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Creative Anxiety

Before I started my own business as a web designer, I had not had to rely on my own creative abilities so much. I had worked with designers before, but now I am the designer. I chose this line of work because I knew I had creative talent and had had this reflected back to me. I wanted to use my creative abilities, to express that side of me. I knew I could figure out the technical, the logical part. I have always had ease with that.

What I discovered was that I would always become anxious when I started a new design for a client. In the past, I could always rely on my knowledge and experience that I could “problem solve” or “figure out” my way through tasks that were put before me. With problem solving, I could rely on logically working my way through a problem, step by step. But I could not do so with creativity. Creativity comes from a different place from inside me. With creativity, there are no steps to figure out.

Not to say that design does not have its logical components. It does. There is a great deal of problem solving involved in meeting a client’s needs in the design. But for the aesthetics, that comes from the heart.

Creativity just seems to flow, to manifest from within. You take in what the client needs, who the client is, and other relevant input like ingredients in a soup. Then inside those ingredients seem to combine and output from what I suppose I could call creative intuition.

Why do I get anxious. I suppose because I have so much experience with being able to problem solve, that I trust that my brain will make it through. With creativity, I don’t have the same trust. It is scary to declare that I will create something beautiful when I am not really doing anything at all. The reality of it is that it happens inside me. I just need to listen.

Being a spiritually devoted man, I am realizing that this is a reflection of my trust in God. The more I can trust that God will make something beautiful and bring that through my hand, the easier it becomes. The more I trust, the more I relax and can hear more deeply inside, more clearly inside – and inside is where the magic happens.

It is funny that in all of this, I am realizing how my belief in my own ability to problem solve is also a misunderstanding. I was gifted with a logical mind and faith in my ability to accomplish most anything with it. But in reality, my mind is also governed by The Ultimate Governor – God. There have been times when it seems like my brain is not working, and I cannot find my way, and in those times I am put face to face with the truth I am only a vessel through which God acts. And if God does not want to act through me in that moment, then I have not the power to do otherwise.

So creative anxiety for me is ultimately my experience of fear – fear that “what if the creative flow will not produce what is needed for this client, this project?” “What if God has another teaching for me with this project – such as patience, being humble?” “How will my client like that?” “How will I continue to provide for my family?”

I suppose for those of you who are my clients, or potential clients, the reality of it is, that lesson could come through any designer – and if it does, than we will work it out, with God’s grace. We always seem to.

2 Responses to Creative Anxiety

  1. Rob Nicholson November 14, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    Hi David

    I am a designer and I experience the very same anxieties, unfortunately since trying to get into web design I am anxious about both the creative design and the logical problem solving. There is nothing more scary than being presented with a totally blank canvass and a head full of that client briefing brain soup you described so well. Plus unlike designing for print which I know inside-out, with web work I am still way outside my comfort zone.

    What really struck a deep chord with me was your parrallel with trusting in god and letting your creativity flow. Allowing and observing something beautifully right manifest out of nothing and never take personal credit for it (which instantly blocks my flow) takes courage, especially the first few times, I guess trust builds from experience.

    I am not a christian and I hesitate to use terms like god at all but I practice meditation and try to follow a spiritual path and its amazing how hearing the truth spoken from anyone’s personal experience, always makes my heart leap. I suspect that if everybody quietly practised in due humility and appreciation there could be no place for fear or misstrust, our differences and sectarianisms might get set aside in exchange for exploring our human similarities.

    Anyway, much respect! I hope you keep on penning these clear and informative guides and travelling your path.

    • David Tierney November 14, 2011 at 11:50 am #

      Hi Rob,

      Thanks for sharing openly your own experience and thoughts.

      Staring at the blank canvas still creates anxiety inside me, and as I feel it, it seems the same – the fear that nothing will come. But given the number of times it has come, and always has eventually, that experience has naturally build up trust which helps. That trust combined with my belief that it all comes from God has resulted in a stronger trust in God. I am grateful for that.

      FYI – I am not a christian either. I am actually a Muslim. I was raised christian and surrounded by those who called themselves christians, but my heart rarely found truth in what was taught and practiced by those who considered themselves christians. There were good people around, but their goodness seemed to come from an internal truth that they held onto from birth.

      I believe there is one God who is not limited and as part of that, that God is always guiding us to him, each of us in everything we do, always guiding us to the truth, to purity, and faith. Each time, from moment to moment, that we listen and chose to follow that direction and guidance – that brings us closer, opens our heart more, peals off another layer of the onion of veils that block us from the truth, from love, peace, and so on. That is what guides me at least.

      Anyways, thanks again for sharing and I pray that you continue to follow your spiritual path and find peace and success with your work and life. – David

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