Has my creativity died?

Hi creative people,
I have only just found this site a few weeks ago when surfing online. I have been a painter for a long time who has sold many paintings for moderate amounts since the 1980s. In all that time I have had this nagging voice telling me I am not an artist, not a real artist. My style has been described as ‘anal’; a teacher once told me to go and get drunk on wine and see if that loosens me up. It didn’t. I started seeing things double, when I tried it.

In the last year or so I decided to have a clean-up of all the oil paintings I had stored in wardrobes and elsewhere; I removed the canvases from their stretchers, smashed up the frames and put it all in the trash. I thought from now on I am going to just do watercolours. I have bought and read about ten books about watercolour painting, bought some new brushes, paint sets and good quality paper. But now I find I am stuck. I have attempted about 30, I guess, paintings, all of which I have abandoned in various stages of completion; some have been wripped up.

Of course, I am hearing the same old voices telling me that I and my paintings are worthless. I am starting to lose the energy to even get out the gear and start painting. It feels like I am getting nothing back from my efforts. It isn’t that I want to exhibit or sell. I just want to once again be able to paint for the love of it and forget about time — like I once used to.

So sorry you’re experiencing all this angst.
Some suggestions:

  1. You can’t argue with your mind. It knows you, in and out. So everytime you hear that voice, just say to yourself, “That’s my Inner Critic. OK, got it.” The OK got it part is important and powerful. So don’t argue with yourself. Just notice. No judging, no arguing, no beating yourself up. Just notice and label, and OK got it. This is a mindfulness technique.
  2. To loosen up, use a big brush and try a limited palette: one red, one blue, one yellow (any of them will do) plus black and white.
  3. To experience more peace while you paint, find something to listen to. This will keep your mind occupied and you can focus just on painting. Lots of stuff on youtube-- you could listen to music, or something inspiring.

OK, that’s all I got. I used to have a horrible Inner Critic, but I worked on a lot of mindfulness. It’s like working a muscle; it’s a skill and you can learn it.

Wishing you lots of inner peace, and creativity!

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Hi Theresa,

Thank you for reaching out to me.

I will try to digest everything you wrote. I think silencing that inner critic is my biggest challenge.

I brushed shoulders with mindfulness many years ago; I think I still have some audio tapes that I acquired way back then. I could play them while painting.

I took a look at your beautiful paintings. I had never heard the term ‘fun art’ before. I was surprised to find how tiny some of them are. I think, with my eyesight starting to go fuzzy, I would find painting so small a bit bothersome. Not that I want to paint big either!

Best wishes,

You’re so welcome! & thanks for your kind words re. my art.

I’ve read a lot of books, taken lots of workshops to help silence my inner critic and overcome depression. In his book, “The Success Principles” Jack Canfield mentions turning the inner critic into inner coach. I’m here to tell you it can be done.

Also I’ve learned an elementary bit of neurology. “Neurons that fire together wire together.” Maybe you’ve heard that phrase. It means that thinking habits create a neural network, which causes us to keep thinking that way, thus reinforcing itself. The good news is that it’s possible to rewire the brain with new thinking habits. I’ve done it. It takes a lot of practice-- I’ve found mindfulness to be the best way, outside of therapy.

You can do this!

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i put your message on my google calendar to get it everyday. thank you i needed this.

Hi again Theresa,

Thanks again.

I purchased the audiobook version of “Success Principles” from Google Playstore, and will play it while painting.

I actually tackled a small painting yesterday. Nothing too taxing, just a scene of the Grand Canal in Venice. Can I put images here?

I used a size 6 or 9, not sure, squirrel hair wash brush. I painted for about 2-3 hrs I guess.

Not a bad start.

So thanks a heap for your encouragement,


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You’re so welcome. All the best to you!

Hello, Michael and Theresa.

I appreciate this dialog string.

The inner critic is undoubtedly a formidable force. I woke today being tempted by my inner critic. What a great reminder by Theresa that it is essential to recognize it for what it is and not engage in a battle; instead, focus that energy on something creative, which is easier said than done. Yet, you did it, Michael! I love the scene of the Grand Canal in Venice.

Do you have a DPW gallery, Michael?


Hi Brenda,
Thank you for keeping the dialogue moving. It has motivated me to get painting again after a long break. I did another little one yesterday.

It shows a flower that’s reaching for the stars! I copied a little pen sketch I did many years ago while doodling. I usually only doodle when I am feeling so frustrated with myself at not being able to start a painting. The results can be the germ of a painting many years later.

In my own case, I think my sketchbooks are my purest expressions of creativity. My paintings feel like they are more of a craft, if that makes any sense.

No, I don’t yet have a gallery here. It’s actually a big decision for me, because when I have had paintings up on a similar site, whenever a painting sold, the stress of it all would give me an anxiety attack — how pathetic is that!

Thank you for writing and for your kind words about my painting,