Letting Go Of The Need For Everyone Else To Understand Why You Create

imagination takes flight
image: Nichole Renee

How much of your time and energy do you spend trying to justify to other people the time you spend on your creative projects?

Family, friends, colleagues. Pets. The postman. Those people you went to school with decades ago and have absolutely nothing in common with now, but still for some reason feel a need to explain the intricate details of your life to.

In fact anyone and everyone who seems to not “get” why you need to spend time on the artwork that matters to you, why you need to give life to those wonderful ideas swirling round within you.

I expect it’s far more time and energy than you want to spend.

Time and energy that you could be pouring into your work instead, and taking it to a whole other level.

So what if you could let go of this need to explain yourself, to justify your need to create?

How freeing would that be?

How much more creative could you be without constantly feeling you need to create in secret, trying to surreptitiously snatch a few moments here and there without anyone noticing?

How much better would you feel, creating without that weight of guilt and shame that you’re daring to spend time on something that actually matters to you?

Letting go of the need for everyone else to understand begins with accepting that not everyone has the capacity to understand.

You could spend the rest of your life trying to explain and it’d get you nowhere.

They’re just not going to get it.

And that’s fine, they don’t need to.

Let’s illustrate this another way.

Joshua is vegetarian, and the most vile and stomach turning meal he can imagine is liver and bacon. He cannot understand why anyone would want to eat it, or could possibly enjoy it.

Give Joshua a tasty vegetable moussaka or tagine though, and he’ll be your friend for life.

Joshua was hanging out with his friend Jamie one day, then Jamie realised he needed to be home for his evening meal. “I need to go Josh, I have a delicious dinner ready and waiting.”

“Ok Jamie, of course,” Joshua replies, imagining any number of his own favourite dishes, and feeling suddenly hungry himself.

“It’s liver and bacon, my favourite,” says Jamie.

Hearing what his friend’s dinner was, Joshua’s view instantly changes.

He can understand the need to eat, and has his own favourite meals that he greatly enjoys.

But why on earth would anyone want to eat liver and bacon? He could not comprehend this for a second. It wouldn’t matter how much Jamie, or anyone else, tried to win Joshua over to the deliciousness of liver and bacon, he would never appreciate it.

To some people you know, maybe to most people you know, the time you spend creating is like a meal of liver and bacon is to Joshua.

They cannot see the appeal, or the need for it. They never will.

This doesn’t mean they don’t have stuff in their life that is important to them, that they’re passionate about, and that they want to devote time to, in the same way that Joshua understands that everyone has the need to eat, and has his own favourite dishes.

But those people in your life that don’t get your need to create, are unlikely to ever be converted. It’s a waste of time trying to.

Once you accept this, it allows you to let go of the need to constantly try to explain yourself, and to justify your creative time and work.

It means you can redirect your time, energy and focus to creating what matters to you, in the best way you can.

Then, at a later date, you can share this work with the people who will appreciate and enjoy it, and completely relate to not only the work itself, but the need to keep showing up and creating it, today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of your life.

Forget about the family, friends, pets, postman and ex-school friends that never have, and never will, understand why you need to create.

Create for you.

Create the important work that matters.

When you do, you create not only for you, but for all of the rest of us who do understand too.


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8 thoughts on “Letting Go Of The Need For Everyone Else To Understand Why You Create”

  1. I think it is very important not to let people’s views of whether what you do is important interfere with your own assessment of whether it is important. In many aspects of life, it is important to understand that people’s views of things are driven by their values and that people’s values differ.

    It can be useful when one is coordinating a life with other people, though, to have a brief, understandable answer to questions about what one is doing. For example, two people may have important things to do simultaneously, but there is a job one of them needs to do. A decision has to me made who is going to do this thing that both would agree one of them must do. For example, the baby is crying. Who is going to rush over?

    For this purpose it’s nice to have some interpersonal understanding going on that allows decisions to be made jointly.


    1. Sometimes it’s the case that we’ve listened so long to other people telling us what is important (in their eyes) that we’ve forgotten what actually is important to us. So it’s a long route back, and we follow the compass of what we enjoy, what lights us up, what excites us.

      I completely agree with what you say about coordinating with other people. The preferable situation is one where both people honour, respect, give space for and protect each others passions and interests, as well as their own. Rather than the opposite of that – both parties being very unwilling to give each other this space and respect and both being resentful and miserable because of it.

      And yes of course when it’s situations like looking after children, it makes a lot of sense to have guidelines in place ahead of the events happening. Good point to raise. You could have one evening where both partners are working on their own stuff but one has agreed that if the children do need attention, they will go. Then another evening where the same happens, but the person agreed to attend first is switched. Fair on everyone.


  2. Of course, this really hits home with me. My favorite line in this whole article is the key:

    —-“You could spend the rest of your life trying to explain and it’d get you nowhere.”—-

    It seems those that ‘don’t get’ your need to create never will, so no amount of justifying will accomplish anything. It took me way too long to realize that. I’ve also noticed that the ones that don’t ‘get it’ are the most vocal and belligerent which makes me feel the need to justify it even more. So even though on an intellectual level, I realize it’s pointless to try and justify (and no need to); on an emotional level, the knee-jerk reaction is to justify and offer a hundred reasons why I need to create. A bad pattern (habit) that’s gone on way too long.

    Also, I love your comment:
    ——“Sometimes it’s the case that we’ve listened so long to other people telling us what is important (in their eyes) that we’ve forgotten what actually is important to us. So it’s a long route back, and we follow the compass of what we enjoy, what lights us up, what excites us.”——-
    It makes me wince at the time I’ve lost to non-creating partly because of being TOLD what I want to do. (Oh, those crazy little control freaks). But at least now I’m following my own compass 🙂 Thanks for posting this. I will be referring to it often.


    1. I need to thank you Diane, it was a comment you made on the last post that inspired this article. I had you in mind when I wrote it, so I’m really pleased it’s hit home with you, and helped. 🙂

      Good additional point about those who get it least are most vocal. It ends up like two people screaming at a wall – because neither is going to see the other’s point of view so they’re just trying to shout each other down. The result is they both get worn out.

      If one of us can disengage from battle in the first place, it saves a lot of time, energy and conflict!


      1. You’re welcome, Dan. I like how you laid it out and boiled it down to one simple fact:
        “They’re just not going to get it.
        And that’s fine, they don’t need to.”
        In fact, I’m going to print this out and put it in my art room 🙂

        My reason for justifying was not only to explain what and why I need to create, but also I didn’t want them to feel they had “won” the battle and felt they were right. But, of course, it’s a battle that no one really wins. Neither side’s point of view will change, so it’s up to us to disengage, and just continue to create and do our thing.

        This was a good piece to read and I know many others can relate to it.


      2. The only way to win, if you want to look at it like that, is to show up and create regularly and let others see how happy it makes you. That’s not only a win for you because you’re happier and more creative, but good for them too because you’re going to be a more fun and easy going person to be around!


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