Unfortunately creativity is not always sunshine and roses: sometimes our creative endeavors can make us feel depressed especially when things aren’t going the way we want them to.
I believe there are 3 causes to what I will call “creative depression,” or a feeling of depression related to working on a creative project.
Today I’d like to cover what I believe are the three causes to creative depression and how you can address them:
Cause #1: You are not living as the fullest expression of you
We live in a very anti-creative world. If you don’t believe me than go to the grocery store with a lampshade on your head and I’ll bet you a thousand bucks that the entire store will look at you like you’re a crazy person (someone might even report you to the authorities as having escaped from a mental institution.)
Many creative people do not recognize this fact however, and are so used to repressing their true creative selves (in order to follow the masses) that they have no idea that their current feelings of depression are rooted in their inability to truly be who they are in all areas of their life.
If you’re a creative person who is going through a bout of “creative depression” I would consider you take sometime on your own, away from the world, and dare yourself to do all the things your heart urges you to do. If you have an urge to make crazy-looking scarves, or perform an absurd dance routine, or write a strange jingle, let yourself go all out. If you want to wear a purple wig, or get a tattoo, or say inappropriate things, have at it.
You have to discover who you truly are without all the shackles of society tying you down. Even if your family and friends are loving and supportive of you, there may be a little scared child in you who still believes that being yourself will scare them away and make them hate you. So go as far away as you can from everyone who knows you well and dare yourself to be the fullest expression of yourself.
As you spend this time being the fullest expression of you, make note of all your discoveries. Ask yourself: What parts of me have I been keeping from others out of fear of rejection? What parts of me will probably not be welcomed when I get back into society, that I may have to hide while being in society, but that I know that I need to let free in private moments so as to retain my sanity? Finally, what parts of me are revealing to me a hint or clue pushing me toward a better a community that may support me and love me exactly as I am?
Often, if you feel incongruent, “uncomfortable in your own skin,” if you feel as if you are “not being yourself,” or as if you don’t “recognize yourself anymore” this usually is a red flag telling you that you are holding your shine back out of fear of rejection.
We are deeply unhappy people if we cannot let our spirit expand to its greatest capacity. Deep inside we know we have potential to do great things, and often we shirk from this great potential because we think we may step on others toes, or because we fear change, or because we fear other people’s judgment.
What may encourage us to embrace this “expansive” part of us is to realize that if we do not embrace this part of us, we will become very depressed.
So push yourself to be the deepest expression of yourself, push yourself to follow your natural impulse to expand, grow, and thrive and you may find yourself snapping out of your current slump.
Cause #2: Failure has stopped you in your tracks
Usually another area in which a creative person gets into a slump is after they take the courageous step of embracing their true nature and go out and make a creative project happen—but then that creative project doesn’t end up meeting the expectations or yielding the results the creative person wanted in the first place.
If the creative person was honest with themselves, they may recognize that what they wanted was for the project to “fix” their problems whether it be financial problems, relationship problems, or just that it would give them the feeling of validation, security, adulation or acceptance they desperately wanted to feel.
What these folks don’t realize is all these desired results either represent internal issues that need to be addressed by something other than the creative process; or they represent external problems that actually are tied to other factors outside of the creative process and that are wholly out of the creative person’s control (such as: a recent downturn in the market that makes people less able to buy your brilliant but pricey recently finished painting.)
The unfavored result can cause a deep creative depression because of the belief that creativity in and of itself is meant to solve all our problems.
It is not.
This is a hard lesson for every creative person to learn: that the creative process is not some great panacea that will soothe every wound and mend every broken part of you or even save the world.
Creativity can certainly help your situation (and it can be a great go-to when you are feeling helpless and nothing else is working) but creativity in and of itself will not make all your problems go away.
One way to avoid this cause of creative depression is to realize that creativity is not meant to solve all your problems—or all the worlds problems.
Instead of having such high-minded expectations for your creative work, just treat creativity only as your duty: you were brought into this world to be creative, so as long as you are doing that, you are doing the work, what happens to that work after it is all said and done is not your responsibility.
You are meant to bring your idea to life, rear it, and then let it go. You are NOT meant to live vicariously through it, or be obsessed daily as to its well-being, like some kind of helicopter parent.
If you are going through this type of creative depression, it is time to recognize that you did your part: you did your best to bring your idea to life and it is time to let that creative project go. The fact that it did not yield the results you expected is not your responsibility.
Do yourself a favor and allow yourself to continue to be creative by starting on a brand new project right away.
Reason #3: You are overly obsessed with the popularity aspect of creativity
Recently, I was assisting a friend with her new blog. She expressed feeling slightly “down,” or creatively depressed, because she had worked so hard on writing this blog but no one was reading any of it.
She pointed out how there were so many people who were getting such a huge online audience but who were adding no value to humanity. Meanwhile, here she was: putting her heart and soul into every blog post, attempting to better humanity and add value to it, and no one wanted anything to do with it.
She was flabbergasted and dismayed.
In that moment, I had to level with her. I told her:
“First of all, those people out there who only care to read about the fluff and the superficial things of the world are not your audience. And if I may be blunt: you don’t want them reading your blog anyway. What you need is to find the audience that actually recognizes the value you bring to this world. So your job is not to be ‘popular,’ it is to be useful to the people who truly need you.”
“Second of all,” I added. “If you were to change a single life with your blog post, then that would count 10 times more than if you wrote a superficial blog post that got you a lot of attention but served absolutely no one. Yes, its true: those ‘superficial’ personalities online are getting a million hits, but in the spiritual realm that is hollow and meaningless. In fact, the spiritual realm only recognizes acts that truly help others and it sees popularity based upon nothing as the illusion that it truly is. You would be wise not to judge your success on all the numbers you are getting but on all the lives you have touched.”
After I spoke with her, my friend was much more relieved and eager to keep on blogging because she realized that her “creative depression” was caused by a false understanding of the way things truly work.
If you are feeling depressed because your creative work is not as popular as you would have hoped, realize that what matters more than popularity is effectiveness. Ask yourself: has my work moved people in a positive way?
If it has, then that is a wonderful reason to cheer up today.
Today’s Courage Exercise
Get to the bottom of your creative depression:
If you believe it is caused by you holding back who you truly are, then let yourself be the fullest expression of yourself today.
If you believe it is caused because you have failed at a creative project, then let go of your belief that your creativity is meant to solve all your problems, and let yourself be creative simply for the sake of being creative.
If you believe your “creative depression” is caused by the lack of your work’s popularity, then check yourself: if your work is reaching those who value it, and is impacting them in a powerful way, then your work is currently earning something far more valuable than popularity: it is earning its rightful place history.
To follow the Courage 2 Create and find out what happens to Ollin and his novel, you can subscribe by inserting your e-mail into the subscription box in the top right corner of the sidebar! Subscription is completely free! Thank you for subscribing!