Creative courage and criticism

Creativity requires courage. It’s not always easy to express a point of view, particularly when it’s not a popular one. Sometimes we may choose to bite our tongue to avoid confrontation; then our true feelings can remain hidden. The longer we spend in the world, the more we conform to the societal standards surrounding us. We become sensitive to other opinions and fear criticism.

Image by Willgard Krause

Extrinsic motivation

Consider what motivates you. Is it an internal desire to take part in an activity for pure joy and authentic experience, or do you secretly hope that others will recognise your potential achievements in your chosen field?

Extrinsic motivation is what drives you when you seek external validation. While this is a completely valid form of motivation, you’ll need intrinsic motivation to see you through any feelings of frustration or discouragement you may encounter.

When it comes to creative endeavours, particularly in artistic disciplines, many practitioners feel pressured to measure their creations against other people’s standards. Artists compare themselves and their talents against their peers and may feel intimidated or insecure when others achieve success in their chosen field.

This way of thinking about oneself devalues a creator’s originality. It’s easy to want to conform to an arbitrary benchmark, but this comes at the cost of your own inventiveness and creative expression.

Critical thinking

How you respond to the world is unique. Your observations and feelings about life are original and therein lies your creativity. Comparing your ideas with someone else’s will inevitably affect how you think about your creations.

Think critically about what you really want to say. In my article Musings on Art I wrote, ‘Art is the way one perceives and responds to the world. It springs from necessity and, as Emerson describes, is “the height of the human soul.”’ If you can resist the temptation to follow trends, you can make a special statement with your art.

Working in solitude is a great way to filter external influences and tap into your own desires. It allows you to concentrate solely on what you’re curious about, and find courage to realise it through your preferred medium.

If you go about your work seeking approval from others you will inevitably be met with criticism, whether constructive or not, or worse you’ll create work to please others.

Be your original self

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

― Coco Chanel

Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment involved a cat in a steel box along with a Geiger counter, a vial of poison, a hammer, and a radioactive substance. The Nobel Prize winning physicist was demonstrating a paradox whereby an atom exists in a state of superposition – simultaneously decayed and not decayed. The cat is a metaphor, but particles really do exist in a state of uncertainty until they are measured.

Like Schrödinger’s cat, your creativity is both awake and dormant. By taking action you’re performing the measurement which will result in one of two states, effectively giving yourself permission to fail and the chance to succeed. Sure, it’s nice when people compliment your work, and it’s difficult to experience rejection and negative feedback.

The brain avoids pain wherever possible and seeks pleasure foremost. But, wouldn’t you rather live a life true to your intrinsic values and desires. You can practise motivation by setting yourself smart, personal, and incremental goals towards your bigger-picture ones. Each time you accomplish your smaller attainable goals you’ll experience the motivation to keep going. Momentum is motivating.

Your unique vision may end up being ridiculed simply because it goes against the norm.

Be brave.

Create anyway.

4 Thoughts

    1. Thanks for your comment Mireya. Yes, it’s tempting to create according to fashion but some of the most innovative people in history have gone so far against the grain to make a statement. While trends can be a great source of inspiration, we cannot ever emulate what made them successful in the first place, and we’ll keep measuring our creativity against this arbitrary standard. All the best with your fall designs!

    1. Thanks for your perspective Meg. You’re fortunate that you’ve already embraced your uniqueness and are open to expressing yourself as you are. Some people second guess their creativity for fear of judgement and, sadly, the world never gets the chance to experience what they could have created had they found the courage to.

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