“My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely).”
These are the words of one of my ‘super heroes’ when it comes to creative living – author Liz Gilbert. In her latest book “Big Magic”, as well as in her famous TED talk, she speaks about lightness that should be associated with creativity, not torment.
I often have to remind myself of that, because there are times when my creativity, especially when I express it professionally through dance and choreography, the most personal out of all my creative endeavours, leads to anguish, worries and depression. I know it’s not healthy, but how do you not take it too seriously when you are pouring so much of yourself into your work?
There are some other creative activities, however, which, on the contrary, I take very lightly, like translating, for example. When I translate a text (doesn’t matter how boring it is), I give it a new life by expressing it through another language. To me it’s a beautiful creative process, but there’s a distance between me and that text. I don’t necessarily relate to it personally, I just craft it and leave it. I don’t need anyone to appreciate it, and comments or critical feedback don’t usually bother me that much, not anymore at least.
Then, of course, there are creative hobbies which I take with various degrees of sensitivity, but since not that many people have access to them, it doesn’t affect me much if one or two people don’t find the things I create impressive enough.
Each one of these activities taught me something about creativity. What I came to realise is that there is a correlation between how much I get attached to the work that I create and the amount of satisfaction I get from it. The stronger is the attachment, the less space for joy there is left. Subconsciously I was fighting this co-dependency by doing what I’ve been always really good at (and many multipotentialites are):
Do anything to scale down this seriousness, this expectation to achieve the best possible result at any cost. Take a detour, search for inspiration in a related or a completely different field, or if nothing works, take a break. And then, when ready… get back to that task with some freshness, lightness and new inspiration.
It might seem counterproductive, but it has always worked for me. I find that it’s really important to remember that our work is not us. We are not our work. Our creativity is there to help us and bring joy into our life, not to drain us. That is why working simultaneously as a performer/choreographer and a translator has always worked for me perfectly – it allowed me to constantly shift my attention and get back to where I left from feeling more focused, energized and a little less stressed.
How about procrastination?
Yes, I admit, there’s also a danger of sinking into procrastination when you can no longer force yourself to get back to that thing you worked on so hard. I know procrastination really well and, yes, like everyone else I try to escape it. But I’ve also learnt to trust it. It forces me to ask an uncomfortable question – is this work still important to me? Is it, honestly?
If, yes (for any reason, be it personal, professional, or financial) – I try to be as creative as I can, as gentle, imaginative and patient as possible, while talking myself into finishing it.
If not… I leave it (even though my inner perfectionist protests and objects loudly). After all, my world or anyone else’s world won’t collapse. It never did.
I’ve also learnt that by leaving behind tasks and works that are no longer important or fulfilling we always open up space for something new and exciting. Without exception.
Happy creativity, everyone!