“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~ Sylvia Plath
One of the great things about being an improviser is that I get to be in contact with the muse frequently. I improvise music at least once a week and, almost every week, it’s with other people in the room. This is an awesome and vulnerable moment. There is that moment — whether conscious or not — when the inspiration either arrives or it does not.
I’ve written about this before (as have so many wonderful writers!), but it bears repeating: creativity is something to go after. In other words, though it flows easily from the tongue or pen, I don’t believe what I wrote at the end of that first paragraph. Inspiration or the muse does not come to me. I go after it. It’s always present: in my body, in my thought, in the expression on someone’s face, in the sounds of a room full of people, in the rustle caused by a breeze. It is mine to choose.
The difficulty for me — and for many creatives that I’ve chatted with about this — is not finding the muse, but the vulnerability of that moment of putting my artistic interpretation of that inspiration “out there”. It is shame — that sense that I am not OK, not enough — that stands in the way of being vulnerable. There is no certainty that my musical exformation of the moment will connect in a positive way with every listener. And it is this sense of being judged that instills the fear that fuels the shame.
I’m so grateful for the work of Brené Brown (notably her TED talks) on vulnerability. She notes that when we numb out to the hard feelings (shame, fear, etc.), we also numb out to the desirable ones (mostly joy). And that being vulnerable opens the way to creativity. Be sure to read and listen to more of Dr. Brown’s insights if you’re interested in these subjects. And I hope you are interested.
Making vulnerability desirable is my pursuit. It shouldn’t be difficult. Based on Dr. Brown’s research and my own experience, without it, I will not improvise or compose or make music. Without it, even playing my guitar in complete seclusion might be too much for the inner critic who lives in me, too. Yes, it’s my intention to thrive on vulnerability since it will allow for the intimacy — with myself, my audience, my friends, my loved-ones — that leads to joy and creativity. (Even typing this now, I feel the chill of expectation around this!) This kind of movement from reticence to passion seems far better than being stuck in the procrastination of fear and shame. By being the most open-hearted self I can be in the moment, I can maximize all the inspiration that’s available right now. Since this “now” will never happen again, might as well drink up all it has to offer.
You are a creative person. (Yes, you!) What is your experience of shame and vulnerability? And how does it relate to your creativity?