Complex Guests X 6 ways to embrace your creativity
Why You Should Create When You Don’t Feel Like Creating
When I was asked to write an article on giving tips for filmmaking, a small seed of doubt quickly blossomed in my heart. I thought, who am I to be giving people advice on how to create anything when I’m just a nobody with a camera? But then it hit me…that was precisely why I had to write this article. I am pretty certain that all of us creatives have had seeds of doubt take root in our hearts preventing us from doing what we love, which is create.
I am still in the process of stamping out these flowering doubtful thoughts and it is definitely an everyday battle. But I constantly have to remind myself that Jackie, your thoughts and ideas have a place in this world, whether people hear it or not.
So that’s the real premise of this article. Yes, I may give you some (hopefully helpful) tips on how to tackle the daunting and sometimes arduous task of “working at your craft”, but the real aim is to encourage you in that whatever it is you set to create, it has a place in this world. Hopefully this will offer some encouragement for you to continue to work lovingly and tirelessly at your craft.
So I’ve come up with 6 points I have adopted and use on a regular basis. I find them especially helpful when feeling overwhelmed by my own inadequacies and need to re-centre my thoughts and energy into the joy of creating. Though these points are centred on filmmaking, they are adaptable to any craft or skill, and it is definitely not an exhaustive list so feel free to add and take away whatever works best for you!
1) Take time to study your craft…your way!
This is probably not what you wanted to read first, but it is so important! How can we develop in our creativity without studying other creatives? If you’re into filmmaking…watch films! Watch videos, documentaries, commercials, pretty much anything with moving audiovisuals. Not only are you educating yourself on what is currently out there, and the type of films/productions that get commissioned in the industry, but you also quickly learn the type of productions you gravitate towards. Watching other productions also may help you understand what is missing from the industry, and may inspire you to create it to fill that void.
You can also educate yourself in a more academic setting, such as studying short courses in filmmaking, or whatever your craft may be - screenwriting, creative writing, graphic design, painting; hair and make-up, singing, music production. The list is endless. These days there are short and online courses for pretty much everything so there is no excuse for you not to find ways to study your craft. I found short courses to be really helpful, as it not only provides you with some accountability, it forces you to remain committed to developing your skills in your craft, even when you don’t want to. Which leads me on to another point, one of the best ways to educate yourself is by doing.
Because creativity is so subjective, a lot of us get wrapped up in the idea of only creating things when that elusive desire overwhelms us into doing so. But this isn’t good practice to live by. In order to test and understand our creativity we have to learn to create things even when that desire is not there. So if you want to be a filmmaker, create videos/films, if you’re a writer, write stories and articles, if you’re a music producer, make beats! We need to make sure that we are not just talking about our creativity but actually working on it and living it. So for me, I found studying filmmaking short courses a valuable experience because it reminded me that I need to make sacrifices (including my own comfort sometimes) in order to improve at this craft.
Now, I completely understand that sitting in classrooms and studying does not work for everyone, but I believe it will only be beneficial if you really dedicate time and energy to developing in your crafts. How you decide to dedicate your time is up to you, just as long as you spend less time thinking about doing it and actually do it! Create a habit of creating.
2) Start off small…
Creating this habit doesn’t mean that it should consume all hours of your day. Yes, it should be daily grind in some respects, but be realistic…start off small. I especially become super overwhelmed when I construct these grand ideas for films and productions to the point that I am paralysed into doing nothing. Seeing how unproductive I can become, I decided to go back to basics and start off small. Rather than getting lost in writing scripts, ideas and treatments, I began creating and editing short vignettes of anything I filmed - literally 10-30 seconds long clips. It really helped remove all unnecessary expectations I had attached to my work, and just allowed me to create, for fun! Especially when you are first starting out, it’s easy to overwhelm ourselves with lofty ideas to prove to ourselves (and the world) that we are worthy of our creativity, and this obviously is not healthy. So, for your own sanity start off with small manageable projects and build from there. Start off writing short stories; short songs, producing short instrumentals or whatever it may be. Hopefully through this, you’ll come to enjoy the experience of creating things purely for yourself and with no expectations attached. Also, producing short projects is a great way of developing your own taste and style and will prepare you well for bigger projects. Just keep it short and keep it moving.
3) Connect your craft to other things you love.
If you are currently finding it really difficult to create, it may be really helpful to connect your craft to other things that you love. For example, my love for music is undying. Listening to music is as second nature to me as breathing. So particularly when I am struggling with a script ideas or struggling with video editing, I take a break and edit a short video to one of my favourite songs (or a song I am in love with at the time) just for myself. For me, there is something very therapeutic about connecting my love of filming with my love for music. In a way it takes away the anxiety and pressure I associate with editing, and reminds me that other creative things give me great joy and that it is possible to combine those together. So, maybe whenever you are suffering from writer’s block on a particular story, why not stop and write a short story based on your favourite lyric or song title? Or paint a picture based on your favourite scene in a film? Or write lyrics based on your favourite painting? Think about the other things that give you joy and connect those to your craft. This may not solve your struggle with creating, but it may offer you a little bit of joy, rest and perspective.
