspects to look for in a company if you are seeking an environment where your creativity can flourish. This is so essential to the creative professional, because in order for creativity to thrive, it requires enough fluidity and freedom in the work environment. So if you’re out there looking for the right job in your creative industry, do your research and make sure the company you’re considering working for is going to provide you what you need to support your creative potential and success.