I have a friend who is a musician.
And more than anything else he wants to write his own songs and eventually put them together on a CD. But it’s not really happening. So he is in that particular type of artists hell where the creative longing is terribly insistent but the creative manifestation is stalled.
He’s complained to me a number of times about how miserably stuck he is and because I am a professional believer in the gifts of others and cannot ever keep my nose out of anybody’s creative business, especially when there is massive suffering involved, I poked and prodded a bit. And I discovered that he is not really as stuck as he thinks. At least not all the time.
This guy grew up in a suburban middle class family, went to an Ivy League college and has worked his whole life in the white collar corporate world. Yet when he sits down to write songs he has discovered that he has an alter ego as a scruffy, country western type dude who drives a beat up old Ford Black Galaxy and hangs out in little hole in the wall saloons.
And even though he is happily married, in his songs he’s constantly getting involved with a crazy and elusive woman who is always frustrating him and sometimes breaking his heart.
His songs scare him partly because they don’t make any sense.
Who is this guy in the Ford Galaxy? Who is this mysterious and wildly unpredictable woman and why is she torturing him? These songs and characters don’t fit with his self image and how he sees himself and more importantly how his family has always seen him.
His songs are quirky and kind of dark and twisted and full of emotional angst. His family is pragmatically cheerful, strongly academic and scientific and would be horrified to see their son as this wandering itinerant poet full of sardonic attitudes about life and love.
So he keeps trying to get his songs to conform to who he thinks he is and more importantly who he thinks he should be. He is afraid that if he puts his brooding intensity out in the world he will be rejected or humiliated. He is trying to force himself into the mold that he thinks will garner him the greatest external approval.
But his “nice” songs have no energy or juice, for him or for anyone else. So he feels stuck in his creative process much of the time and is only really creatively on fire when the scruffy, broody Ford dude takes over. Then the words and music flow.
In other words he is only stuck when he is second guessing what his creative muse is so generously offering him.
In my intuitive painting classes I am always encouraging people to be spontaneous as they paint and to trust their first impulses. I talk about the concept of radical self acceptance which means practicing trying to welcome everything that comes out of the brush with some sense of curiosity and compassion. Which is ridiculously hard for most people because we are trained to think that whatever wants to come out of us is not any good by virtue of the fact that we have created it.
When our creativity is really humming along, when we experience it as the most alive and powerful, it’s coming from an essential place inside of us. Our creativity is an opportunity to tell our truth, to authentically express ourselves , to be real and honest and transparent and vulnerable.
But that means we have to risk being ourselves and to risk that other people might not like who we are or understand where we are coming from. Even if you don’t identify yourself as an artist, when you are exposing yourself through your creativity you are putting yourself on stage. And you are looking for a response. Every time you put your creativity out into the world you are taking on the role of performer and every performer wants a reaction. And they want that response to be applause and acclaim not rotten tomatoes or worse yet a response that is no response at all.
The worst thing imaginable to any creative type is the blank stare or the quizzical “huh” or even worse, someone saying something that is superficially nice because they don’t know what else to say.
We are performing our whole lives by putting on a show of what we think will get us the most noticed and loved. And it often starts in our families where we are pigeonholed and pegged to be a certain way. Some part of us that the family can understand or feel comfortable with ends up getting all the attention.
Suzy is the smart one. Matt is the artist. Karen is overly sensitive. Tim is going to end up in a federal penitentiary one day. George is good with his hands. And we live our lives acting out these scripts because it’s what has been sanctioned. It’s how we are seen and so it becomes the way that we see ourselves.
But when we allow our creativity free rein, long hidden aspects of our many layered inner selves often start banging on the door demanding to be let out of the closet. And it’s in these secret, wacky, stuffed away parts of who we are that a lot of passion and energy resides.
Our creativity is interested in us becoming whole human beings. It wants us to stop living such a small and narrow life. Acting out that same darned, tired and tattered, one sided and unidimensional script that we were given as children is just plain no fun and boring. It’s old. It’s been done. Over and over again. And the last thing that the creativity goddess wants for us is to be bored senseless by a life of going around and around the same ancient, well worn grooves in our psyche.
So the next time you find yourself stalled at a creative roadblock take a moment to ask the following question “Who is it that you are trying to please? What status quo are you busily trying to maintain?”
And finally, who is your creative alter ego equivalent of the Ford Galaxy dude and when are you finally going to let him or her out to play?