4) Be careful who you invite into your creative space.
As creatives we are definitely sensitive about our sh*t (and rightly so), but sometimes we are so sensitive to the point that any critique about our work cuts us to our very core. Now this fourth point is not a call to avoid or ignore any critique you receive about your work, but is a warning to be careful with whom you share your creative works with. It’s pretty likely that as a creative your work is going to be seen or made for public consumption, with a lot of people projecting their own opinions onto your work. You are going to have to sift through these opinions, which is a tough task in itself. So, before releasing your work to world, make sure to share your work with those you trust the most and ask for their honest feedback. Have them interrogate your work honestly so that when it is presented to the world, you can fully stand by it regardless of the world’s opinion. Aim to share your work with other creatives and close friends and family who have nothing to do with your craft. Now, of course not everybody you share this with will automatically understand what you’ve created or even relate to it, and this is fine! It is okay for those you trust to not “like” your work, but if they are able to offer constructive critique that will help you improve in the future then take heed.
Our creative space is our sacred space so of course we don’t want any kind of characters all up in there. So carefully consider who you hold in your circle. Is your circle currently filled with only ‘yes men’ who happily agree and affirm your work? Or is your circle filled with people who seem to only provide you with negative feedback? If so, switch it up. Really consider those you know who will give you honest, meaningful feedback and reach out to them.
5) ACCEPT that there is space for you at the “Creatives’ Table”.
So far I’ve given you a couple of practical tips on how to tackle issues when it comes to creating, but a lot of these points won’t be useful until we (myself included) accept that there is space for us and our works at the “Creatives’ Table”. I find that a lot of the time what stops me from finishing a project is not a lack of resources, but a lack of faith in my own creativity. Many times I have talked myself out of doing a project because I think I am not as creative enough as the next creative or do not have enough experience, or no-one will understand or relate to my work… the list goes on and on. And a lot of these self-deprecating statements stem from the idea that I am not worthy of being seen as a creative. But it is important to not mistake these intruding thoughts as truth. As much as we work on developing in our crafts and creativity, we should work just as tirelessly at renewing our minds and accepting that our works have a place in this world. I am not saying that you should force your way to a seat at the “Creatives’ Table”. Or that you should want to join the “Creatives’ Table” because it looks alternative, cool and popular right now. What I mean by accepting is resting assured that your creativity has meaning, is necessary and will have an impact. Hopefully this quiet confidence in your abilities will take the pressure off you trying to compete with all other creatives in your field.
Remember, regardless of whether we think the “Creatives’ Table” is already crowded, there is space for all of us. Whether we are all writers, composers, spoken word artists, painters, dancers, or all-round creatives; we all have a unique perspective and have a duty to share that with the world.
6) Create for the Glory of God!
Finally – and the most important point of all – create for the glory of God. Your talent or ability to create is not by accident or purely due to your hard work, but is a God-given gift. The Creator who created you to create, wants you to create for Him. Colossians 3:23 says ‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men’. By His grace, God has blessed us with gifts and abilities each according to our purpose (Romans 12:5-8), but the Apostle Paul recognises that these are not gifts we are to be idle with, but we are to work, develop and hone. We as creatives are called to work heartily not just so we can improve at our craft or be the best in our fields, but for His Glory, to ultimately reflect Him and His great creativity (Ephesians 2:10). That is precisely why our individual creative works matter and have a place in this world. If we spent all our energy creating things to gain the approval of man, we would run ourselves ragged trying to keep up with the world’s fickle attention span. So whenever we experience those incredibly difficult moments in creating, let us be comforted in knowing that our work is first and foremost for our Creator and He appreciates our work eternally more than even our biggest supporters. Be encouraged in knowing that our work serves a greater purpose than just impacting our communities, but serves our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. What better way is there for us to show our love and praise to our Lord than through our creativity?
I know creativity can demand a lot from us and the ebb and flow of creating can be liberating yet very painful. But be confident in knowing that your creativity has a place here because it does more than impact our world, but serves and glorifies our Creator, our God. And with a heart centred on working for God’s glory, success will follow. Now this does not necessarily mean success by the world’s standard, but a long lasting success of peace, joy and a firm confidence and commitment to creating.
In the turbulent midst of creating, I hope some of these practical tips have been helpful but most importantly I hope this article helps refocus your mind and heart on seeking the joy of creating rather than feeding your fear of creating. Remember, spend less time thinking about doing and go and do it!