Living In The Shadow Of Your Creativity

“Support is what I need” the young creative person’s heart screams out in pain. “Why can’t my family just show me some support? Why does fear break out across their faces when I announce with excitement “When I grow up I want to be a writer?”

Creativity in Children and Young Adult

This was my daughter’s experience with some of her immediate family. It felt like ‘you and me against the world’ as I supported and encouraged her dream. Kate is now 31 and has written and self-published several books so far. Despite what people think she is proud to answer “I am a writer” when asked the boring unimaginative question “What do you do?”

It tares at my heartstrings to meet young people who were expressing their creative talent in high school art and English classes, but then dropped their creativity when they enter the workforce.

Loving well-meaning parents offer their teenagers cautionary advice about thinking of the arts as a hobby, encouraging their children to follow a different, more sensible, practical life because “Art won’t pay the electric bill.” Or worst still, the creative urges of the child is ignored or suppressed.

As their parent’s fear added to their own, they give up their dreams of an artistic career, settling for the mediocre world of adult could-have-beens and regrets. Spending years, sometimes decades, with the dream of one day picking up their creative talent again while in the meantime, the weed of fear grows stronger choking out the dream. The author of the International Best Selling book titled The Artist’s Way A course in discovering and recovering your Creative Self, Julia Cameron calls them Shadow Artists.

Living in a Creative Shadow

Many Shadow Artists, or Shadow Creatives as I like to call them, are often ignorant of their true identity. As I mention in my article Create, Share, Repeat, your creativity might be writing, painting, craftwork, photography, drawing, singing or like me – poetry, whatever is on your heart to create. Shadow Creatives often build a life or career supporting a creative person who is living the dream, actively pursuing the creative career they themselves secretly long for. Unable to recognize that they themselves may possess the creativity they so admire, Shadow Creatives hide in the shadows, afraid to step out into the light and expose their dream for fear. Fear of rejection, criticism or failure.

This was my experience, spending decades helping my family achieve their goals and passions, which isn’t a bad goal in life when it is done in moderation. Hiding in their shadow I longed to express my creativity, which at the time was singing. I was so afraid that, if we happened to be at a pub on karaoke night, I would only get up to sing after my family had hounded me to get up. They knew that I wanted, more than anything, to get up and sing, but fear cemented my feet under the table. Once I got up and started singing, I fell into this blissful exciting dream state, wanting it to continue for more than a three-minute song. Writing poetry satisfies most of my passion for music, but there is still a small hole in my heart wanting to be filled with singing, the light of which is growing bigger each year.

Shadow Creatives simply lack clarity in their creativity. There is just this nagging voice that gets louder as the years roll on. This feeling, this urge, this desire to create. Doing it as a hobby every now and then is not enough for them. They dream of being immersed in their creativity. They want to write, they want to paint, they want to act, sing, dance, create, but they are afraid to take their dream seriously. Pushing down the desire to create deep into the basement of their mind with excuses and fear.

Healing Old Creative Wounds

This is the first week of twelve weeks of The Artist’s Way book, in which the author, Julia Cameron directs us to start to take baby steps toward healing old creative wounds, while at the same time, not creating new wounds. As you start to connect with your creativity, just like a baby learning to walk and discover their new world around them, creative mistakes are necessary and stumbles are normal. “Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves” Julia encourages. “In order to recover as an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.”

Fear of Being Fully Creative

Many fearful thoughts rear their ugly heads as we face the unknown world of becoming a creative person like “If I become a creative person, what will it mean to me? What changes will take place in me and in others?” Deeply held beliefs around creativity bubble up as well:

  • Everyone will hate me
  • I will hurt and upset my friends and family
  • I will abandon my friends and family
  • How can I be a writer, I can’t spell
  • My creative idea is not good enough
  • I will have to spend a lot of time on my own
  • I will do bad work, no one will tell me, I won’t recognize it myself and I will look like a fool
  • I will never earn enough money from my creativity
  • My lover/partner/husband will leave me
  • I am a nobody, I don’t deserve to be a happy successful creative
  • I will have only one good piece of work in me
  • It’s too late. If I haven’t become a fully functioning artist yet, I never will
  • It’s too soon for me, I don’t have enough education, experience in my creative endeavour
  • I am scared of the unknown

Our writing or painting or individual creativity shouldn’t be put off because of fears. But because we think it is silly to feel afraid, we don’t tell anyone and the creative block remains firmly between us and our creative dream. It will even block us from finding a solution to removing the blockage.

Jealousy is a stalling technique that reinforces our creative blockage. We voice excuses to ourselves and others like “I could do that better than that person if only I had/did this or that.”

Identify What is Blocking Your Creativity

JUST DO IT. Give yourself permission to start. DON’T DELAY. DO SOMETHING. The author advises that affirmations will help allow you to do it. An affirmation is a positive statement of positive belief. She says that if we can become one-tenth as good at positive self-talk as we are at negative self-talk, we will notice an enormous change.

We are quick to tell ourselves what we can’t do and too slow and guilt-ridden to tell ourselves what we could do if we let ourselves. Instead, we stand in our own way, with our hands on our hips and finger pointed affirming the negative and preventing ourselves from moving forward. Step aside, smile at yourself, wave yourself through with encouraging words. “Welcome into your creative world.”

The author provides exercises to help you identify your creative blockage. One story she shares is of a man that wrote short story ideas in journals, each following the last into a dark drawer far from prying eyes with the thoughts “You’re just kidding yourself, a fool, no real talent, a pretender, you are a joke…” Why he did this was a mystery to him until he started working on the exercises in the book. ”

Another story she shares is of a man who feared that someone would praise his work and not mean it, so whenever people complimented him on his work, he was deeply suspicious of them and their motives. Positive affirmations felt very uncomfortable for him at first, but they rapidly allowed him the be able to participate in the public reading of his work.

Julia explains that it is always necessary to acknowledge creative injuries and grieve them. Otherwise, they become creative scar tissue and block your creative growth. I found the exercises helped me to understand my fear and clarify what was blocking me from being fully creative.

What to Do Now?

You can do the course by yourself, form a group to work through the book together or join The Artist’s Way Facebook page. I encourage you to buy a copy of the book whether new or secondhand, download the ebook version or borrow it from your local library and work your way through the book. You can purchase the book or the online course at

Over twelve weeks, I will be sharing my insights into each week’s session to encourage you to dip your toe in the water as you decide whether this course is for you or not, or you can journey along with me each week as you work through the book yourself.

Either way, DO IT NOW. START TODAY. Remember it’s never too late to start something new in life.

Beverley Joy © 2022 of Simply Create 2 Share

You may also enjoy My Story Poems inspired by Simply Create 2 Share articles.

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