I recently realized that I've been stifling my creativity. Not intentionally. I strive to put creativity front and center in my life every day. But it turns out I've been doing it for years. It begins with the phrase "Let's be realistic".
Have you ever used this phrase with yourself? It's sounds innocuous, a way of pulling our heads out of the clouds so we don't get hurt, but it has unfortunate side effects.
For me it happens whenever I start to day dream. I think about having the resources to be able to run away to a warmer, more colorful destination whenever I want, or meeting someone in London with whom I become romantically involved. Sometimes I pass a shop window and day dream about what it would be like to wear the dress or outfit displayed on the mannequin. Where would I where it? What would I be doing? Then, invariably, I pull myself back with "let's be realistic".
That man I dream about meeting? He'd probably live in the UK which would mean a long distance relationship or me moving there and leaving my current life, family and friends, behind. I'd be lonely and feel weird having to rely on someone else financially until I could find my feet and all that stress would probably kill the relationship. And the trip? I don't have anyone to travel with so I'd probably be lonely and wouldn't actually enjoy it very much. Plus I don't like the heat, or humidity which would limit the places I could go. What about the dress in the window? It probably wouldn't look good on me. It's not built for a woman with curves.
All of the "reality checks" that I give myself revolve around the fear of my dreams falling short of expectation, that instead of making me happy they will actually end up hurting me. I let fear run the game. And once I give it free reign here it bleeds into other areas of my life, including my creativity. I am less willing to try things because I worry they won't work out the way I think they will. In my writing this results in staring at a chapter for weeks until I can muster the courage to either put new words on the page or change the ones that are there. In my other creative pursuits it makes me ignore my curiosity and stick to what I know I can do.
Now that I know what I'm doing I can actively work to change my behavior. When I find myself saying "let's be realistic" I will ask myself "what if this made me so happy that I didn't mind the discomfort of trying something new?". It's not about conquering the fear. It's about taking it by the hand and bringing it along for the ride. It's just a day dream. There's no pressure. Just the possibility of "what if?".
Photo by Sophia Dunkin-Hubby