The myth of dramatic creativity


If I asked you to think of someone who was wildly, prolifically creative, who would spring to mind? You might think of a friend or someone you know of online, but you might also think of world famous names like Beethoven and da Vinci, or flamboyant creatives like Oscar Wilde or Vivienne Westwood. There’s a suggestion or an implication of size, of drama.

It’s easy to assume that creativity means large and loud, that it’s in your face or eye catching or noisily attention seeking. Perhaps that’s partly why so many people think they’re not creative. ‘I could never be like that’, you might think. All that drama and pomp and circumstance. All that noise and attention seeking. All that having to SHOW and talk about it. No thanks.

I have what more or less amounts to a phobia of being the centre of attention. The thought of a spotlight fills me with unmitigated horror and various horrible physical symptoms. When it’s time to do that ‘introduce yourself’ thing in group situations it’s not much of an exaggeration to say I start inwardly having a panic attack and wishing I could run away as it gets closer to my turn.

It’s one of the reasons I like the internet; I can do what I love and send it out in the world, and people can enjoy it if they want to, without any necessity for spotlights or speaking in front of groups while having secret internal panic attacks and wanting to run away.

So I’m very quiet. I’m introverted to a degree that tips into hermit-like. I usually don’t wear or decorate with loud colours {I just paint with them :) }, I don’t schmooze or network in my local area or actively show my paintings any more. I don’t socialise at all. I try not to use the word ‘never’, but I can’t see myself ever welcoming a spotlight in any form.

And yet I’m creative every single day of my life, in some way or other. I might even go as far as to say I’m wildly and prolifically creative. Sometimes I’m painting or drawing or making something, sometimes I’m being creative in the kitchen, or writing, or gardening, or growing my ideas with creative thinking or mind maps, or finding imaginative solutions to things, or creating courses, or taking photos and editing them. Quietly, in fact usually privately. Yes I do share my work, but on my own terms, and really in a very small pocket of the world.

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever be famous. {Thank god.} But that doesn’t mean I can’t be wildly and extravagantly creative in my day to day life, in ways both large and tiny. It doesn’t make what I create any less valuable. Including the things that no one but me ever sees or knows about.

I might not be a creative genius like Mozart or da Vinci, but I also don’t have to be ‘out there’ and well known to feel successful and satisfied by my creativity. And neither do you. Perhaps you’re a bit like me and just want to Do Your Thing without any fanfare, and all this is very obvious to you. But if there’s any part of you that feels like your creativity is limited or somehow lacking because you don’t want to {literally or otherwise} make a song and dance about it, let this be permission and a reminder that it’s still just as essential in the world, whether we know about it or not.

How do you feel about this? Do you welcome a bit of a spotlight on your creative endeavours, or do you prefer to keep the main focus on your own creative satisfaction? Or both?! I’d love to know your take on this – please share your thoughts in the comments!

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  • Melanie says:

    Even leaving this comment feels flamboyant for me! I am an enigma: I like to work alone, I spend most days alone, even doing the shopping is a stretch for me – yet I crave meaningful connection, and it is impossible to find that without putting myself out there in some way or another. I have withdrawn my creativity to the point of hiding it, but I have recently come to recognize that sharing some of my creativity (or artwork) is essential, even if I don’t know or understand why.

    I’m truly grateful for spaces such as these where I can leave a comment, gently releasing my timid voice. Thank you!

    • Tara says:

      Melanie – YES! You just described me too. :) The internet has made a huge difference for me in that regard. I’ve made some really meaningful friendships, some lasting years {who says you have to meet someone to be friends?!}, and it’s so great to be able to switch it off and walk away without offending anyone whenever I need. I hope you’ll start to share your creativity, just because it’s so rewarding and worth the anxiety. Thank you so much for stopping by and being so honest. I’m so happy you feel able to do that here. :)

  • Lisa Simmons says:

    Melanie and Tara: Thank you for sharing how you choose to live your lives. It helps me to be more compassionate with myself.

    • Tara says:

      You’re so welcome Lisa! I’m so glad it helps you. Owning how I actually am, rather than what I wish I was or thought I should be, has been incredibly liberating. And it frees up so much energy just to do the things I love!

  • Joys says:

    I’m with you, full heartedly. My word for the year is ‘shhh’. Thanks to Hari Karla for posting this.

  • Fiona says:

    I feel like my entire being just exhaled!…..Thank you Tara. I know I am creative, yet somehow the idea of how that should look in the world does not even come close to what I am able to live up to! With this constant under mutter it is so easy to feel the fingers of failure creeping up my spine!….It is so soothing and opening to hear I am not alone. Thank you again!

    • Tara says:

      Oh lovely! I was just thinking this morning how sometimes I don’t know exactly why I write about certain things, and then comments like this let me know. So glad it was helpful to you Fiona. :)

  • Cathe Ekas says:

    The older I get, the more I isolate. In my 20’s and 30’s, I taught needlework and quilting. I was very outgoing. But art is a different thing to me, it is for me alone. I think I want to start a blog and share, and then I just know that is not what I really want my art to be about. It is for my enjoyment only. I don’t need to show it on Facebook if I don’t want to and that is OK. Thanks for this post Tara, it said exactly what I feel. It is nice to know I’m not alone.

