How creative we are is dependent on a number of different factors.
But it’s not as dependent on as many different factors as we often think it is.
Another way of looking at this might be to say that we are far more in control of how creative we are, than we think.
Many of the things that we believe are holding us back and limiting us, are not completely beyond our control.
We don’t need to flail helplessly like a drowning octopus who forgot how to swim.
We can swim.
More than that, we can swim surely, and bravely, and pretty much anywhere in the ocean we want to.
I want to introduce an idea that hopefully makes this easier to understand, and will help you find what does and doesn’t limit your creativity.
In short, this idea will allow you to stop feeling so powerless, and start recognising how you can be more creative.
It’s called your Creative Circumference.
Imagine your creative life has a circle around it. If you’ve been struggling to be creative recently – especially if you’ve been struggling to get into any kind of rhythm or momentum – your Creative Circumference is likely to be fairly small.
It might feel like a rope tightly wrapped around your torso, pinning your arms to your sides, as if you’ve been lassoed by a ruthless cowboy, tied to a post in the midday sun and forgotten about.
As we spoke of before, there are many reasons why we feel we’re not more creative. Your Creative Circumference contains those factors that you can control, that you do have a say in.
Everything else – everything outside of the circle – is completely beyond your control and influence.
Let’s look at a few examples and whether they are inside, our outside, your Creative Circumference.
1. The weather.
Whether it’s sunny, cloudy, stormy, snowy or sweltering is beyond your control. There’s nothing you can do about the unpredictability of the weather. So the weather itself is outside of your Creative Circumference.
If you often say you can’t create when it’s too wet, or too hot, or too cold, or too mild etc etc, then you’re likely blaming something outside of your CC for your lack of creativity, thus avoiding taking responsibility yourself.
If your creative work involves being outside, and you live somewhere incredibly hot which limits how much time you can spend outside, choose the cooler times to create. Go out at sunrise (or before), or after sunset and do your work. Or find a way of providing shelter for when you create.
You can’t change how sunny it gets, how hot it gets – or any other kind of weather – but you can work around it. You can choose how much you let it hinder your creativity. This is all positively within your Creative Circumference.
2. The price of art materials.
If your work involves expense canvases, you might say you don’t create more because you can’t afford the materials. So you create nothing at all.
The price of art materials is not set by you. That is certainly outside your Creative Circumference. If it were in your control, you’d likely make canvases more affordable than potatoes.
You can shop around. These days we have a wider range of resources available to us than ever before, and as artists we’re not limited simply to the materials we can get in our tiny local art store that stocks only 12 colours of paint and two sizes of canvas. (If we even have a local art store.)
Also you can be creative about finding ways to create with different materials. Switch from large canvases to a series of smaller ones that then piece together and can be purchased and worked on over a long period.
Or work on card or hardboard, or offcuts of wood, or signage no longer wanted. Or even better, find a wall to paint a mural on (either your own or someone else’s, with permission), so the cost of your canvas is zero.
There are all kinds of options available to you. All kinds of options that are within your Creative Circumference.
3. You feel isolated and no-one around you understands your need to create.
You can’t control how other people think about art. Some people just don’t get it – your work, or any other artist’s work – and won’t ever get it. This is far outside of your Creative Circumference.
Trying to explain your work to someone who obviously isn’t relating to it, and looks at you as if you’re speaking an alien language (which in effect you are) is fruitless. You’ll exhaust yourself and become ever more frustrated that they’re not “getting” you. Especially if it’s someone who’s very close to you in other ways.
You have choices, all well within your Creative Circumference. You can seek out a community of artists who do understand what it means to create, and what a fundamental need and part of your life it is.
Again, in this information age, we have at our fingertips a greater number of resources, communities and artists, than every before in history.
Make use of that.
Give up on those who will never comprehend your work. Find the people who will adore it. They’re out there, closer than you realise.
Save your energy explaining your work to people who don’t (and can’t) speak the same language. To the people who do get your work, it will resonate like a sudden foghorn in the dead of night. They won’t need a single extra word of explanation from you.
Recognise the great number of choices you have to take back control, all within your Creative Circumference.
Hopefully these few examples will give you a good idea of how we are not completely powerless to change things that we initially feel helpless and frustrated about.
Crucially we’re not changing the source of the block itself.
We’re not changing the weather, the price of art materials in certain stores, or other people’s opinions of our work.
But we are exercising our right to choose how we then respond to these factors beyond our control.
That is what this whole idea of your Creative Circumference is about.
Recognising your freedom to choose, to take back control of your creative life. To choose to focus your energy within your Creative Circumference, on the elements that can make a huge difference to how creative you are.
Here’s how to get started yourself –
Take a large sheet of paper, and draw a circle in the middle, that takes up maybe half the full width of the page.
Write inside this circle – My Creative Circumference.
Then, start thinking about what you feel holds you back from being more creative.
For each thought that comes, write any parts that are clearly outside of your control and influence outside of the circle on the page.
Write the parts that are within your control – the parts you have a choice over – inside the circle on the page.
Continue until the page is full.
If you’d have done this exercise before reading this article, it’s likely your Creative Circumference would have very little inside of it.
Outside, there’d be dozens of factors crammed in, all caving on your poor tiny little circle.
This is how it feels sometimes – that virtually everything is against you creating, pressing down and closing in. And you feel not only uncreative, but powerless to change it.
But now, having understood how much choice you have, and always have, your Creative Circumference is the larger, fuller area.
You’ve realised how many options you have to find ways to work around the things you can’t change.
Let me know how you get on with your own Creative Circumference. I’d love to hear of how it changes your outlook and approach to creativity as you work through it.
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