Tips for Staying Grounded as a Creative

Being a creator can require an intense amount of self work in order to overcome feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, fear, and self-judgment. Even writing this blog post, I am coping with the impacts on my mental health. I’ve had two existential crises, taken it in three different directions, picked it up and put it down over five times, spent an embarrassing amount of hours on it, and will click “Save & Publish” with the expectation that I can count the number of people who read it on one hand.

Femmes are socialized to be likable and appease others. Given my white, middle-upper class background, the parameters for stepping outside this conditioning are particularly rigid. But being a creative person is all about listening to yourself, expressing your unique vision, and taking risks. You will offend others. This is a direct contradiction to what femmes have been taught gives us worth. It’s terrifying. Some days are truly immobilizing. With risk comes loss. The loss that the value you were made to believe in was ever worth a damn in the first place.

Your creativity is also what makes you femme. It’s in the clothes you wear, the relationships you foster, the way you fuck, the way you cope with trauma, how you survive. It’s the pull to play with your femininity and embrace yourself as strange, a weirdo, a freak, something others can’t quite wrap their minds around because you’re so many things in one. Risks come with loss but they also bring gains. Connecting with others who will relate, not in spite of but because of who you are. Developing your talent. A deep sense of pride and accomplishment. Getting to know yourself and your strengths in more and more ways. The freedom of not keeping yourself small.

Staying grounded is important in order to continue to take the risk of expressing yourself as a femme. Amongst my own struggles with anxiety, sensitivity, over-thinking, feeling like a fraud, and my resistance to creating conflict, these tips help along the way.

Tips For Staying Grounded as a Creative

Accept the emotional roller coaster

Creating and putting your artistry out their for an audience is an emotional process. The goal of staying grounded is not to take the emotions out of it. Creating doesn’t always feel awesome. Be gentle with yourself when imposter syndrome shows up. Rather than fight against it, accept that it is part of the ride, totally normal, and ultimately does not need to hold the power.

Stay in touch with why you’re doing what you’re doing

Holding on to the sense of pleasure, validation, talent, or relief that drew you to create in the first place can make a big difference when you’re in it and need to regain perspective. The why gives you a sense of meaning and simplifies the process when self-doubt shows up. How do you finish the thought, “If nothing else, I create because…” Hold on to it.

Integrate who you are and what you’re going through into what you’re creating

No one else can create the way you do. What you make is a truly unique reflection of you. Making your art personal can be very vulnerable, but it’s also an opportunity to speak your truth. It can help you process what you’re going through in a way talk therapy can’t. The more authentic the work is the greater the shift from it.

Refrain from idealizing others

Comparing yourself to others is common when experiencing fear. When I look at other illustrators on Instagram, and they have so many followers and so many likes, I just feel like I’ll never be good enough. Often when you idealize others you are, in turn, putting yourself down. Consider that capitalist culture operates from a scarcity mindset and teaches us to feel threatened by and compete with each other, particularly others similar to us. It can be radical to practice abundance (the more femme creators there are, the better it is for all of us), reframe others as sources of inspiration, and connect with others’ humanity while making space for your own.

Reflect on the impacts of capitalist influences on productivity

Capitalism is all up in making art, including how we perceive productivity, value, and what art forms and styles have greater opportunities. White supremacy directly impacts who receives compensation, support, and recognition for what they make. It’s important to contextualize burnout and develop your own relationship with productivity. Honor your body’s limits daily in order to sustain your work long-term.

Have your own personal definition of success

Know that what success may look like on social media and what it feels like to be experiencing it can be two different things. Have your own sense of success so that you can be present to your accomplishments. Tease out social pressures and external expectations to define yourself as a creator in the most meaningful way. As I mentioned in my last blog post “Month 4: Creativity,” my dream is to be in the magazines that inspired me when I was a baby femme, but I also define success as a collage artist as just doing it, period. That way everything else is just a cherry on top.

Confront failure

I’m not going to use a euphemism here- failure is a harsh word because it brings up harsh feelings. Being rejected from that grant/fellowship/contest/call for submissions that you worked really hard towards and even, despite your better judgment, got your hopes prematurely set on feels like an epic fail that’s too daunting to come back from at first. Give yourself time to be in your feelings so that you can work through them at your own pace. Consider that the failure may indicate the submission wasn't actually the right fit or timing, or that you’re on to something because you really care. Or that it’s a manifestation of white supremacy. Normalize failure as a part of the process of taking risks- if you’re not failing, you’re not learning and you’re probably not taking big risks.

Celebrate your achievements!

It can be easy for the failures to outweigh the achievements. The achievements are what you’re working towards, reward yourself for accomplishing them! Maybe you emailed that person even though you were intimidated; feel enlivened by the end result of that choreography/recipe/costume/song you’ve been working on; got the attention of that connection you know will create opportunities; said no to that offer that wasn’t compensating you fairly (saying no is an achievement, too); made a big sale, or; received that award/show/feature/publication you really wanted. You deserve to celebrate it all, and so much more.

Stay tuned for a blog post next Monday announcing February’s theme!

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Image credit: @recipesforselflove

Image reads: “Trust Your Inner Vision”