Let's think things through
Producing creative work takes different effort, both in kind and degree, than it does to consume it. Generating and implementing novel ideas—rather than taking them in—requires experimenting, risk-taking, facing the possibility of failure and criticism, exerting mental energy, and sacrificing the comfort of the familiar. Such tasks take courage. They can be minefields of fear and anxiety—two frequent companions during creative journeys. To avoid these feelings we become inactive and spend more time in the role of the recipient instead of the role of the creator. This is why we might be inclined to spend hours scrolling through people's social media feeds, watching hours of videos online, binge-watching shows, or reading countless blog posts and articles written by others: it can feel psychologically safer to be consumers of creativity than to be producers. When we listen to music that's already been composed, we don't become overwhelmed by the countless options that arise during the composition of a new song. Reading someone else's novel doesn't nag us with blocks about what to do with character and plot development. Following other creators' artistic ideas online puts us in the role of the critic, instead of the role of the anxious contestant. The list goes on and on...
For some, avoiding the fear of creating seems to work just fine and does not pose emotional challenges. They may not have an itch for innovative thinking or artistic expression. However, for most creative people, not starting or not finishing a creative project is painful and frustrating. They see days go by with little progress on their creative ideas, all while spending much of their time seeing what other creators are bringing to life. They watch movies, listen to music, go to shows, use technology, and take part in experiences in which they're mere recipients of creative stimulation—they're not the ones doing it despite a longing for creative pursuits.
Luckily, for those who yearn to become producers of creativity rather than consumers, three key concepts can help manage psychological deterrents.
1. “I want to give back” The first concept emphasizes the idea that creative work is a contribution—one that plays a part (even if it's a small one) in shaping the collective creative realm. People can spend their entire lives as recipients of others' creative work, but it's not until they give something back that they fulfill the role of the contributor. Even if a song gets fewer than 100 listeners, it can still make a significant contribution to those who something out of it. The desire to participate in the exchange of content and ideas is powerful. Creators can ask themselves “why not give back to the vast world of creative contributions?”
2. “I can handle fear and anxiety” Another concern for creative people, one that makes them likelier to remain consumers instead of producers, is the worry that they'll be overwhelmed with the negative feelings that naturally arise during a challenging creative process. Sometimes the negative feelings (such as fear and anxiety) stem from not knowing how to proceed, or from facing the disappointment of unsatisfactory results. Creators who prepare themselves to cope with such feelings and who become empowered in knowing that they can handle them should they arise (sometimes with with the help of a therapist), are likelier to take the plunge and try creating something.
3. “Fulfilling creative potential is a form of self-care” Another way to set the creative process in motion is to think of creativity as a lifestyle choice meant to maximize well-being. Fulfilling our creative potential is a need associated with psychological health. Those who are inclined to generate many ideas will become mentally stifled and frustrated if they don't act on them. Non-conformist, innovative thinkers need to express their thoughts in order to live authentically. Rich and complicated emotional experiences need to be represented creatively so that those in distress can process and cope with their feelings. Thinking about the self-serving role of producing creative work makes it likelier that someone will move from the role of the consuming recipient to the role of the active creator.
By Olga Gonithellis
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