It’s been five weeks since my last blog post. I haven’t tried too hard to write lately and I definitely haven’t felt inspired. For the last week though, I’ve told myself again and again, consistency is key, you need to focus and just write something. Quitting is not an option.
My favorite time and place to write is when I’m working overnight, it’s quiet and I’m not distracted by the never-ending list of things to do at home. So when I showed up tonight, I pulled up my pinterest page and started scrolling, looking for inspiration. I found a list of Ted Talks, and decided that was a good starting point. I clicked on the first video in the list and felt an instant sense of relief. I’m not alone!
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, discusses the pressure society inflicts upon creative minds in the following Ted Talk; Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius.
Gilbert opens with a synopsis of conversations she often has with complete strangers about her future success after Eat, Pray, Love, followed by this;
But it would be worse, except for that I happen to remember that over 20 years ago, when I was a teenager, when I first started telling people that I wanted to be a writer, I was met with this same sort of fear-based reaction. And people would say, “Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success? Aren’t you afraid the humiliation of rejection will kill you? Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing’s ever going to come of it and you’re going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure?”
The answer — the short answer to all those questions is, “Yes.” Yes, I’m afraid of all those things. And I always have been. And I’m afraid of many, many more things besides that people can’t even guess at, like seaweed and other things that are scary. But, when it comes to writing, the thing that I’ve been sort of thinking about lately, and wondering about lately, is why? You know, is it rational? Is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this Earth to do?
I held my breath while I listened, I often have a hard time putting my thoughts and feelings into words, but I can recognize them in someone else’s words. This was one of those times.
I have always wanted to be a writer, it was something I was good at and I was always proud of my work. But somewhere between a teenage girl’s hopes and the harsh reality of life, my passion for writing disappeared. I had once planned on attending a well-known college and majoring in creative writing, but upon announcing my plans, I often received a less-than enthusiastic response. Over time, I think fear won, the fear of rejection and failure.
Being a creative person means putting a piece of yourself out in the world. Sometimes you’ve worked for days or weeks on whatever it is you’re putting out there. You’ve poured tears, anger, frustration, love and joy into it. But it’s done and you’re proud and maybe a little anxious to show off the product of your hard work.
And then someone comes along and criticizes it. Or worse, no one notices it at all.
Do not let that stop you.
As much as your work is a part of you, Gilbert explains, separate yourself from it. Let go of some of the responsibility. Doing so allows you to be objective and criticism doesn’t seem so harsh.
Tell yourself you are just a vessel for your work. If you are a writer, the words are already formed, you just have to write them down. Stop believing, just for a minute, that your creativity is limited by your mind’s ability to convey it. Let your creativity, your inspiration, be independent of you, and take control of it. That is how you learn to push past the fear of failure and conquer the anxiety of rejection.
“Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be.”
If you enjoyed this post, check out “Maybe you shouldn’t fake it til you make it,” one of my most popular posts, which discusses a Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy.