A creative block specific to women – and how to overcome it

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Women artists: how much is your work held back by the fear that you will be criticised and that this will hurt your sense of self worth?

Women have this double whammy of social conditioning which affects our creativity:

1). The lie that ourselves and our work are separate, that ‘taking it personally’ is a bad thing.

2) The lie that, as we are taking it personally, criticism means we are disliked as people.

As women are taught that likeability is a top life goal. This is a serious block.

Many artists overcome it by insisting that their work isn’t a part of them in any way. They push their art out of the nest before it can fly, they work without loving their work. This is disassociation.

Let me tell you: the work of my hands is as personal as it gets. Telling us to disconnect emotionally from our work is mechanistic, unnatural, patriarchal nonsense.

Let me tell you this, too: nobody has to like you or anything you make. It is not your job to ‘be liked’, it is not the job of art to be pleasing.

It is your job to ‘be you’.

It is your job to show up with love and create, lovingly and fiercely and without compromise.

It is art’s job to come into being in the mind of others, through marks, words, sounds.

The truth is that we can both love our work and see it as part of ourselves AND not associate our entire sense of worth based on whether anyone likes it or not.

That is the essence of non-attachment. To love and to let go.

All women know how to do this, instinctively, but we’ve been taught to forget how.  For some of us that teaching didn’t ‘take’ and that’s wonderful – but I see it too often to ignore the fact that this is very real for many women.

Sit with that. What does that look like for you, as a creative woman, to embrace this idea?

If you are a creative woman who wants to connect in circle with other women to bring your art to the world (and make your living from your work), please take a look at The Spiral Forge – my small coaching circle.

Artists as public property

People have some mighty funny ideas about artists.

They think we become open to public scrutiny and obliged to defend our work and even our lifestyles and families the minute we make art and put it out in public.

This one misconception kills millions of creative dreams.

13901500_1267592673275334_8436995073005668262_nThe thought that you must sacrifice your privacy and peace of mind on the altar of your art is, quite understandably, enough to frighten off many a sensitive, privacy-loving creative person.

This misconception also unfairly targets women, as we already come into this world with a heavy burden of public commentary on our bodies, behaviour and family life. Often the additional stress of public scrutiny which art brings is too much. I can only guess but imagine other marginalised groups face specific challenges here, too.

I assert that this ‘you are public property now that you did something public’ lie is exactly that – an utter falsehood and a harmful one at that.
History is filled with artists about whom we know very little. Even in this very publicity-addicted age, it is up to *you* how much of yourself you share with the world at large.

I remember a journalist accosting Freddie Mercury and asking him for an interview – to be rebuffed with a ‘Don’t be ridiculous’. In his long career he rarely spoke to the press, he let his performances and music speak for themselves.

Your life, your art, your career: you get to do it YOUR way. You owe the public nothing but your art.

I’ll say it again: you owe the public NOTHING but your art.

You never have to share, defend, or explain, one thing about yourself if you don’t choose to.

Certainly, fear of visibility is a massive block for artists. Sharing the story behind your art is powerful and if you want to do it, do it.

But it is not *compulsory* and allowing public intrusion on your life to block your creative work is pointless.

In this I say what I always say: 

Do what you need to do to make and share your art. The world needs your art. It is why you are here: to make meaning of the world and to share that with others.

Some do that by baring their souls.

Some by baring their bodies – as many powerful feminist artists have done.

But nobody does it by surrendering their rights to freedom and privacy. Hold firm.

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble 

I love getting compliments as much as the next gal but let me be really clear, no false modesty:  

I am not above averagely intelligent (although I was fortunate to have a good education and a family that supported my learning – a totally unearned advantage, I might add, that I can take zero credit for).

9824730184_b47cb530f5_bI am not above averagely kind or compassionate – ask the people I’ve hurt or treated poorly in my personal and professional life.  

I am not above averagely observant, good at communication or creatively ‘gifted’ – I had to learn those skills through practice just like everyone does and I’m still learning.

I am not above averagely tolerant – in fact impatience, stubbornness and inability to see how life is for other people are particular flaws I have.  I have a foot in my mouth pretty much all the time.

I am not in possession of large amounts of energy. I am blessed with pretty good health but exhaustion is a regular feature of my life, too. 

Why do I say all this? Not to get you to contradict me (please don’t) but to make sure you aren’t watching my work and life thinking I’m somehow better at all this than you are. I’m not.

It’s disempowering for you if you elevate me in any way above other people and above yourself. It’s also unkind to me because I cannot and will not be able to keep myself in that lofty position, because: human. 

Inevitably if you think I’m some superhuman, I am going to disappoint you and that won’t end well for me, or for you.

I want you to know that I am able to love myself and celebrate (and more importantly, use) my positive qualities even though I’m well aware of most of the negative ones.

I don’t ignore them and neither should you – but they don’t define who I am.  They don’t define who I am.  

Most of all, because this post isn’t really about me, I want to say that even being a super flawed human in a super flawed world, I can still do useful things – most importantly, so can YOU!

My superpower

I refuse to see my sensitivity as a weakness.
I refuse to ‘toughen up’ or just laugh and brush off hurts.
My big, soft, open heart is my superpower.  
My vulnerability and ability to feel deeply makes me a better, kinder, wiser version of myself than I ever imagined I could be. 
I believe that open, unedited, wildly compassionate people are required to take this species of ours up to the next level of evolution. Right now. I believe it’s our only hope. 
I commit to healing, boundary setting, support allowing and emotion-venting as much as I need to in order to function from a place of my own rawest truth.
I will not apologise. I will not hide who I am. I will not let a hard shell develop. I will not feel shame for my softness. 
What is your superpower and how do you nurture it?