I've Always Wanted to But... On Creative Claustorphobia


"I've always wanted to but..." As both an artist and a teacher this is something I hear quite often.

"I've always wanted to (insert anything) but I just can't".

This past December I jokingly replied to a woman who said this, "Have you ever tried?"

Can I tell you how shocked I was when she said "no."

Maybe I'm naive but, I WAS SO SHOCKED!!!

We continued to chat and the woman finally came full circle to saying, "Well sure, I could put paint on a canvas, but it wouldn't look like that."

It was then that I realized her expectations of an outcome were keeping her from tapping in to the full joy of creative expression. Here expectations were preventing her from creative exploration. Her expectations of wanting to create something that looked a certain way but not knowing if she could actually achieve it were stopping her from making anything at all. I almost wanted to cry, really.

I realized in that moment I am guilty of the same thing... I have a long list of artistic and other things I have always wanted to try but never have. I have an internal dialogue of "I've always wanted to try that but..." I know what works and usually, for years now, I just stick with it.
Often my reasons are time, or the need to focus, or the cost, or other stories about my work, my house, my life needing to look one way or another. The reasons always come back to trying to fit into a little box I have unconsciously built over the years around myself that has clear boundaries around what I do and do not do...

I'm a little claustorphobic in real life. I started to feel that same sensation in my creative expression. After this conversation when I realized these walls were there, those boundaries I had assigned myself, I decided they felt a little tight. After deciding they felt a little tight I realized they were actually a lot tight. I've decided to expand.

This expansion has included little things like sewing on a painting, getting back in the pottery studio, sketching with no clear direction or desired outcome or other times drawing in a very methodical and focused way as I experiment with some commercial work. Once again binding some books. Taking classes. Reading about some of the things I've always wanted to learn, know about, do. Just diving in and trying things out...

Yesterday it involved the small act of making some handles on some mugs...

I threw a lot of pottery in college. I loved it. I used to say my dream life was to marry a farmer and live in the middle of nowhere with a little clay studio on the side of the road. The funny thing is, I never once made a mug with a handle. I might have tried a handle one time and it didn't work out. I decided I couldn't do it then convinced myself I didn't really want to make handles anyway and then I just didn't ever try again. In reality though I probably always wanted to make handles, I just thought I couldn't.

When I started my pottery class this January we had to state our hopes and dreams for the class and I heard myself saying "I want to make mugs with beautiful profiles and thoughtful handles." Seemingly so mundane but at the same time speaking to a "I've always wanted to but I can't" story that I've carried for almost two decades. Yesterday I finished three mugs with handles and I'm kind of ecstatic, feeling big deep breaths, and no creative claustorphobia.

Do you have creative claustorphobia? Let's talk about it below... What's your "I've always wanted to but I can't story?"

If it involves creative expression I would love to invite you to join me and my awesome story circle community for round 5 starting this February 23rd. Read about it here.