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Issue 47


In this issue ~~

* Needing Outside Approval

* Creative Tip

* Wise Words

* Bookshelf


Needing Outside Approval

In the process of creativity, as in most aspects of life, we're constantly challenged to choose between listening to our own inner voice or the key voices outside us that have a stake in what we do. As much as we're pulled to follow our hearts, the need for approval and belonging is just as compelling. Often, it becomes an inner battle of whether to listen to yourself or others.

Outside approval can be extremely seductive. Approval feels good. It makes us feel loved and accepted. True originality, on the other hand, can ruffle people's feathers. It upsets the status quo. Someone who is not using their own creativity will unconsciously try to stop you from using yours. Or they may feel their view is more valid than yours. Or they may want (seemingly with the best of intentions) to protect you from impending failure by discouraging you from taking a risk. It becomes easier to let other people set the standards for us rather than incur their jealousy, criticism or disapproval.

When we're young, our very survival and self-image depend on receiving the approval of others. You merely have to observe the social rituals of teenagers to see how vital belonging is to them. As we get older, we get bigger, our egos become stronger, and we're able to fend for ourselves. But old habits die hard. Even when being different and standing up for ourselves is no longer life-threatening, we still hesitate.

In our work, we're generally subject to some form of judgment. We rarely operate in a vacuum, and unless we're doing our work just for our own pleasure, sooner or later, we're going to have to face outside evaluation. If you're working for someone else or on commission, you have to produce work that pleases the person who's paying you. And even if you're working independently, and then selling your finished work, someone will be voting with their checkbook . . . or not.

Creative work is very personal, and each person will see it differently. Give your piece to 5 different people, and you'll get 5 different opinions about how it should be done. We need to be careful to balance the feedback we get with our own vision for our work. If you need to make a sale, you may have to give in to some of those opinions. If your creative work is solely for your own pleasure, you have the luxury of doing as you please.

In life as well, particularly if you have a significant other, you may feel pressured to give in to their opinions to preserve your relationship. This is a tough one, as there may be a lot at stake, and following your personal or creative vision can seem more expendable than your family life. While I would not suggest that anyone sacrifice their relationships, sooner or later, your inner voice must be heard, and not doing so can result in compromising your physical or emotional health.

There comes a point in life when, in order to individuate and make your unique contribution -- to be truly creative and live your life authentically – you have to listen to your inner longings and creative urges. Ultimately, you need to find the balance between your own vision and the approval of others. Here are some guidelines:

~ Take it a step at a time. Practice taking on small creative risks and work your way up to the more challenging ones.

~ Choose who you're going to share your vision with. You may need to take the action first, before you tell anyone, so you don't get discouraged and lose heart. Remember, you don't need anyone else's approval or permission to make your own choices.

~ Set clear boundaries around your work. Don't show it to anyone until you're comfortable doing so, and if you do not want criticism or feedback, let it be known.

~ When you do seek feedback, prepare yourself for possible negative reactions. If you get them, don't make any decisions right away. Take time to consider whether these reactions are valid for you or not. Then, with that perspective, choose whether or not you will modify your work.

~ If you do creative work for a living (and you can be creative writing a business plan or serving a customer, too), find employers or clients who appreciate your style and vision and give you some creative leeway.

~ If you have the time, create something within the given parameters, then offer something "outside the box," out of your own vision, as an alternative. While some buyers/employers will be afraid to take a risk (perhaps they're hampered by the limited vision of those that *they* answer to), you may find your creativity appreciated and encouraged.

~ If you're doing work for hire, be sure to set aside some time when you can do your own creative work with total freedom, without concern for whether you'll sell it, to keep your creativity fresh and alive.

~ Discuss your differences of opinion with your significant other. Enlist their support in taking a creative risk, and support them in doing so in their own life. This might even breathe new life into your relationship!

~ Find people who appreciate and understand your work and give constructive critique. Having your work "trashed" on a regular basis does not build your abilities or your confidence.

~ If you feel yourself dying inside, find another job or an outside creative outlet. It's not worth sacrificing yourself.

I've said before, and will probably say again, that true creation is an act of courage. We live in a society that encourages conformity and imitation. While we relish true creative work and it excites us, it also threatens us. Confronting genius can make us feel inadequate in our own work. But it also challenges us to dig deeper and find our own unique voice. We can all touch on our own bit of genius when we trust our spark of creativity.

We need to learn to weather the attacks of our critics, particularly the "well-meaning" ones who sneak up on us when our defenses are down. As we practice asserting our own voice, it will get stronger. We will feel more powerful in expressing our personal vision, and we will find those who appreciate our creative efforts.

It is classic that many artists never received critical acclaim during their lifetime. While this is difficult to endure on a personal level, how much poorer we would be if they had compromised to gain the approval of their contemporaries!



Creative Tip

To stretch your limits, do something outrageous (for you), either publicly or privately. Even if you don't tell anyone, you will delight in the freedom it gives you to express yourself in new ways.


Wise Words

"We often fear being rejected so very much that we reject ourselves first before anyone else has the chance."

~ Anonymous

"Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires . . . courage."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us."

~ Virginia Satir

"I can only take care of myself, though I'm occasionally disgusted at my tendency to abandon even *that* responsibility, to ignore my own instincts – to say no to the calls I hear – in order to safeguard the approval of others, which I imagine is essential to survival. It isn't."

~ Gregg Levoy, Callings




(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit . . . Brenda Ueland

The Courage to Create . . . Rollo May

Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go . . . Shaun McNiff

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking ... David Bayles, Ted Orland

Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life . . . Gregg Levoy

Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical & Financial Destiny! . . . Anthony Robbins



© 2002 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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