Stop censoring your creativity. Easier said than done, right?
Whether you’re a blogger, a painter, a stay-at-home mom who just loves to craft, or a chef, creative flow happens when we let down our guard and stay present in the moment. When we let go of the limits we (or society) impose on ourselves, we begin to create magic.
Beautiful things are often created out of the darkest of times… out of boredom… out of inspiration to shed light on an important topic.
So why is it so hard for us to stop censoring what it is that we put out into the world?
Is censorship ever a good thing?
Censorship, at best, can be tactful and polite when used in the right situation. Not interrupting someone to tell them your point of view as they’re explaining their opinion is good manners. But holding in every single opinion you have on important topics that matter to you is just not healthy, and in the end it ends up hurting our relationships we have with others.
Sure, I don’t need to hear your every opinion on politics or religion or what you think is the healthiest diet to eat. (And let’s be honest, sometimes those opinion pushers can just be downright annoying, pressing their moral superiority onto others at every chance they get.)
But when it comes to you being you and me being me… living our everyday lives to our own standards, morals, and values… we can’t be afraid to speak up when something matters.
Does that mean I need to constantly declare what I think is right and how others are wrong, or argue with acquaintances I barely know in online spaces to prove a point? Is that really effective or productive?
Nope, not at all. Some things just aren’t worth the energy or time.
What I’m saying is, when it comes to creating art, expressing your viewpoint, and living your truth… It is so important to be direct, honest, and show people your unique perspective. Even if it feels uncomfortable.
Censorship, at its worst, is destructive. This can be especially true for artists, writers, or anyone pursuing creative work, professionally or as a pastime.
When everyone just agrees with one another to keep the peace or when artists only make art that’s safe (that’s on trend or acceptable) aren’t we missing a lot of important stuff in between?
When we only create what is popular or acceptable, don’t we misrepresent ourselves? Don’t we owe it to ourselves to at least be honest?
If we all only think and create in one way doesn’t that make for a very boring world we live in?
Creating in only one single “approved” way creates and enables a level of bureaucracy where gatekeepers dictate what, how, and why we create the things we create. Is that authentic? Is that honest? Is that ethical?
It is so important today, as always, to make your voice heard.
In a crowd full of agreers, be the person who speaks up, saying “no, this isn’t right” or “that’s just not for me.”
In a room full of artists, be the one who picks up the palette knife to paint with instead of the brush.
Dare to think critically and act independently of others.
Why we censor our creative work
Fear of judgment
My instincts tell me that fear of judgment is at the top of the list when it comes to censoring ourselves. We fear that others will think we’re weird, not want to associate with us, and we’ll become outcasts in our very own work. We become so afraid of what others will think of us that we forget to pay attention to what we think of ourselves.
Here is a word of advice: Let your freak flag fly.
Do you know anyone remarkable who got to where they are by being just like everyone else? Especially for creatives, being different makes you stand out more… oftentimes in a good way.
I can understand, especially if you’re a social media influencer and rely on this for income, your worries about losing followers, clients, or traffic on your website. It’s a big deal.
You may worry that if you post something that others don’t like or agree with, you’ll lose followers/likes and in turn lose out on income.
Here’s the thing: It’s okay to filter how you say things, but you shouldn’t let that hold you back from speaking up or creating what’s important to you. Create what feels right for you and your brand. Be mindful, yes. But don’t ignore that pull you feel about posting certain things and creating certain types of content.
There is also a compromise you can make when you need to satisfy both clients/followers while also staying true to yourself: Make some content for them, some content for you.
For example, I recently bumped my blog posts up each week from two to three posts. I still write my usual how-to posts twice a week, but once a week I write what I want to write about. I try to stay somewhat within my niche, but it gives me a little more wiggle room to talk about what I want to talk about versus what Google says is popular at the moment. This way both my followers and I win.
I’d argue that we all have a little bit of a fear of failure. No one wants to say they couldn’t do something. Or couldn’t do it “right.” No one wants to face the looming negativity that accompanies failure, head on.
Guess what? Failing is the only way to grow creatively.
Putting yourself out there to fail, creating different, “weird” pieces/projects, and making mistakes along the way–those are prerequisites to growth.
Growth happens in discomfort. Growth happens in our mistakes. That’s how we learn.
If we, as creators, fear creating something because it may fail, we are already letting ourselves fail. And that’s a disservice to ourselves.
Sometimes those things we see as failures are exactly what we needed before creating our next big thing. (And sometimes these things we think are failures turn out to be incredibly miraculous. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all.)
When we fail, we build resiliency. We build character. We build, essentially, the art that is us. These collective failures are our future art. Because you can’t have one without the other. We all just keep building off of these failures, until we reach something great.
Carbon copy dilemma
Sometimes, as creatives, we fear copying others. We think it’s already been done before, so why bother? Some of us put so much time and effort into being original, having a brand-new idea, and being out-of-this-world unique. We expect to concoct some new method or creation that just changes the world… (as unrealistic as that may be).
But even when we “copy” someone else, does it ever really turn out exactly like their’s did?
I personally think there’s power in getting inspiration from others’ work. There’s beauty in emulating someone else. There’s skill gained when we use someone else’s work as a study and practice.
It is okay to borrow others’ ideas.
(Stealing, on the other hand, is a completely different story. That’s another topic for another day.)
Now, I’m not exactly known to be the most gracious person when I find out someone has imitated me, down to the very last detail. But you know what, as long as they’re not downright plagiarizing me, does it really matter? In the whole grand scheme of things, does it?
To be quite honest, is everything I’ve ever created 100% original? Not at all. I almost always get inspired by someone else’s work. Whether that’s decorating my home, a new outfit style, a recipe…
The key to drawing inspiration from others is to:
1. Give credit where credit is due (i.e. if you just redecorated your home because you saw so-and-so do it in the same exact style and loved it, let people know you got that idea from them. I promise no one will stone you.)
2. Use this person’s work as inspiration, but put your own spin on it
No one likes a copycat (as 2nd grade as that sounds). But I bet if you give credit to the person who inspired you and you stick to using your own flair with their blueprint, not only will others respect that, you’ll value it that much more, too.
Use their ideas as a guide, use your ideas to add personality.
Final thoughts on censoring creative work…
Now that we’ve explored what creative censorship is, why we censor ourselves, and how we can combat that, I’m hoping your mind feels a little more at ease. I hope I’ve nudged you to paint that painting, post that content, or write that article you’ve been yearning to but didn’t have the full courage to step out and do quite yet.