For me, self-acceptance — the deep kind that warms the very center of my chest — and creativity are kind of like buddies.
On Pinterest yesterday I came across this pin of a dog that trots down the road to meet up with its buddy, a cat, who jumps down from a roof so they can pal around and go on adventures together.
That’s self-acceptance and creativity, in my world. It’s hard for me to have one without the other.
I notice that when I am feeling “uncreative,” it’s very often because I am not feeling very self-accepting.
How does this play out?
Noticing “shoulds” is a good place to start.
And we often don’t notice them. But the presence of “I should” is (most of the time) a good indicator that I am out of self-acceptance.
I used to frequent a message board where somebody had this signature: “As soon as I say ‘I should,’ I am somebody else.” (I wish I knew who to attribute that to — I think it’s brilliant.)
So if I’m feeling uncreative, my first step is to do what I call a “scan for shoulds.”
One of my clients is a poet.* She writes these awesome short poems that vibrate right off the page. I love them because they’re so fun and real and colorful.
But she wasn’t feeling very good about them, and when we did a scan for shoulds, this popped up: My poems aren’t “real writing.” I should be writing a novel.
I asked her why.
She said, “Because then I’ll be taken more seriously.”
I asked her, by whom?
She said, “By serious writers.”
We broke down “serious writers.” Her definition of “serious writers” consisted of exactly two people: a snooty professor she’d had twenty years ago, and a perfectionistic friend she’d also been out of touch with for years. Interestingly, she’d always felt really uncomfortable around both of them.
I asked her what she believed she would have if she could get this professor and this “friend” to take her seriously.
The answer was, “I could take myself seriously.”
At some point, we both started laughing because we’d had many conversations about how she actually wanted less “seriousness” in her life and more play, more joy. (And I so get this, by the way. Nothing thwarts creativity like the idea that we should be doing, as Julia Cameron puts it, “Art with a capital A.”)
Being in self-acceptance, for my client, meant she didn’t really want to write a novel, and that she wanted to write even more of her awesome poetry.
It also meant letting go of the idea that “serious writers” (a.k.a. these two people who actually had never supported her true self) could somehow accept her if she wrote what she didn’t want to write.
And embracing the fact that it wasn’t their acceptance she needed. It was her own.
Maybe this is why we often skip over the very idea of self-acceptance. Because if we make it important, it means that we’ll likely have some letting go to do.
The other place where self-acceptance comes in is in noticing our needs and allowing ourselves to have them — even if a part of us is convinced they can’t be met.
Years ago there was a writing workshop I wanted to go to, except that I was told there were no single rooms available and I’d need to share a cabin with two other people for the duration of the workshop. I had a strong hunch that wasn’t going to work for me, because after so much socializing during the day at the workshop, I’d definitely want to recharge in the evening by myself.
I almost decided against going, until it occurred to me that maybe there was some currently unseen way I could have a room to myself. Just maybe, somehow.
I talked to the coordinator and she said, “Well, it so happens that someone who had reserved a single room just dropped out of the workshop. Would you like that room?”
I grabbed it immediately. I felt really happy with myself because in the past, I would have either gone ahead and stayed in the cabin with other people, spread way too thin because of no way to recharge alone, OR I would have assumed I just couldn’t do the workshop at all.
But I’d been able to be self-accepting enough to realize that my need was important enough to voice — even if it was a need some people wouldn’t have at all — and doing so opened the way for, guess what? Creativity!
What do you notice about the relationship between self-acceptance and creativity, for you? I’d love to hear from you!
* Please note that when I share stories about my coaching clients, it is always with their full permission to do so.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” ~ The amazing Maya Angelou. RIP.