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My Fear of Creativity and Play

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

My practice of creativity and play as an antidote for perfectionism & anxiety

I never considered myself a creative person… quite the opposite actually. For a while, I thought my place in the world was to support creatives in bringing their dreams to life. I had this idea that excelling at being Type A precluded creativity and vice versa.

In retrospect, I realize I was always brimming with creativity, but maybe of the nontraditional variety. I always loved to cook and bake, I developed creative solutions to solve various work problems and I created activities for my kids based on in-depth child-development research. Frankly, I don’t think you can survive parenthood (in a pandemic) without at least little creativity. In trying to figure out how I would heal from my burn out, I began to read and listen to every resource I could get my hands on. An idea began to emerge that maybe my creative muscle simply had atrophied because I had been so attached to productivity and the idea that play and imagination was juvenile. I decided to experiment painting with watercolors several times a week, following YouTube tutorials. I loved watching the paints slowly bleed with a brushstroke of water or explode with just a droplet. Painting only for myself, I did not share most of my art with friends or post it on social media. And yet, I found myself constantly confronting gnawing anxiety and fear at every small decision. Understanding this was a very low stakes arena, I became curious as to what the heck I was so damn afraid of. Over time, I learned that my fear was an attempt to protect myself from the INTENSE discomfort of imperfection and failure (whatever that meant!). Originally hard wired as a perfectionist, for me, the experience of imperfection is synonymous with being unworthy. Sometimes my finished product made me smile and other times it turned my stomach. Regardless of the prior outcome, I kept showing up to push myself to my “comfortable edge.” I wish I could say I trusted the process, but I really didn’t. I had a lot of doubts. But, if I was wracked with fear creating a painting for only my eyes, how could I ever imagine a truer more beautiful life for myself? Over time, I built a practice to tolerate the discomfort and gained experiential knowledge that the discomfort of imperfection would be temporary. I began to realize that the idea of “failure” is more attached to perspective than any fundamental truth. And is most certainly divorced from my value as a person. Eventually, starting with these small sessions, I built enough confidence to explore my imagination and discover the idea of Our Table. It was a slow process, one that I had to dip in and out of. When fear would creep up and slam the door to my imagination, I would take a break and try again in a day, a week or a month. Whether or not Our Table will be a successful business, I don’t know. I continue to approach it with the same mind set as painting – an expression of play and creativity. If it “fails”, I’ve learned that the discomfort will be tolerable and temporary.


Watercolor Painting Resources:

I started with a Chromatek Watercolor Brush Pen Set that included a 15-page tutorial pad. Chromatek produces YouTube videos that walk you through the tutorial pages. They also have additional videos with templates you can print. Since I do not excel at drawing, I used a charcoal technique or graphite paper to trace the images onto my watercolor paper. The charcoal is messier, but it dissolves nicely in the water of the paint. After exploring Chromatek’s offering, I found Let’s Make Art tutorials. Let’s Make Art is all about creating an easy breezy platform for adults to explore their creativity. The instructor, Sarah, is thorough, calm and kind. She consistently cheers on the anxiety riddled viewers, like me. 🙋🏻‍♀️😬 I did not need to purchase the subscription to access to the videos and templates! I first tried out cake pan watercolors but ultimately switched to Let’s Make Art liquid watercolors.


Disclaimer: This is a "one woman shop"! I was not blessed with proofing nor spelling super powers. If you spot a mistake, comment, email or DM me! I thank you in advance for your compassion and grace. ❤️

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