your creative quirks

Your Creative Quirks - How to turn what you think are your faults into genuine gifts. It's kinda cool. Also liberating.

“It is especially the act of creation that requires bravery. Our ability to make and maintain meaning is threatened by the intrinsic hardness of creative work. It is odd but true that most creators do not recognise this reality. Instead of crediting creating with being profoundly taxing, they chalk up their difficulties to personal weakness. 

Eric Maisel {my emphasis}

When I was growing up, and actually for  many years after that too, there were two things I would hear all the time. ‘You’re sooooo sensitive’ was one, and the other was ‘You’re so stubborn!’.

Neither was meant as a compliment, and were so often commented on that I assumed they must be true, and that these were fundamental things about me that were wrong, because people didn’t seem to like them. But I didn’t know how to fix them, so that must mean that there were just some things about me that were bad and always would be. And that did not lead to robust mental health. :)

Sound familiar?

In fact, it was only last year that I truly understood that not only were these ‘problems’ not in any way indications that I was fundamentally faulty, but that they were in fact part of my unique set of gifts.

My sensitivity allows me to understand and empathise in my work, so that my readers and students feel heard and understood, and safe to proceed. It also allows me to sense and ‘read’ energy, and to paint in a very connected and authentic way.

My stubbornness has brought many things into the world that have helped people; writing, classes, paintings, more of my true self, more skilful communication, better cooking. :)

I can reframe those two qualities to ‘make them positive’, and call them heightened connection and perseverance, or empathy and persistence, but it’s not really necessary. It’s enough to have seen and understood them in a new way, and to use them to support my personal and business development. And that allows me to make a positive impact in the world, however small.

And best of all? I kind of love them, and myself for having them! {I did not see that coming.}

So what qualities in yourself are you using as sticks to beat yourself with when it comes to your art and creativity?

Perhaps you feel like a quitter because you rarely seem to finish what you start.

What if that actually means you have a prolific and abundant curiosity about life? What if it means you don’t have to create paintings that take months to complete, and can pull together something gorgeous in half an hour that someone would love to buy? What if it means your strength lies in short bursts of activity and shorter term projects?

Perhaps you feel like you can copy other people’s art but don’t have the creativity or imagination to come up with ideas on your own.

What if that means that your gift lies in recreating what you see {perhaps with your own twist}? It doesn’t have to be about copying other artists; it can be about painting what you see, in the way that you see it. There’s no law that says your paintings must come purely from your imagination.

Perhaps you feel like you’re just a procrastinator who never gets anything done.

What if that just means you haven’t yet identified what will get you going in amongst all the rules about what you ‘should’ be doing? It’s likely not the things themselves that you are struggling to do, but the hidden rules about how you believe you should be doing them that are holding you back. Another common reason is that you are missing a piece of information that would make moving forward much easier.

Perhaps you feel like you over think everything and are too much of a perfectionist.

What if that means you have a high standard for creating quality rather than quantity, and a curious and intelligent mind? What if that means you simply like to have a few things in place before you’ll commit to something?

Perhaps you feel like you’re just not good enough at art to warrant ‘wasting’ your time or money on trying it.

What if that’s really just a desire to find satisfaction in producing work you love? What if you haven’t even given yourself a chance because you’ve got a story going on about having to be perfect and do everything ‘right’ all the time? What if it’s just a bit of fear about showing up, which almost everyone has, even if it doesn’t look like it?

You’re not a quitter. You’re not uncreative. You’re not a procrastinator. You’re not an over thinker. {Whatever that is.} And you’re most definitely not not good enough. You’re just looking at how you do things – your creative quirks – through a lens of criticism and quite possibly someone else’s rule set.

It takes courage and stubbornness {woohoo!} to make the perception shift that reveals that that ‘negative’ trait you’re assuming is true about yourself is simply one – inaccurate and most likely incomplete – way of seeing your gifts. It’s completely possible to make that shift, and it doesn’t even need to take that long.

Owning what someone else thinks of as a fault feels incredibly empowering.

If someone were to say to me now, ‘You’re sooooo sensitive’, I’d say, ‘Thank you! Yes I am, and it enriches my life and the lives of others in all kinds of ways!’ Ok I might not literally say that, but that’s how I feel about it now. I’m not broken; I have an array of qualities I can choose to use for good, instead of jumping on the ‘I’m crap because you don’t like this about me’ wagon and allowing them to hold me back from at least having a go at the things that call to my heart.

There’s no ‘secret formula’, or some kind of patented method. It’s not about magical thinking or changing who you are. In fact it’s the exact opposite.

It’s about working WITH what you think is a problem and seeing that you’ve actually just been looking at it from an unflattering angle.

Hear this: there is nothing wrong with you. There is only a shift in perspective required. Your perceived failings are simply your creative quirks in disguise. Let’s uncover their true faces and get you doing the thing you are longing to do!

In fact let’s try this; you tell me something in the comments that you feel or have been told is a fault, something that’s stopping you from moving forward creatively, and let’s see if we can’t create a little shift for you around it. There’s no reason your perception about yourself needs to hold you back a moment longer. I know it’s asking a lot to reveal something like that, but this is a place where you will always and only find encouragement and support. So what do you say? What are you willing to see differently?


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18 Comments

  • Mairim Garrett says:

    Great post Tara. Yes, Sensitivity and Stubborness can be great friends and provide you with protection and bedrock for making Art… Best Wishes.

    • Tara says:

      Thank you Mairim – yes, they have been useful in all sorts of areas. I love your point about them being friends! Much nicer way to see them.

  • Leone says:

    A great post. I was told recently by a Dr. that I was very determined because I refused to take anti-depressants that she insisted I take if she was to continue seeing me. This Dr. was going on the diagnosis of a resident Dr. Anyway, the point is that, yes, I am determined and tenacious and a good thing I am or I would probably be dead and gone by now.
    I am going to print this post and put it on my notice board because so much of it speaks to my creativity and things that I have felt are wrong with me. I have been chided and told off for being “too sensitive” because I cry easily.
    Thank you so much, Tara, for giving me the gift of this post, I will refer to it when I am feeling “bad” about who I am about my sensitivity and stubbornness.

    • Tara says:

      Leone thank you for sharing your thoughts here. Determined and tenacious can be extremely useful qualities. :) I cry easily too – I cried reading your comment, just to prove the point ;) – and am really so happy that the post was helpful to you. We aren’t often taught to use these kinds of qualities for ‘good’, so I’m glad you will have a reminder.

  • michelle gd says:

    i rather like {no, i love} shifts in perspective like this.
    a big fat yes.

    (you hit on some of my ‘quirks’ above ;)

  • Elizabeth says:

    I really love this post Tara. Firstly, stubborn and sensitive have always been “failings” of mine and it’a only recently I’ve been able to own these characteristics proudly. Secondly, quitter, procrastinator, perfectionist, not good enough…. these are things I regularly give myself a hard time about. Thank you so much for encouraging me to shift the perspective x

    • Tara says:

      Elizabeth I’m so glad it spoke to you. I am starting to think everyone has trouble with these traits until they are able to start seeing them differently.

  • Vicky White says:

    Tara – love this article. I too have always been sensitive and stubborn, and I know when to quit too – which confuses people! I like these things about me. But I still give myself a hard time for being a perfectionist and I often think I’m not good enough – time to rewrite my script around those. Thank you – sometimes these relatively simple things make all the difference.

    • Tara says:

      Knowing when to quit is such a useful trait! And one I haven’t always been familiar with myself. ;) I do think a lot of it is just something that is ingrained into us, particularly as women; it’s always so good to hear about those of us who have made peace with ourselves, or even better, use our powers for good! ;) Thanks for stopping by!

  • anonymous says:

    Wow, this feels like reading the advice a wiser, successful version of myself might give about my problems right now!

    People tell me I’m not practical enough. Or useful enough. My in-laws think I’m not corporate enough, and not a good “housewife.” They think I should be at least one of those if not both, but I’m neither.

    I guess I find it easy to see the error of the ways of my critcs, yet really hard to focus back on myself and how their critiques of me could be positive traits.

    I’m an amazing wife to my husband, and I have an amazingly supportive one. He doesn’t want me to be anything or anyone else. Everything else in my life is a mess arguably but I’m lucky to have that.

    I like your blog, but I don’t usually comment on anything so I’m not used to this. I would prefer to be anonymous, but if that’s categorically not ok I understand and won’t be offended

    • Tara says:

      Thank you for visiting Anonymous and I absolutely understand and respect your desire to remain so. It’s really hard to hear that you’re not living up to people’s expectations; I’m glad you have such a supportive husband and the fact that you see your older wiser self in my words shows she’s already in there. :) Thank you for sharing so honestly. Wishing you clarity and ease.

      • anonymous says:

        Thanks for letting me share. I really enjoy reading your blog. You continually verbalize things I didn’t know anyone else but me struggled with (because I never met anyone who even understood). And I definitely didn’t know so many of these things had solutions.

        • Tara says:

          You’re so welcome! It’s great for me to hear too that what I’m saying both rings true and is helpful, so thank you!

  • What a wonderful post! And you are right. We judge what we don’t understand and don’t know how to work with. Almost any “quirk” can be trained and become a very useful tool.

    • Tara says:

      Hi Bethany, welcome! That’s a good point; it makes it easier in some ways to see where the judgement is I think in order to transform it into something that serves us better.

  • Angela says:

    Suffering from another bout of depression after a very difficult two years of family health problems and a daughter divorcing her husband, amongst others I’ve been steadily giving up some of my embroidery and sewing clubs that require too much dedication and commitment. I felt relieved but guilty but you have made me change my perspective on this. I’ve just realised that actually I like to do my own thing and I don’t want to keep learning something new. I want to consolidate what I know already and simplify so I can get better at one aspect of my sewing and be a master of one rather than a Jack of all trades. Just meeting up with my friends once a week to sew and laugh together is enough for me. So my traits of focus, perfectionism and being family orientated are blessings not faults. Wow, thank you. I’ve never even thought like this before and I’m 67!!

    • Tara says:

      Hi Angela – how lovely to hear this and I’m so glad the post helped you shift perspective a bit! It sounds like you’ve found a way to operate that honours who you are and the circumstances of your life right now, which is no small achievement! That kind of clarity is invaluable, I’ve found.

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