Tips on Dealing with Creative Anxiety

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In working at Kit and Clowder, I get to see daily what people are struggling with creatively and what might be holding people back from starting their own journey. One of the biggest things that I see affect others is a paralysing inner fear to get started, a fear of failing and making mistakes, which can be described as Creative Anxiety. It takes away our ability to get started and then robs us of our ability to achieve and grow.

I wanted to bring this up today as I've seen this mentioned so many times, and I wanted you to know that you are not alone and we all experience this as creators.

It's not always easy to overcome, and I don't think it ever truly goes away whether you are a beginner, or you have been doing this for years, as art is about putting yourself out there and being vulnerable, two things that can make us experience self doubt no matter how long you have been colouring. Art is emotional. The good news is, there is help available and we can manage our Creative Anxiety, learning to live with it so we can get started on our own journey.

Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you feel Creative Anxiety creeping up on you:

1 - Hear It, Feel It

It's easy to say don't let fear stop you from moving forward, but a lot harder to actually do this. The first step into managing it is to accept it. Hear yourself be afraid of failing, of making those mistakes. Don't cover it up with procrastination or I don't have time. Understand what it is that is holding you back and this is when we can start to make steps to move forward. If you have trouble acknowledging it, try writing it down on paper. This can be hard as we are admitting we are afraid, but once it's out it can be a really powerful way to let go of the fear.

2 - Remember WHY you are doing this

When we put so much pressure on ourselves, creative work can start to feel like a chore which makes us not want to create. We all experience this at one time or another, but it's important to recognise this and manage this, rather than just walking away. Remember, we didn't start this hobby because we felt we should. We started it because we wanted to. No one is making you or placing the pressure on you. Think about why you first wanted to make art:

Because it gives your life meaning. Because it is a way to express yourself, to be creative. Because it challenges you to take risks - even though this is a scary thing, but it makes you come alive and helps you grow as a person. Remember you are not colouring or doing classes because you should or you have to. You are doing it because it brings you joy, it brings you a sense of accomplishment and achievement. But, with achievement comes fear. If we don't have the fear, the obstacles, the mistakes, then we aren't working hard, we aren't pushing ourselves, and we aren't reaching achievements. When you experience that fear, remember why you love this hobby and that it is ok to be feeling these things, that it's your choice to move beyond this.

3 - Manage Your Expectations

This is such an important step. When we are learning, no matter how long we have been colouring, there are going to be times when what we expect us to achieve does not match up with what we actually achieve. This is because we are always learning, no matter how long we have been doing this.

Remember that a class is a time for learning, not a time to strive for perfection. When you do your first practice, I'm not going to lie - there will be areas you want to improve upon. But there *should* be.  If everyone learned immediately, Kit and Clowder would not even exist and the classes would be pointless - you wouldn't spend your money on them. Remember that a mistake just means you are learning something new, and this is all our goal should be ❤ So we have to recognise this might happen, and be ready for it, and know that I'm right here to help you when you feel this way. Let's take that pressure off and aim to experiment and challenge ourselves every time we colour and remember as long as we have a go we can never truly fail. 

Remember, the only way to get better is to be bad first. Just allow yourself to play, to make, to have a go. It is about the making, and the joy of doing something creative, not about the quality. This will come the more you make.

4 - Turn off Social Media

It's very easy to spiral into countless hours of browsing Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram for inspiration. It can be great for getting inspiration, but it can make us procrastinate from starting, and also invites us to compare our work with others. If you notice you have been browsing more than you have been making, it's time to turn the computer off and focus on your own journey. 

Remember that when you look at social media you are most likely looking at other people's highlight reels, their favourite projects and finished pieces, not the many mistakes and thrown out pieces that lead them there. Don't fall into the trap of comparing your work with others as we all have different amounts of experience and you may be comparing your start with someone who has been colouring for 10 years, completed 15 classes, and colours every day. Remember this line: It isn't fair to compare, and it can lead to despair. So let's allow ourselves to be inspired to want to create beautiful work like what we see, but not to compare and let it take away our want to create.

This is one of my favourite inspirational pictures.. it reminds me that behind every beautiful outcome is a lot of hard work:

5 - Break Down Big Tasks

When a project looks massive we can feel anxiety creeping in. This is natural whether at work, at home, or in our hobbies. But, we can control how we respond to this by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Break down complex images into individual elements; i.e. skin, hair, clothing, or even more simple than this, hair on the left side, hair on the right. 

Hone your focus into this one area as your goal, and block out the extra material for now, we can always come back to that. If you struggle to see these little tasks, try physically writing down each element on a piece of paper. Seeing it broken down into a list will give you a visual breakdown which helps us to see it as components, not just one big project.

You do not need to sit down and colour for hours and hours to colour or to do your classes. Schedule in just 15 minutes to work on one task, and whether you finish or not you have made progress and taken a step forward. If you find it hard to manage your time, actually make a specific day that you will put aside for your 15 minutes - put an alarm in your phone or on your calendar and make sure you stick to it (no excuses!). 

6 - Ask for Help

Make sure you never wait to ask for help (pm me anytime!) or to upload your colouring in our classrooms. There is never a better time than when you actually need it. Never be embarrassed to talk about a mistake - I can guarantee you that I've made it on my own journey, and I'm here to help you with everything I've learned so that you can grow too and feel more confident on your own journey:) 

Above all though, make sure you don't give up halfway through and put things in the too hard basket or stop before you've even started.. let's remember that *this* is the only way you will fail. So, next time something has been difficult, take a picture, and send it on through and let's do this together. You are not alone.

7 - START - Right Now!

Actually getting started is the hardest part and we have a tendency to prolong this when we feel anxiety creeping up, but then, by not starting, we never actually overcome this and progress on our own journey.  Thinking about starting can make you feel anxious and this is normal, but it's that embracing of your fears and creating anyway that helps us to reach achievements. So now, my homework for you this week is to make a start. Do that 15 minutes and just colour, or start your class. 

Don't know where to start? Check out our FREE Markers 101 Class - it's all about breaking it down into little sections and working through the basics to help you feel more comfortable. Once you are feeling on top of this, just jump in to one of your classes - there is no right or wrong place to start, it's just more important to actually take that first step and remember everything here we have talked about today. Break it down, manage your expectations, and ask for help. 

You aren't alone in how you feel, so let's do this together xx

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  1. Great inspirational picture. Thanks for the tips.

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  3. Great article ! It is very inspiring me. Thank you for posting it.


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