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Dave Storer : Creativity is Your Birthright

Creativity is Your Birthright

How to Get Over Feeling You Don't Have ‘Permission’ to Create

By Dave Storer

Several common lines of thought lead many people to the false conclusion that they don't have the right, or sufficient "permission" to create. Some examples:

  • Only the "true" artists — the really talented ones — get to create. All the rest of us are amateurs and dilettantes and should be embarrassed to admit to any artistic interest or ambition.
  • If you don't demonstrate great talent, or at least serious potential, pretty much right from the beginning of your engagement with an art form, then you're clearly not one of the above mentioned "true" artists and so you better not embarrass yourself by going any further.
  • Someone with acknowledged authority to judge talent in a given art form must "anoint" you as one of the chosen few soon after you start. For example, you need to get published impressively, or you need to be accepted into an art school or MFA program, etc. at a young age, or the professionals in your art form will forever consider you an outsider and the rest of society will look on you as a poser.

In some ways, these thoughts reflect a harsh reality for many artists, writers, musicians, and movie makers in our society, especially for those who want to be considered professionals in a given creative field. But in most cases, these attitudes are purely myth and keep far too many people from acting on their creative needs and pursuing their artistic dreams.

We are all born with incredible creative abilities, and few things in life make us happier than fully engaging those abilities. To let a belief that we haven't the proper "permission" — from either society, family and friends, or ourselves — stop us from developing our creative abilities and expressing our deepest, truest selves in the best creative way we know how would be a terrible loss. The choice to create is yours; no one else should be given the power or authority to stop you.

The various messages we get that tell us we haven't the right to create can be separated into three categories:

  • What society as a whole tells us
  • What our family and friends tell us
  • What we tell ourselves

Let's take a close look at these and bust the myths behind them.

How Society Tells Us Not to Create

What are the societal forces arrayed against creativity? For one, our society is highly competitive — we seem to want to make everything we can into a win/lose proposition. Today's reality television especially takes this to a ridiculous level. The networks give us competitive tourism ("The Amazing Race"), competitive camping ("Survivor"), competitive dating ("The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette"), and even competitive plastic surgery ("The Swan"). Even the singing competition, "American Idol," while not evil in itself and in some ways almost democratic, nonetheless creates just one winner and hundreds of thousands of losers a year.

What we must remember is that at a very basic level of the human psyche, we are all strongly encouraged by winning versus strongly discouraged by losing. For many, it takes just one loss to stop creativity cold. My own writing career is a case in point. Just out of college, I wrote one short story, sent it to one magazine, got one rejection note and didn't write seriously again for years. Many writers I've met tell a very similar story.

Some might counter this by saying competition makes us stronger. This is true to some extent, but in the end, competition does more harm than good. Hyper-competitiveness most often creates a small handful of lucky people with extremely fragile, over-blown reputations, behind which stand legions of dispirited "losers."

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