The Creativity Paradox

I consider myself to be a creative person and an artist. Those considerations are otherwise subjective to those who view my works. I try to create multiple times a day. I have several projects working at once so when I get stuck working towards one, I can return to another and approach it with any fresh inspiration.

I have found, though, knowing that the truth will be viewed by others, there comes that inevitable nagging to make the work appealing. The questions start: “Will people like the use of that word?” “Will people stop reading if I admit this about myself?” “Will this stop me from gaining new readers?”

I promised myself I would not get that way. I would share me no matter how people would take it. Then the questions fill my brain which leads to me sitting in front of a completed piece, and picking it apart until it is a mere shadow of what it was. It becomes a crowd pleaser. It becomes lies.

I struggle with this every time I write something new. I struggle with it during editing. I struggle with it even after I have posted things. I constantly have to fight back against the desire to make myself “marketable” and remain true to what I want to say. The beauty of, to me, has always been that it evokes things in us from the artist’s place of truth. But that’s the paradox right? I need to create to survive but I also need to survive to create. If I want money, if this is to be a source of income then people have to like me. Thus, I must make things that people like. If I don’t make things that people like and they don’t like what I usually make, does this make me generally unlikeable?

These are the moments that the pen doesn’t move, the fingers don’t type, and the creativity shuts down in favor of decision making.

Do I create for me or should I create for them? Should I create at all?

The answer seemed simple until I was no longer satisfied with one or two people reacting to my work. That simple burst of positive reinforcement opened the floodgates for the desire to be liked. To watch the numbers go up.

So, I fell for it. I caved to the desire to be liked. I changed my aesthetic, I tried many different tricks, I used different words.

Cue the disappointment.

I was working twice as hard, surrendering my truth, and still coming up with not much at the end of it all. I left the experience exhausted, and pent-up. The experience did lead to some genuine inspiration and ideas, but the rest felt like just fluff. The like-counter increased a little, but I felt nothing for it. I understand the difference between authentic interest in what I do versus those that have an agenda of their own. Not knocking it! Just stating the facts. I found that I much prefer genuine interest. I found that I would rather give honestly of myself and have the two people who actually like it than sacrifice those parts of me to a like-count.

Square one.

I will encounter this paradox every day for the rest of my life if I continue with the intent to create. I imagine that others have experienced it as well. Perhaps I will bend a little in the future too, hoping it will bring about different results, only to loop back to square one all over again.

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