    • Tara says:

      Hi Cathe, good to see you here again! Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s interesting how sometimes social media can seem to create pressure to share when it might be our first instinct not to. I’ve certainly noticed that in myself at times. So glad the post was reassuring!

  • Andy Getch says:

    I’ll be the odd “man” out. For me it is a bit of both. In personality tests I am a “social introvert” that does enjoy company of friends and conversation. The introvert part of me would work happily at home and never show anything anywhere. the social part of me likes to put my music and art out there and needs (at least some) feedback and validation. Agreed that online participation is less immediate, especially on closed groups like Creative Fire. Sometimes I need to bring a painting into art class to get ideas, or be standing in the art gallery near my hanging piece and watch people looking at it or talking about it. Or looking up when I am playing music to see who is singing along, watching, listening, tapping their feet, etc. Checking the comments online :)

    • Tara says:

      Good point Andy. Even as a solitary/hermit, I obviously still like to share and connect – it’s a matter of degree I guess. And mood! I like how you paint that picture of others interacting with your work and getting to observe that.

  • oh T, you’re ME! ;) I love that you bring so many people comfort to be who they are – with nothing more than your words. So many of us assume that “something’s wrong with us”… when really, everything is right, if we coast with our own current instead of against it. I’m with you. xx

    • Tara says:

      Thank you P! I hadn’t anticipated this post getting much feedback, so it is nice that it’s helping people in a small way. :) xo

  • Gesche says:

    Hi Tara, I’m yet another person saying “me too”. At this point in my live, I tend to have a panic attack outwardly, in social “nice to meet you”-situation, so I use the internet to my advantage :) I’m also not showing my art (at the moment), because mitigating the horror of meeting people and talking to them (about me?! yikes!) would take so much energy, that none would be left for actually making art.
    I read Susan Cains book Quiet a few years ago, and it really helped me to accept my introvertness/calmness and need for solitude and muted colors (in my wardrobe). Perhaps you’d like it too.
    I’d just like to add, that in my experience, often “loud” (flamboyand/outgoing/…) peple don’t feel “loud”, when there excentricity comes from a place of authenticity.

    It’s always great reading from you, Gesche

    • Tara says:

      Hi Gesche, so happy you stopped by! And thankfully there are so many ways to connect and share now thanks to the internet. I did read Quiet, and also Introvert Power, which I didn’t love but did go some way in giving me permission to be how I am where I wasn’t able to give it to myself at that point. I love your final point and definitely agree; my intention wasn’t to diss flamboyant creatives at all so I hope it didn’t come across like that. We need all kinds! But very sensitively noticed I thought!

  • Thank so much!
    I am 79 and still trying to create to my own satisfaction.

  • Gina says:

    I’m probably the only one in this thread that enjoys attention och the opportunity to show my art. 😜That been said I am not an attention seeker. I don’t paint my art just to show it or to sell it. I paint for me, I think of my own needs and not what is “marketable” or popular. A sold painting is a huge bonus and showing my work in an exhibition is fun and I have to admit an ego boost that helps me keep my motivation, especially when it’s hard to find space for art in my everyday life.

  • Gina says:

    One more thing Tara. I’m soooo thrilled about finding your digital world. You have been putting into words almost everything I feel and think about art and being creative. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    have your ever heard of Vedic art?

    • Tara says:

      Gina I love that you’re offering another perspective here. I think many artists share and show their work not from a sense of showing off, but because it’s part of the cycle of creativity. We can – and often need to – create in isolation, but to never share what has come out of us can sometimes seem to stunt the process I think. As you say, there’s a boost to sharing and receiving sales and positive feedback that can be encouraging; I certainly feel buoyed up by the lovely feedback I often receive here!

      I haven’t heard of Vedic art, but you can bet I’ll be Googling it right after I finish this. :) And I am so happy you are enjoying what I’m doing here.

  • tina lachance says:

    I’m an introvert also, art helps me communicate, writing is not the easiest way for me to get my thoughts out, but this is better than sitting in front of people. I get lost in art classes because I have a lot of questions and a very soft voice, those circumstances don’t go very well. I have never taken an art class on line and I am interested. Tina

  • Christine Ballo says:

    Yes, that is so me! I managed to graduate from fine arts course ( from a long time ago), and tried to make a living from it. I have not always been succesful, and i have since been torn between remaining an artist and looking for a 9 to 5 job. Somehow, my art finds me, no matter how hard i try to avoid it. I also like working alone, so your words are an affirmation of my life’s journey. Thanks!

    • Tara says:

      Thanks for stopping by Christine and sharing some of your experience. And yes that’s true for me too – my art always finds me in the end! Love that way of putting it.

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