I started taking my creative life seriously exactly one year ago. After 20 years of studying and working hard to be a ‘professional’ with a real job, I finally accepted that I’ve always really wanted to be an artist.
I’ll admit, leaving my day job to become an artist sounds very romantic. As you might have guessed, it hasn’t been easy or straight-forward.
During my transition from worker to maker, the hardest change I’ve had to make has been believing in myself and in my work. I get the imposter syndrome often and think to myself, “who do I think I am? I can’t make a living at this.” There are hundreds of insults I tell myself regularly. I’ll admit, this is not inspiring or productive.
I realize that most—if not all—artists have these same exact thoughts at some point during their careers. That brings me comfort. All artists experience highs and lows, inspiration and frustration, self-criticism and doubt. We are all bringing something new into the world and hoping it will find its place and be well-received by others.
Part of my growth process has been searching for more inspiring stories of other artists’ struggles. I’d like to share my three favorite books for building creative confidence.
Elizabeth Gilbert is incredibly honest and straight-forward in her description of the creative process. It’s hard. And for many people it can be ruthless. Reading Big Magic felt like sitting down with a good friend and sympathizing over a glass of wine. If you’re a creative person struggling to find your voice, Gilbert will give you aha moments and shivers down your spine.
She asks all the right questions and gives advice that every artist needs to hear. One of the most important pieces of advice: just keep going. You’re going to get rejected. It doesn’t matter. Just keep going.
Gilbert tears apart the romanticized version of the tormented artist. How have so many people come to believe that in order to be creative they need to be depressed, tormented, sitting in the dark shadows of loneliness, drowning in alcohol and cigarettes? Only tortured souls create really great art. Seriously? Gilbert calls BS. Enough with the artists’ martyrdom and melodrama!
She encourages artists to create from the beauty within. She helps build creative confidence by helping you to realize that you—and you alone—are the only person who gets to decide if you’re an artist.
If you don’t get enough from the book, she hosts a wonderful podcast covering the same topic. It’s called Magic Lessons.
The Art of Asking: How I learned to stop worrying and let people help
How is it possible that I’m only discovering Amanda Palmer now? No matter what your musical tastes are, she has a kind of raw authenticity that’s worth paying attention to.
The Art of Asking is a gift—a flower— from Amanda to all artists struggling to believe in themselves. It is the memoir of an artist who has put herself out there, walked naked into the arms of her audience—both literally and figuratively. She describes how making herself vulnerable and available feeds her artwork.
The Art of Asking reveals true and honest fears, struggles, and accomplishments of a working artist. Amanda’s stories brought me to tears and inspired me to become more fearless with my own work and in communicating with others. Being an artist means being vulnerable, and sometimes we need a little encouraging to take that step into the deep end. I highly recommend this book if you’re currently looking for that encouragement.
“Collecting the dots. Then connecting them. And then sharing the connections with those around you. This is how a creative human works. Collecting, connecting, sharing.” ― Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking.
If you’re interested in learning more about Amanda’s story, you can also watch her talk on TED.
Jane Dunnewold’s Creative Strength Training explores how our creative processes intersect with memory, experience, human psychology and spirituality. This book has more than just inspiration. Jane takes it one step further and provides advice, examples, tools and exercises to get the creative mind on track and out of trouble. Her exercises are structured for discovery and exploration.
Here are a few of my favorite tips from the book:
Writing: The importance of writing as a creative tool is undeniable. It allows the mind to explore while recording your thoughts on the page. It’s important to pay attention to the words you use to describe yourself. They are not only defining how you see yourself, but how others see you. The more you write, you will advance your beliefs and conversational skills around your own creativity. You will be amazed at how your thoughts and conversations are impacting your own creative limitations.
Dismantle your committee: We all have individuals who are important to us: teachers, parents, friends, colleagues —special people who we don’t want to disappoint. We also have critics: someone who’s told us we’re not good enough or a boss who ignores our ideas. Some of these voices and opinions (our “committee”) have a very real place in our self-talk. If we’re not conscious of them, they will restrict our creative vision.
Connect with your inner rebel – make time. Outside of our very real, imminent responsibilities we have to choose to make time for creativity. Here’s where the author invites you to get in touch with your inner rebel —the one who skips out on less important responsibilities to make time for creative exploration.
Where do you find inspiration?
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts or other resources to help you find courage and motivation for your art? Please share them in the comments below!
Thanks for reading and good luck!
Image credit: By Shannonclauda (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons