Creativity and the Fear of Being Forgotten

a piece I only previously attached to the bottom of one of my posts. quote by David Bate.

It was about seven months ago that I made a post begging the question, What all could you do if you just changed your expectations of how to do it? And I affirmed that I was bringing out my art supplies again, because I could still paint if I relaxed the restrictive expectations I put on myself of how it needed to be done.

And thus, over the course of two months, I made this watercolour painting.

Then last month, I had a major epiphany.

It started as a sort of existential crisis, seeing a different butterfly on Instagram which I immediately wanted to paint…until I thought about the actual process of doing so. Then I became very drained, and I couldn’t tell if I just didn’t like painting anymore, or maybe I was just really overwhelmed by all the work it would take. Those seemed the most probable reasons.

And yet the entire week prior, I’d been schooled by the Universe from every corner on the differences between who we once were and who we become. How we progress into completely different people, if we’re doing it right. Even the “us” of several years ago, we appear the same, but–to pull from an episode of How I Met Your Mother–it’s as if we are our own doppelgänger, after having changed so much.

I mulled over my mysterious lack of artistic enthusiasm all day, a bit thrown off at the idea that someone with so much talent might not want to “art” anymore. Do people really just stop being artists? How was it that I identified such a need to paint, yet all I felt was frustration? How was that even possible?

Then something happened that knocked me off my metaphorical feet.

There was a PBS special airing the ballet documentary Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow: Never Stand Still, and at the moment I caught it, they said something really profound about one of the men in the business.

Ted Shawn, toward the end of his life, wrote,

“It is a paradox that I, who have a strong desire for what will endure, and will be permanent, should have chosen the art form which leaves nothing but memories. And yet I am satisfied this is my medium, and my destiny.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear to tie together all my pondering of the past several days. The Universe had been preparing me to let go of who I was trying to force myself to be just because it’s who I’d always been, and embrace all that I was now. And in the moment I turned on the television, I was receiving a wake-up call.

Hearing that segment helped me recognize I wasn’t so much being an artist as I was clinging to the idea of being an artist, to escape a common human emotion.

I realized that I wanted to paint and produce art, not out of a genuine desire and love of the process, but out of fear of not leaving something behind more than memories.

That was a difficult pill to swallow, but finally everything made sense. I was frustrated because the act of painting, in that moment, was no longer about expressing joy, but controlling anxiety.

And maybe I’m not as much of an artist as I used to be, but I am multifaceted, as are we all. Since relieving myself of that burden and seeing things as they are instead of how I want them to be–or otherwise through the lens of fear–I also realized that over the years I’ve slowly made the transition from Artist to Writer. And I say transition because in the past I’ve always been an artist first and a writer second, but now, my creative spirit flows much more effortlessly through the medium of words. I also enjoy being an amateur photographer; the key word being enjoy.

I have the desire to create, and I still very much enjoy painting, and photography, and writing. And this time, I know better than to jump from one label to the next with the implications that it will save me from the fear of being forgotten.

a piece I did a few days ago, out of the blue, for fun, with random inspiration
a piece I did a few days ago, out of the blue, for fun, with random inspiration

a rainbow at night

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6 thoughts on “Creativity and the Fear of Being Forgotten

  1. Maybe it’s not so much that you don’t want to paint maybe its a desire to make it so perfect that it makes you want to not do it before you even go
    It’s common amongst other artists and costumers that I’ve come across
    There’s also the artists slump as well, where you subconsciously feel drained or tired because there’s no muse or inspiration.
    I also think of historical painters and composers who had long periods of anguish over not producing a piece

    Maybe you need a break or a period to get in touch with your creative side or find other elements of art form? Maybe your current medium is boring to you or got stale?

    I think you have real talent and you’re just going through a slump

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    1. We’ve already gone over that I didn’t know what to say to this, and that I know you were just trying to make me feel better because this post seemed like I was depressed…

      But also I want to say that I HAVE struggled with those things in the past, especially perfectionism. Perfectionism kills creativity; it’s about avoiding anxiety, not creating art.

      I’ve definitely enjoyed embracing my other forms of expression, this year especially. And thank you for finding my work to be talented. :)

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    1. Thank you so much! That’s very sweet. One of my major goals this year was to embrace whatever form I felt most comfortable in taking to express myself, not doing things because I felt I was “supposed” to be doing it at that time, but for enjoyment. And with the exception of this little rest stop, I think it’s been working. :)

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    1. It was something I’d never contemplated in depth. I’d thought of it, but I had no idea it could be so much of a hinderence! Instead of dealing with it at the first thought, I let it take over so that it masked any desire to create out of personal expression. I’m grateful to the Universe for bringing it to my attention to conquer.

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