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Friday, April 29, 2011

10 Fears Creative People Share - And How To Overcome Them

Myth: The world is divided into "creatives" and "non-creatives."

Fact: Everybody, everybody, everybody is creative in some form or fashion. Has nothing whatsoever to do with art. Deep down inside a person is a talent that at its core is not just mechanical repetition of what has gone before. But one generates a new kind of offering. Something the world has never seen before.

Even a soldier, born to fight, is creative in his or her own way.

The problem is, somewhere early in life, most people are squashed into conformity. Squelched. Smushed. Drowned. In a sea of you-shoulds, you-wills, threats mild and overt, economic or psychological or spiritual deprivation. In the laughably ineffective memorization pit that is much of traditional education.

The part of us that is creative, once it is squelched, does not go away. No. Instead it lays in wait within a person's being. It actually fights to get out. Like water or sunlight peering behind a rock. And the very moment there is a crack in the surface, the creativity comes flowing through like it originally did, at first as a trickle and then, with any encouragement, as a healthy stream.

The unfortunate part about having been squelched, and then finding a way to be creative again, is that the person fears they will once again lose their creative spark. In a helpless way. Like when they were younger. And that fear, being unbearable because it is so unpredictable, morphs into something even more threatening and painful: the worry that "I am not really creative in the first place."

In other words, the fact that the creativity was squashed, means it was never truly there to begin with. Otherwise, the person reasons to him or herself, if it were there and strong they could have stayed intact.

Normally, none of this is ever really articulated in life. We all just go about our business. But there is a subgroup of people that does end up affected by it. Even traumatized: Professional communicators.

Having overcome the forces that would squelch their creativity in the past, professional communicators are always extremely protective of their special spark. Not only do they know that it's delicate – enough to be taken away – but they also feel inadequate compared with others in their field.

For most writers and artists, every work they see that possesses the special spark, that expresses that kind of genius that only a creative has, both inspires them and makes them feel insecure. They see, right in front of them, the reality that should they fall away, somebody else would step in and take over – pretty much immediately.

The desperate need to preserve and nurture one's creativity leaves a communicator inherently afraid. Yet rather than focus on the numerous issues that really can harm their ability to produce – lack of time, lack of money, lack of confidence, lack of sleep, insufficient help with childcare and housework, elderly parents, home maintenance demands, health issues, poor nutrition, stress, and lack of updated skills – they get superstitious and worry about things that have nothing whatsoever to do with creativity. That in fact, can get in the way if you don't know how to incorporate them in your life in a balanced way.

Here they are boiled down to 10 basic incorrect fears, as expressed in words or attitude. But at the very bottom, all of them have to do with the incorrect belief that creativity and business savvy are incompatible. I truly believe that somehow, in the back of the communicators' mind, the concept of business savvy takes them back to a time when they were held back from being creative and forced to be just like everybody else. Because "corporate America" is stereotyped as being a place where everybody thinks, dresses, and acts alike – like the goony executives we see portrayed on TV and in the movies.

Nobody I know has ever stated any of these fears out loud. But if you look closely enough, you can see them underlying our behavior. Making us shoot ourselves in the foot, even as we protest loudly that "nobody takes us (or 'communication') seriously."

Ironically, it is this complex of fears – the fear of being a business success – that keeps us from being taken seriously as communicators, and having the license to take our skills and our imagination to the next level.

The 10 Fears – Stated as Myth vs. Fact

1. Myth: "When you get too logical, it strips away your creativity."

Fact: If you get carried away with your imagination, and can't stop to analyze how it might be received or what it will produce for the customer, nobody will see your creativity as having any value.

2. Myth: "Real artists break the rules, they don't follow them" or "I am unique in my personality…I can't be reduced to a robot who lives by a so-called 'process.'"

Fact: First of all, you are not as unique as you think you are, and that neither adds to nor detracts from your value as a human being. You are what you are. Secondly, you do at some level have to work among other people, and if they can't coordinate their actions with you through a process, you will not be able to accomplish anything without a lot of stress.

3. Myth: "Teamwork destroys creativity…no great novel has ever been written by committee."

Fact: If you are a great novelist, you can write that novel on your own time, waking up early in the morning, and eventually sell enough books never to have to work on a team again. Until that time, it usually takes a lot of collaboration to arrive at a product that will actually work. sIf you welcome early feedback rather than consider it an enemy, you can avoid being sorely embarrassed by a flub later on.

4. Myth: "I am inspired when I am inspired - I can't work on a time clock."

Fact: This is a crisis of your own making. Nobody said you had to be an automaton. What most employers want is a reasonable level of certainty so they can plan their own day and yours, and account for your physical safety if you're supposed to be at a certain place at a certain time. The real issue here is your fear that if you settle down to work, you'll have writer's block (or artist's block) and not be able to produce – so you procrastinate and procrastinate under the guise of "waiting for inspiration."

5. Myth: "I work best under pressure, so project management/time management is a waste of my time."

Fact: You are getting an adrenaline rush from the pressure and it's giving you an excuse to do less than your best work on the excuse that you didn't have enough time. Living in crisis mode is a habit; it's much more pleasant, and conducive to creativity, to structure and manage your time so that you are relaxed. When you achieve a peaceful state of mind, your creativity really can flow.

6. Myth: "I don't need to understand operations. Communications is enough of an expertise."

Fact: You can't do a good job of communication in the absence of knowing what you're communicating about. This does not reduce you to an operational type. Rather, it shows that you're conscientious and integrated in your thinking."

7. Myth: "Technology is just a substitute for creativity. Real artists can do everything the old-fashioned way. Why I still have a manual typewriter…an 8-track player…a working record player…."

Fact: Technology helps you to be more creative because it frees you from the drudgery that gets in between thinking and putting the product of the thought down on paper or on a screen. The real fear, again, is that you're a sham, so you try to buy time to procrastinate until you have the nerve to put something out there – if you ever do.

8. Myth: "Managers are boring, political jerks – so I can't be a manager! I am a creative - someone who never just 'toes the line.'"

Fact: Creative people make great managers. They are able to see all sides of a problem, think outside the box (please forgive me for repeating that silly cliché), unite completely opposing people. A little unpredictability makes life more interesting. Didn't you ever watch "The Office?" Michael Scott was one of a kind!

9. Myth: "I don't have to worry about my image. Real artists get respect because of their work."

Fact: Ha. Hahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Get over it.

10. Myth: "Real artists are above money…money is crass and disgusting. If I earn it, I will become a sellout and lose my soul."

Fact: Lots of people do well and do good at the same time. Refer back to The Office. Pam drew great cartoons. What was she doing as a receptionist? She should have stayed in art school and gotten a real job.

Overarching fact: You don't have to be a robot, evil or a sellout – unless you want to be, that is.

Find a middle of the road.

The truth is, good old fashioned business sense REQUIRES a lot of creativity. Because you're trying to come up with a competitive advantage – do something new, different, better than the others so that you get the money and not them. That requires a lot of thinking, innovation.

Admit to yourself that you are holding your own self back. The more you operate balanced, the more the business will respect you, and the more license you will have to be fully creative.

In the end, what these myths cover up is that your own fear is your #1 worst enemy. That and the lifestyle issues that are seriously getting in your way. So change your bad habits. Embrace a more peaceful way of life. And most important of all, come to terms with yourself.

You are neither as bad as you fear nor as good as you aspire to be. You're just human. Let it go.

Peace.