Today, I have a wonderful post on creativity and courage from one of my most favourite creative souls of all time, Katri Soikkeli. She brings a sense of whimsy and joie de vivre to everything she does and has inspired me with her kindness and her playful view of the world.
Without further ado, here is Katri!
Creativity and the Fear of Being Seen
If you’re sitting on a creative project that you’re afraid to share with the world, you might think the people putting themselves out there have something that you don’t. Something that makes them impervious to whatever it is that you’re afraid will ruin you as soon as you let the world see you.
I have a little secret for you. They – we – are not that different. We just made a decision.
If you don’t know me yet, I can tell you I am a published writer and I continue to write and try to get my work out there in front of people. During the corona crisis I started an Etsy shop while knowing pretty much nothing about selling handmade products, and later I started a blog that celebrates living a creative life your way. All the while I’ve been active on Instagram where I continue to share my struggles with creativity, my mental health and ADHD and life in general. Knowing this you might think I’ve been made particularly brave, or that I just have a knowing that my work is “good enough” to be shared, whatever that means.
You would be very silly to think that, but I don’t blame you.
I am a highly anxious, highly sensitive person, which doesn’t seem to be uncommon among us creatives. You should know I once got disqualified from an entrance exam because I didn’t speak up in group when it was my turn. Although it had nothing to do with creative work, that school was my dream at the time, and I still didn’t find it in me to speak up. That’s how afraid I was of people hearing my voice, of them realising they would dislike the very concept of me. That is the level of being afraid to be seen that I started from.
If you’ve been alive on this planet for more than five years, you’ve probably heard of Dan Brown, the writer of Da Vinci Code. Most people probably have the impression that he was just hanging around, sitting on his laurels until he decided to churn out a best-selling novel that would be turned into a top-grossing film which would immediately launch him into success and into being regarded as a Real Author.
What you probably don’t know is that Da Vinci Code is Brown’s FOURTH published novel. His other best-seller, Angels and Demons, actually came out before Da Vinci Code, not after, which you might not have known either. We are not here to discuss the quality of Mr Brown’s prose, as that is a subject for another blog post which I have no intention to write, this is just a great example of how even well-known people have been plucking at their trade even before we became aware of them. Do you think Brown sat frozen at his desk, proclaiming that he wasn’t going to put his work out there until he knew he would become an instant success? I doubt it, because he would probably still be there.
Let me confirm something that you’re probably afraid of: your work isn’t perfect. Some of it might not even be great. If you’re feeling a bit rattled right now, GOOD, because that means there at least is some work for you to feel insecure about. If, on the other hand, you’ve been too paralysed to start because you can’t let even yourself see your imperfect work, please, for the love of all that’s good and beautiful in the world, remember how short and unpredictable life is. Write that stupid poem! It’s going to be terrible and then you’ll make another and another and another, and eventually one of them is going to be better!
Not saying I’m psychic, but I happen to know what’s really your problem.
Your “I don’t know how” and “I’m not as good as Jane” are just excuses, and you know what they say about fighting for your excuses? It means you get to keep them. Your real problem is that you’re scared of being seen. You don’t feel like you’re really good enough, so you’re hoping you’d come up with something that’s so great that you’d get to hide behind it, use it as a shield. You don’t want to expose parts of yourself that might be vulnerable to scrutiny, and thus you would rather suffocate them than ever give them a chance to grow. You don’t want to be seen starting out, because the world would get to see the supposedly imperfect parts of you, so you never start. But if you’re still reading this, I know there’s a small part of you that still wants to create something, maybe even change the world somehow, no matter how small portion of the world it might be.
Do you finally want to know what the decision was that I mentioned in the beginning of this post?
Let’s go back to the entrance exams, although slightly unrelated, because that was my first decision. Ever since my horribly failed exam, I found out you get extra points if you’re the first person to speak in the group, so I decided to do exactly that the next time. It felt like throwing up. Actually, it felt like taking off my shirt, climbing onto the table to sing Happy Birthday to someone who didn’t have a birthday and THEN throwing up, but I did it anyway. Twice, because I didn’t get in that first time, although it was close. (You could say the Universe had other plans for me, because at the second school I met the father of my children. You never know when a no is actually a yes to something else.)
Other things that I have decided since then: Sending out novel manuscripts that were not perfect, connecting with other writers despite the insecurities that years of being bullied left me with, registering as a sole proprietor before having a clear idea of what I was going to be doing, changing that vague idea to another during the pandemic, starting an Etsy shop despite having kind of ugly product photos and no idea how to market a handmade business, and most recently writing this guest post despite having awful brain fog this week and no idea what to write about. [We’re so glad you did, Katri! — Sarah]
I am constantly putting myself out there and I’m terrified while doing it.
Then I go to bed and do it again the next day. Just last week I posted something that I later realised was kind of boring and uninspired, but I would have never learned that if I hadn’t written and posted it first. None of this has killed me yet and I’m slowly growing my resilience so that I spend a little less time agonising over everything I allow people see.
Putting myself out there to be seen also means that people are free to bypass me completely. It’s natural to want to be liked and approved of, our survival as a species used to completely depend on it, but once you get started. you’ll soon realise you can withstand not being applauded for everything you create. Then, one day, someone is really going to see you, and you will experience the joy of your creations resonating with another person. That is true connection, and in my opinion, the core of human experience.
You don’t want to deprive yourself of that joy. Get out there and be visible. You were made for this.
Instagram – www.instagram.com/protagonistcrafts
Website – katrisoikkeli.com
Etsy shop – www.etsy.com/shop/protagonistcrafts
Creativity and mental health https://katrisoikkeli.com/creativity-mental-health/
Ode to uncool interests https://katrisoikkeli.com/ode-to-uncool-interests/
Thank you so much, Katri, for this fabulous post! You’ll notice some similar themes here if you’ve been reading some of my posts on creativity. Allowing yourself to be seen, as Katri has put it, is an essential part of the creative process. If you have any questions for us, please drop a comment below. And, of course, don’t forget to give Katri a follow at the links above!