TODAY: Heal a Creative Soul

The illustration above is from a college class assignment, and was one of the ways I dealt with some of the more negative critiques of art school. It was also my very first letterpress project, so even though it’s not the cheeriest subject, it lead to my biggest creative passion!

A few weeks ago I was talking to someone I knew from junior high, and they said something fairly innocuous that has been plaguing me since. It was mild, probably a joke, and definitely something my adult self would have laughed off– but somehow it struck right through to the insecurities of my inner ‘tween.

I think there are very few of us who would say that they had a childhood completely free of bullying (and if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably didn’t treat everyone perfectly). It’s been a long time since that was me; and even though I am a worrier, I try not to worry too much about what people say about me. I’m a “grown-up” now.

But here’s the thing- I am just now getting to the point where I can make things without constantly worrying what people will say about them.

The trouble with subjective work

I think that bullying has a special impact on our creative souls. If you make a drawing that one sour person says “looks stupid” you will forever question your talent. Your work is subjective, so there’s no standardized test for creativity. What’s worse is that art programs encourage this kind of snarky commentary in class critiques. Very few programs make an issue of allowing only productive criticism, so you end up with people saying “I just don’t like it” “It’s not successful” “The perspective is off.”

Basically, there’s never going to be proof you’re talented, so it takes a long time for those kind of negative experiences to wear off.

I’d love to turn the whole world around (and bring world peace) but I’ll settle for getting everyone to embrace their creativity and appreciate their own style.

Below are a couple of ways that people have, over time, helped me overcome some of my hang-ups about my work– and things that I try to do to reinforce positive feelings about what I’m doing. It’s all personal, but I feel like they would be great ways to encourage creative exploration in your own life, and to help the people around you have confidence in the things they make.


Make Someone Happy

Show interest in their work.

Even if people who are quiet and secretive about their creative endeavors, they usually enjoy when people show interest in them. Don’t be pushy about it, if they don’t want to show you their work, let it go… this time. Ask questions about what they are interested in, their point of view, and places they like to look at for inspiration. Show interest in them as whole (creative) people.

Compliment, Compliment, Compliment.

If someone shows you their work, say something nice and say something true. Don’t just make up something to say, really take a moment to appreciate what you’re looking at. There’s bound to be something to admire– tell them!

Ask smart questions.

Again, showing interest in the work is key. Ask why they made decisions that they did, what they are trying to say with their work, what problems they are trying to solve.

Ask them to look at your work, sometime.

Even if you do totally different types of creating, asking for someone’s opinion shows that you appreciate their point-of-view.

Basically, be encouraging and interested.

We all need a little more creativity in our lives, and that’s much easier without nagging doubt. So lets nip those mean little voices in the bud, and while you’re at it…


Heal your creative soul

Interact, frequently, with people who “get you”.

You know, like the community here at A-i-M! There are also free meet-ups and craft events in most areas that are a great place to interact with other people who are making creativity a part of their lives. (We’d love to know about creative groups in your area- let us know in the comments section!)

Be honest with the people who make you feel less than awesome.

Sometimes people don’t think about how their comments make you feel about your work. If you take a (calm) moment to give them a little insight, you might find out they have a lot of great things to say.

Take compliments when they come.

Sometimes it takes a little work to let those compliments sink in. Take a minute to consider who they are coming from, and let it go to your head.

Keep making things the way that feels right.

For me there’s always a fight between the way I want to do things, and the way I feel like I should do them. Lately I’ve started following my own flow, and I feel happier with the things I’m making. It also gives me more energy to try new techniques, whether or not they end up working for me.

Do all that other positive stuff.

Make affirmation cards, do wacky projects, cook something crazy, and just get your creative life going. The more you do to bring joy to your life (and the lives of others) the better the world gets.



What soothes your creative soul?