Creativity tips – Facing your creative fears – Insight from Week 3 of the Mandala Play Adventure

Here we are at Week 3 of my mandala play adventure!

Inner Creative Play Adventure Mandala Week 3 - Featured in a blog about Facing your creative fears - innercreative.com.au

After having such an experimental and rewarding time in Week 2, I began to face some creative blocks in this week. I was starting to feel scared that I wasn’t going to be as innovative or as exciting as I was the previous week.

The big insight that I came across this week related to facing my creative fears, taking risks and allowing myself to be vulnerable.

Inner Creative - Blog on Facing Your Creative Fears -innercreative.com.au

When I started this play adventure, the reason that I decided to post my completed image on Facebook was to create some form of accountability for myself. I really wanted to make sure that I would create a new mandala each day. And it definitely worked as a motivator for me, especially when I was feeling less than enthused, or had left it as the last thing on my ‘to do’ list for the day. (Luckily I always ended up enjoying it once I started.) So it was a positive, knowing that there were people that would see what I had created at the end of the day.

But, it was also scary to think that there were going to be people who would see what I’d created at the end of the day. What if the mandala isn’t any good? What if people don’t like it? What if it gets boring? What if people dislike my mandalas so much that they ‘de-friend’ me? and so it goes… Basically I was putting something out there that could be judged. And like it or not creativity needs you to bring yourself, your uniqueness, to the table whenever you create something (otherwise it’s just a copy of someone else’s). So it’s hard to put something out there that you have created and then not take any feedback personally (whether it’s good or bad).

I used the following strategies to counter these creativity fears :

  • remember the why – I started this play adventure to create more play in my life. So I reminded myself that as long as I was having fun and playing while creating the mandala, then I was still achieving my aim. It wasn’t supposed to matter what it looked like in the end, because I was just posting the evidence that I had made the time to play that day.
    So when you’re feeling similar fears, ask yourself: Why am I doing this creative project? Is it a gift for a friend? To raise money for a good cause? To learn something new? Focus on why you’re doing it and try to embody that feeling of friendship, generosity or adventure instead. And remember that if you don’t create something then someone or something misses out on what you had to give or learn. Don’t disappoint them or yourself :-).
  • try to keep things open and experimental – Most days I started with an idea in mind, e.g. a colour, a technique like collage, a tool like my pastel pencils, or an image like the sun. But I treated this like a starting point or a guide. I never let myself fixate on a specific final image or product. Half the fun was to see where it went. I just kept asking myself “What should I try next?” and before I knew it I had finished. The Day 1 mandala is a perfect example of this (see below or visit Week 1). For each section I would ask myself “What colour would I like to use in this space?” and then use it to colour in that space. Then I’d move to another space in the mandala, ask again, colour, and so on. It was only after I finished it that I saw an image had emerged of what someone later described as a dragon fly. It wouldn’t have been half as fun or surprising if I’d just decided to create a dragon fly from the start :-).

Inner Creative Play Adventure Day 1 Mandala - - Featured in a blog about Facing your creative fears - innercreative.com.au

  • focus on the process not the product – When I started getting anxious about what the mandala would turn out like I would remind myself that it was about the process and not the product. I would remember my why, try to let go of my expectations of what the end product should look like, and get back into a playful and experimental mind set. I told myself that I didn’t have to sell my work, so it didn’t matter if it was any good. All I had to do was play.
  • take small steps outside of my comfort zone – On days that I wasn’t feeling overly brave and confident I’d use techniques and tools that I was already comfortable with and perhaps try it in a different way. Or I’d use a new tool, such as my pastel pencils, but just focus on trying it out rather than creating something really groundbreaking. Also, I’d let myself sit on an idea for a while to see what answers came to mind or just try out something small rather than the whole idea. For instance, I had been toying with a 3D mandala during the first few weeks but hadn’t really worked out how I would do it. At first I was thinking about colouring a mandala and then cutting it out into a spiral shape. That seemed a bit risky so I decided to just draw a spiral shape over a mandala to see what it would look like coloured in. This idea led to the creation of Day 11’s mandala where I cut out a spiral template to guide the spiral sand shape (see below). In the end, I felt a little more confident towards creating a 3D mandala because I got to test out my 3D mandala idea in a safe way and learnt that it might be better to create it in another way (see my 3D mandala creations from Week 2).

Inner Creative Play Adventure Mandala Day 11 - Featured in a blog about Facing your creative fears - innercreative.com.au

  • do not overthink it or let myself get caught in a downward negative thinking spiral – If I noticed fear popping up in my thoughts while I was creating the mandala (like This is silly. Who’s going to like that?), then I would nip that thinking in the bud before it got any worse and just focus back onto the task of creating the mandala. I’d also check in to make sure that I was still having fun. If I wasn’t, then I’d ask myself questions such as: What would make this more fun? Should I change the colour? Should I try a different pencil type or medium? What would happen if I tried doing this instead? Basically I would try to get into a more playful or experimental mind set, and also focus on the doing of colouring rather than thinking about it.
  • remember that everyone has different tastes – We all appreciate that everyone is different, and each of us like different things. This realisation really came home to me when I got feedback about my mandalas. At the end of each week, I asked people to comment on their favourite mandala. And surprise surprise – not everyone had the same favourite :-). Did that mean that one opinion was better than any other? That one mandala was absolutely without question better than another? No, it just meant that every one had a different opinion and reason for why they liked one mandala compared to another. Even I found myself surprised by what people picked for their favourite mandala. But who says that my opinion was any better than someone else’s? It was just different. So I turned this learning back on myself when I was creating a mandala. If I found that I didn’t really like where a mandala was heading I just reminded myself that it was only my opinion and to keep going. Just because I didn’t love it didn’t mean that no one else wouldn’t. And you know what? I posted some mandalas that I wasn’t too sure about and still got some nice responses.
  • share how you’re feeling – Speak to your friends, family, peers, or a trusted professional about your fears. It’s good to get some external encouragement and/or learn other tips or strategies that could work for you. Just be mindful that opening up about your fears might feel a little scary too, so be gentle with yourself. At one point, I struck up the courage to confess about how scary I was finding this process in response to one of the Facebook comments I received. It was so nice to receive some kind and supportive words back. I am forever grateful for the lovely support that I got from friends and family along the way.
  • “feel the fear and do it anyway” – à la Susan Jeffers – When all is said and done – we can work on our mindset and focus on the task at hand, yet still become gripped with fear when it comes to that last step. In my case, my creative fears surfaced when I was uploading an image of my mandala and sharing it with the world.
    It can be scary to share what we’ve created. So in the end I would just let myself sit with that fear and acknowledge that it was there. I’d then remind myself of the risks – that by moving forward I wasn’t doing anything unsafe nor harmful to myself or others. Then before too much time got away from me, I’d just press that ‘Publish’ button.
  • practice – As with anything, practice makes things easier. Over time it did get easier to upload my images. Afterwards, I felt a little braver. I also felt a little prouder of myself that I could overcome that fear. So I used these small wins to buoy myself up the next time when I became plagued with these creative fears.

So, while these strategies for overcoming fear were useful for me, as always, I suggest that you check these strategies out and find out what works for you. Talk about this issue with others and learn more about what they find useful. And remember to take it one step at a time, at whatever pace works for you. Edging out of your comfort zone can be scary but I found that my effort was worth it :-).

What strategies have worked for you in overcoming your creative fears?

I’d love to know. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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