The Lie We Tell Ourselves as Creatives

Being creative is difficult. Each step is a step into the unknown. “I don’t know” might as well be branded to our foreheads as we try and navigate our own creativity and it’s endless potential.

And if you believe what I just said then you have fallen for the biggest lie we tell ourselves.

Not knowing something is crippling. As someone with anxiety it is the bane of my life. The power we give to needing to know how to do something is immense. So many opportunities creative and otherwise slip away under it’s effect. Like trying to grasp at sand we stop in our tracks and watch it hopelessly pour away through our fingers because “we just don’t know how to do it”. And there rests the heart of the lie.

We home school our daughter a few days out of the week. Today, right before typing this, I gave my daughter an art lesson on creating backgrounds. My strength is in character design so it was pretty basic but made a huge difference in her own art. Within the lesson I talked about composition. A complex subject if you really get into the nitty gritty art science of it all. A subject I could never do justice and to be honest…I’m not all that interested in doing it justice. My approach to my daughter was this: Here is x,y,z that is composition. Now don’t worry about it. As a creative you don’t need to know this.

Settle down. I can feel some of you scoffing at me. What came next is what matters. I told her she didn’t need to know it…because she can feel it. Her instinct will tell her when something is wrong, when something is lacking, when something is outright missing. And then I drew a wolf running. I then scribbled a background for it all the while talking out loud all my thoughts and feelings as I put it together. I then deleted my background and handed her the pen with nothing but a wolf running on the screen. Above is what she made. She naturally without direction made all the adjustments needed to make that piece and she alone decided when it was finished. She will be 8 at the end of this month.

We lie to ourselves that we don’t know how to create. That we are missing some key knowledge but at the end of the day creating is instinctual. That is the difference between creatives and non creatives. We speak metaphorically about art being on the level of breathing for us when in reality…it is. My daughter can feel composition without knowing what it is. I can grasp colors without forcing myself to live color theory for a month straight. Sure knowing things is helpful…but it’s all just practice, terminology, and at best a more “advanced understanding”. None of that is required information. Because we KNOW how to do it.

I don’t know how to make pottery. I know how to make shapes using my hands. We have all had play-doh. It’s instinct. I don’t know how to paint. I know how to make a mess. Fingering painting…instinct. I don’t know how to write a book. I know how to write my thoughts down. Storytelling, basic conversation/communication…it’s ALL instinct.

You may not have a degree in the subject…but stop holding yourself back with lies. When walking if we don’t KNOW the next step is there…we FEEL for it so we don’t fall. We don’t tell ourselves “I don’t know how to walk now”. Society pressures the importance of degrees and studying and knowing and not making mistakes when all we NEED…we already have. We already feel. We breathe without knowing how…it just happens. When creating…just create without knowing how…let it just happen. Follow your feelings. Trust it to know what you think you don’t.

And for the record…if sand is falling through your fingers and you don’t want it to…close your fingers…instinct.


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