One of the biggest impediments to creativity or creative genius is the belief that you must be original. Many creative people hit a snag in their creative life because they imagine that to stand out or succeed they must create something that has never been created before. Ever. That’s a whole lot of pressure! And that kind of pressure can be disempowering and crippling.
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her delightful bestselling book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” writes these powerful words:
“By the time Shakespeare was finished with his run on life, he’d pretty much covered every story line there is, but that hasn’t stopped nearly five centuries of writers from exploring the same story lines all over again. (And remember, many of those stories were already clichés long before even Shakespeare got his hands on them.) When Picasso saw the ancient cave paintings at Lascaux, he reportedly said, ‘We have learned nothing in twelve thousand years’ — which is probably true, but so what?”
Indeed, so what? So what if we repeat the same themes in our art? So what if generation after generation we circle back to the same ideas? So what if every generation asks the same questions and feels the same creative urges? Are we not all humans? Related?
Every human being is essentially the same. We pine for the same things: Love, happiness, peace, beauty and so on. There will, inevitably, be some repetition in our creative expressions. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“Everything reminds us of something,” writes Elizabeth. “But once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours.” In other words, you don’t need to worry about being original; you just need to worry about being authentic.
Be totally you in the way you express your ideas. Be guided by an internal compass and not by the need to be “different” or “revolutionary.” Be free to write or create something that truly excites you instead of something that follows the conventions or typical paths ordered by others.
Skeptics will interject and try to bring you back into the fold, but it takes courage to hold firm in your convictions and be your own person. It takes real inner strength to live a uniquely crafted life that honors your inner person and that doesn’t succumb to societal pressures to conformity or pretend.
Being your true self amidst a sea of posers is not easy, but I am sure you’d rather connect with people who are real than people who pretend around you. I’m sure you’d rather interact with people who are authentic than people who are fake. Oh, it's such a pleasure to find an authentic person; a person who is not bogged down by falsehoods and pretenses!
Here are some key things highly authentic creatives do differently.
All their likes, dislikes, quirks and other idiosyncrasies is what makes them stand out from the crowd. It is what gives them an edge. And so they are unapologetic of who they are inside. They are perfectly happy with their own company and vehemently protect the quality time they spend with themselves. This self-love and self-esteem shows in their work.
What they feel inside, they don’t hide. What they don’t feel inside, they don’t pretend to feel. They are sincere and make known their true emotions compassionately. They say and do what’s in their hearts, and voice their opinions firmly and honestly. That makes them come across as confident and truthful because they have nothing to hide.
Many people have a need to fit in and be accepted. So they pretend they are someone they are not. Highly authentic people don’t have that need. They don’t bother to please everyone or strive to live up to others’ expectation. They simply choose to live an unscripted life that is free of societal pressures telling them what to do. Authentic people allow others to form whatever opinions they wish to have and don’t take it personally when someone obviously dislikes them. That’s because they have high self-esteem and are comfortable in their own skin.
Highly authentic creatives don’t fear taking a path that not many travel. In fact, they find it exhilarating and comfortable to follow the least trodden path where their heart is, than the beaten path where their heart is not. And they don’t compare their journey to everyone else’s. They know what works for others might not necessarily work for them. That helps them stay focused and true to themselves.
People who are not sincere and self-assured tell lies so easily and readily that it becomes second nature to them. Highly authentic people tell the truth always. They don’t deceive, cheat, manipulate or lie. Even when the truth is somewhat uncomfortable, they tell it anyway. And that keeps authentic people at peace with themselves and with others. The truth builds trust and strengthens relationships.
And they do so boldly and conscientiously. They don’t shun decision-making. When you make decisions for yourself, your brain feels in control. It feels at rest. And feeling in control and at rest reduces stress and improves mood. Brain studies actually show deciding also boosts our pleasure. When you make a decision on a goal and achieve it, you feel better than when good things just happen by chance. However, if you allow others to make all the important decisions for you and you just follow behind, the only person who stands to lose is you.
Highly authentic people don’t blame others for their own mistakes. They own up and take responsibility for every decision and action they make in their life, whether the outcome is positive or negative. When you are the first to admit you were wrong or that you made a mistake somewhere, you open doors for correction, support and genuine help from others. Everybody makes mistakes. What really matters is what you do after you’ve made a mistake.
Highly authentic people are driven to action by an inner-motor, rather than external triggers. They don’t rush to act before first understanding a situation and considering how they feel about it. They, therefore, seek and listen to other people’s counsel, but don’t apply any given advice without first considering their own gut feeling. That’s because they understand that the buck ultimately stops with you. And so they listen to their gut feeling. Actually, they trust their gut feelings so much that they only take steps or actions they feel they will be comfortable living with for the rest of their lives.
Highly creative and authentic people are fascinated with exploring the depths of other beings and the natural environment. They are open to new ideas, and listen to everyone with a keen spirit. That’s because they know they don’t have monopoly of information or new ideas, and don’t exist in a vacuum. When you keep a closed mind, chances are you will be rude, ignorant and completely intolerant of other people’s feelings and beliefs. However, if you are open minded and willing to learn, you’ll keep growing from strength to strength. You’ll have realistic expectations and perceptions of the world, as well as access to new knowledge and ongoing insights that will propel you to great heights.
Highly creative and authentic people make their choices based on how best to touch lives, not money. They seek a better life and material goodies, of course, but not at the expense of the people, relationships and experiences they have. For them, it is not how much money they make that counts, but rather the lives they touch and the lessons they learn along the way. They see beauty in experiences and relationships. And so they try to support others and sincerely wish for everyone to grow into their unlimited selves. They know, in the end, meaningful experiences and bonds matter more than things.
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by Hugh MacLeod
Ever wonder what it really takes to make a living as a creative person in today's complicated world?
MacLeod presents some witty keys for creative success, including "ignore everybody. Why should you "ignore everybody"?
Because, he writes, nobody else can tell you whether your idea is worthwhile. People can give you advice, but at the end of the day, it's your decision. The more original an idea, the less helpful the advice is going to be.
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