creative confidence 101

I realize I've been putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself to do more than I'm capable of, for no apparent reason. I've been denying myself of my natural process, and have also lost touch with my confidence in execution. I don't know where I fell off so hard with my thoughts, but it has been months since I've written a post without editing things down a million times. Something is off. Something is missing. Something is standing in my way of focus. I figure this is the perfect time to get started on some personal projects, to help pull myself out of it. I'm good at that. I'm encouraging myself to find my strengths. I didn't think I had any until I went looking for them. I feel I have many yet still to discover. That's why I'm here.

When I help people sort out their creative puzzles, whether it be finding the inspiration to be more creative, to nailing down the proper skills, or understanding their creative passions; I always start with the same piece of advice. Well, I have a few pieces, but number one is to do what I call Peter Pan-ing yourself. I've written about it before, so I don't need to go too far into detail. Basically, I'm asking you to get back in touch with your inner child, the person you were from the start, the person you still are; the person you need to nurture and allow to shine through. It's who you are to the core. You are far more valuable than you allow yourself to realize.

I often keep pictures of myself on my desk, as influence to embrace my creative confidence. I could trash myself so easily, and yet, when I put that kid out in front of me, my view changes entirely. I care about that kid, big time. She has a big heart, and a mind so deep you could get lost in it. I'm a busy dreamer; almost as intense as Walter Mitty. Ask that kid to fill a book with stories in a day, and she would. She did. I'm just sorting out where some of those pieces got lost along the way. I'm looking to that kid to help me find the answers. They're there, and she knows how to find them. I just have to stop trying to be a magnificent adult, and listen.

It might sound strange to hear it from me, but creative confidence has always been a struggle. I'm also terribly insecure about being labelled as an artist. Not only does it sound -to me- to be incredibly eccentric (as we can't go without our turtlenecks, judgemental sneers, and tilted berets) I also grew up with a weird societal concept that creative thought lacked real and useful intelligence. I'm not even kidding when I say that I felt like Forrest Gump through most of my school years, because I didn't know how to retain information if it wasn't delivered creatively. I wish I'd known then that it was just how my mind worked. Not a weakness. Not stupid at all. Stupid is as stupid does. 

Confidence, in general, is a tough one to trust and embrace fully, because those who don't have it will attempt to make it difficult for you... including yourself. There's this weird sensation that comes with confidence, because as we gain it, we change. And as we change, so do those around us. It becomes a certain process of dealing with loss at the same time as celebrating the gain. Confidence is tough! As I learn to accept my own; I notice that I care far less about what others think of me, and I spend little to no time trying to earn anyone's acceptance or approval. Like me for who I am, because I'm only trying to do the same. It's a tricky balance that gets easier with time, as you learn to trust it. Just like your creative confidence. Love what you're made of, and don't be scared to let it out.

I like to ask people, what was your favourite project in school(?) because it often stirs up a storm of excitement that is reminiscent to how we express as children. We get jacked up, we jump in, and we deliver with joy. For me, my favourite memory was when one of my teachers brought in a typewriter (the olden days laptop) typed out the classroom's creative stories and coil bound the pages into individual books. Each page had room for illustrations, and inside each construction paper cover/title page, was a -very real- library card to stamp and sign out. For a kid who loved nothing more than reading and writing, this was a dream come true! I will always remember how much I valued that project, and how it made me feel. I don't hang onto much, and yet I still have those books, and the ones I made later on in my own free time. Part of building creative confidence is searching for the root of your interests. If it makes you shine, it's your passion. Grab hold of it, and make something of it. I now know mine. 

In school, I always excelled at anything creative; especially writing. I took to poetry, silly rhymes, and short stories that delivered an emotional or even nonsensical message. I was naturally good at it; so much, that my teachers brought attention to it and made it known to others. I suppose this is why I struggle with positive attention; because it made me a target for ridicule and trolling. It's that threat of confidence that I was talking about earlier. Don't be afraid of it. Let the lumps pout it out on their own, until they learn to do it for themselves. You don't owe anyone explanation for what you believe in. Let it out, and be proud of it.

When Creative Writing transformed into English class, I know that is where I lost interest in writing the way I used to. Rather than write what I felt, or what I dreamed of, I was asked to write with reason, for an answer. After endless (boring) group discussions, analyzing the pages of Brave New World, for months on end; someone in my Advanced English group project wrote my review as "I don't think she read the book." This really let me down. It really made me resent my natural abilities, because suddenly I was told I was wrong. I believe this is how most of us lose touch with our passions. It doesn't take much to build a roadblock, but it can take years to knock it down.

I'm still trusting my strengths, and figuring out how to share them with others. Hey, it's why we're here, reading this lengthy blog post that seems to feel all over the map in information. I'm not deleting it. I want it out of my system. It's just like the advice I give to those who want to explore their creative side again. Just try. Try! Don't think too hard, and definitely don't rob the fun out of it. As grownups we know how to make every single thing become so lame through question, complaint, comparison, and reason. Or at least that's how I have often viewed grownups; and why I cried about ever being one when I was little. I was smart enough to know that I was going to lose touch with something I was naturally good at, because growing up involves taking everything so damn seriously. Ask a kid to draw a monster, and I doubt you'll be seeing them asking for reference on how to draw an actual monster. They just do it. They look into their minds and make it happen. This is why I say that reaching back toward your inner child will save you. They just want you to have fun again. Real fun. Not like the fun you have by paying your bills on time. Ugh.

As an even more enjoyable representation of who I am as a person, I like look at the personality of my dog. People often say that our pets reflect who we are, and if that's the case I'm both honoured and a little bit scared (totally kidding). Breakfast's greatest strength is that he's young at heart. Often, most people think he's a puppy, because of how he reacts to greetings and invitations to engage in play. He can make a game out of just about anything, and get anyone to join him. Every day, I look at him and think, "hey, you're pretty great." My four legged fountain of youth. I'm so glad he reminds me to laugh and play, every single day. Without fail. What a gift he has.

And while I'd say that I'm great at being creative most days, not every day is successful. Like today. I spent hours trying to write this -stupid- post out to sound right, and only now am I writing and telling myself not to delete it. Why? Because that's also the advice I give to people who want to experiment with their creative side. Let it out and let it be. Get a book, some pens (there aren't any secret magic materials that artists use), find what makes you happy, and just fucking do it. Really, sorry to be french about it, but I'm just feeling a bit frustrated with myself.. and it suits this post entirely. Don't stand in your own way of doing what matters to you. If you have expectations to be at a certain skill level, or what your concept of "good" is, or what makes it worth it to you; then that's an entirely different post. If you want more of yourself, practice. If you want to start somewhere, be easy on yourself, or else it's going to end quickly. Stop being a grownup about it, lame-o.

My last bit of advice as you chip away at finding your creative spirit, is to just shut up. I might sound rude here, but really. Shut up with the excuses, shut up about how you don't have time, shut up about how you "suck" at art, shut up about how dumb your drawings might look, shut up about comparison to others, shut up about how you're going to fail, shut up about every little thing that makes YOU stand in your own way. I'm great at this game too, and I've been drawing all of my life. What makes me nuts though is when I encourage people to play, and they flop over with the excuse that I'm somehow going to judge them for trying. Guess what. You're putting words in your own mouth, to stop before you begin. Stop making me out to be the master of judgement. My arms are open to you to get out there and try. Shut up and play. I just want you to express what's hiding in there. The beauty isn't in the skill level, it's in trusting your natural voice. Your creativity, is your voice. Please speak up!

For real though, go out and get yourself a book. Sit down with it for even just a minute a day, and don't pay any attention to how you might want to talk yourself out of it. No one is putting a single bit of pressure on you, but you. There's no invisible audience waiting to laugh at you. There's no one standing behind you waiting to ask for your rationale. No one has to "get" what you're up to. Hell, you don't even have to know what you're up to. Draw something that comes to mind, or just mindlessly doodle. Write down a word, the lyrics to your favourite song, write a poem, a sonnet, a haiku. Research something interesting that you want to learn, jot it down, draw a picture of it. No one is going to see it but you. If you want to share it, share it. Creativity is something all for yourself, and that's the beauty behind it. When you gain confidence, you can share it.. and guess what, others will surely follow. That's the beauty of learning how to play. Just be. Seriously, Peter Pan yourself hard. Let that kid inside of you do what it has always been good at. I have yet to even address the things I'm looking to explore for myself. Funny, it involves writing... and here we are. I made it. I got this out of my system.

Go find that kid inside of you and let it out. I'm sure it has a lot of fun things to show you.