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The Creative Life: Creating for Yourself Rather Than for Others

Creativity coach Jacqui Beck provides top tips on the creative life.

Source: Eric Maisel
Creativity Coaches on Creativity.
Source: Eric Maisel

An amazing number of creatives and would-be creatives are deflated, derailed, and defeated by the opinions of others. The negative opinion may be offered by a marketplace player like a literary agent or gallery owner, by a peer like a writer in your writing group, by a consumer, like someone passing through your studio on an open studio weekend, or, so often nowadays, by someone online, voicing their opinion on social media.

It is a shame that so many creative and performing artists are deeply affected by the casual criticism of others. Why take seriously the opinion of someone else when we all know that everyone has an opinion and that every single thing ever produced, including the world’s greatest masterpieces, received scathing criticism in its day?

To take one example, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, that stalwart of the violin literature, was roundly and thoroughly panned when it was first performed! How many examples we could produce! And yet, despite all the historical examples of great works receiving criticism and despite our sure understanding that everyone has an opinion, it is nevertheless the case that creative and performing artists do get severely thrown off track by criticism. That’s the theme of today’s post, courtesy of creativity coach Jacqui Beck.

Jacqui explains:

People who create will always have to deal with critical impingement from the outside world. If you choose to share your art, you will encounter others who have things to say about your work, both good and bad. Perhaps even more challenging is dealing with your own beliefs and fears regarding what others have said, or even what they might say. Negative self-talk is one of the biggest challenges to a dynamic creative life.

The best way to take on this challenge is to keep your focus on your inner self and your creative process. Ironically, to truly touch others with your art you must initially shut them out in order to create work that is authentic and alive. Your best work is born out of what is meaningful and exciting to you. It is what you turn toward, what you’re curious about, what you want to explore.

What Happens When Outsiders and The Inner Critic Invade Your Work Space?

Depending on the type of art you create, the outside invaders vary. They are not necessarily in your workspace physically, but they may be phantoms at your shoulder: telling you what is acceptable, marketable, and “good.” Note that negative and positive criticism can affect your process. Selling your manuscript or winning an award for your painting could make you want to keep going in a direction that is no longer exciting to you, or create a block as you attempt to recreate that success.

Ways to Take Care of Your Creative Self

Many of us have been socialized to value the opinions of others over our inner knowing. Remind yourself that:

  • Not everyone will be interested in or like your work. And that’s OK.
  • Their judgment is not more valid than your own.
  • It’s up to you whether you listen to, consider, or agree with other peoples’ opinions. Terry Cole-Whittaker put it like this: “What you think of me is none of my business.” Abraham Hicks said, “People will love you. People will hate you. And none of it will have anything to do with you.”
  • A comment about your work is not a criticism of you as a person.
  • There are a lot of opinionated people out there who will tell you that their way is the right way. Not necessarily!

Your Human Rights and Freedoms

It is your right to express yourself in your own unique way. No one else can do this because no one else is you. There is no Art Police. There are people who get paid to criticize the work of others—and many who do it for free—but you cannot be put in jail for using too much black in your painting or for making the sky green.

Emily Dickenson said, “Tell it, but tell it slant.” “Slant” is your own unique way to express yourself. It’s your voice. It’s what you get when you haven’t trimmed away all the odd and wonderful variations that are you. Don’t try to please everyone! You can’t.

Final Thoughts

Even when creativity is your “job,” you can still honor your authentic self. It’s important to know the difference between creating for yourself and for others. Take time to make the work that truly inspires you.

You can visit Jacqui Beck at jacquibeck.com and see her art at instagram.com/jacquiart/.

You can visit Eric Maisel at ericmaisel.com.

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