Is having a “creative identity” important and does it have anything to do with whether we can produce art?
Well, strictly? No. However, a creative identity can impact the way we market ourselves, talk to others about our work, and even how we are inspired and handle obstacles, such as writer’s block.
My own journey of constructing my writer identity took a lot of detours over the past year. I tried on a lot of different “outfits” but most of them didn’t fit and just looked and felt funny to me. This most recent overhaul of my author website has been a crystallizing effect on who I understand myself to be as an artist. But there were some other tools I used to help me get there…
I also happen to be a graduate student in a Counseling Psychology program and I happen to be enrolled in “Career Counseling” this semester. This course focuses mostly on that essence of identity piece and how vocation plays a huge part in how we construct our places in the world.
This has been pivotal for me and I’ll share with you three key resources I’ve used to solidify my own identity as an artist:
“The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron
This book is a hugely popular one and since I’ve read it, I’m suddenly encountering loads of people who have read it or have it sitting on their shelves, unread. For me, this book changed everything. I came to understand a lot of the obstacles I’ve experienced and how I have continually self-sabotaged and deluded myself with destructive ways of thinking about my art. The book is rooted in a lot of “God talk”, which I am not into, but even still, I found the content compelling and the exercises revealed some really hard truths about myself and my behavior. It also gave me permission and that was something I didn’t realize I needed. The permission to create and to stand in my own truth. Permission to own my successes and failures. Permission to cut away people, elements of life, and other facets that are not in service to my ultimate direction in life. I highly recommend this book to all artists, especially if you’re feeling “stuck” or feeling as though things just aren’t quite working out right in your life.
Here's one fun and useful exercise in the book (among many, many, many options):
“Time Travel: List three old enemies of your creative self-worth. Please be as specific as possible in doing this exercise. Your historic monsters are the building blocks of your core negative beliefs. (Yes, rotten Sister Ann Rita from fifth grade does count, and the rotten thing she said to you does matter. Put it in.) This is your monster hall of fame. More monsters will come to you as you work through your recovery. It is always necessary to acknowledge creative injuries and grieve them. Otherwise, they come creative scar tissue and block your growth.” (p. 38)
For those who don’t know what an “enneagram” is, the basic idea is that enneagrams are personality types. There is an assessment and exploration of your type and how it relates to 9 other “types.” However, this particular assessment goes far deeper than a lot of other personality typing systems, exploring the psyche of personality, traits, and life themes and challenges for each type. This discovery helped me slide many pieces of my past and elements and themes of my present and future, into place. I finally understood some of the things that made me tick and why I sought out life experiences the way that I did. It also helped me to grow more self-compassion and to forgive myself for some of the big mistakes I made along the way.
My enneagram type is 7, also known as “The Epicure.” This personality type is centered in the Thinking category and is deeply affected by the emotion Fear. As a result of Fear, the personality type occupies itself with distraction, pleasurable undertakings, and can be gluttonous in taking on new tasks, experiences, and sensations. This type is also sometimes called the “Renaissance” type because they are naturally innovative and huge generators of possibility, becoming very good at a lot of things. However, they can often oscillate between obsessive fixation and shallow development of skills and ideas.
The exploration of my Enneagram has been part of coming to understand facets of my personality I had always wondered about and explores the motivations behind why. My favorite undertaking is answering the question “what if…?” or, a close second, “why?” These questions are rooted in generating possibilities or seeking out answers/security in the face of the unknown/scary.
The Enneagram Institute is a great place to start your journey and a good book to help figure out your type is the “Essential Enneagram” by Daniels and Price.
Hello Myers my old frieeeennd! I first took the MB test when I was in college and most people have been subjected to it at some time in their life. Nowadays, internet has made it easy and seamless to figure out your MB type, which though commonly characterized as a “personality test” it is actually a “PREFERENCE test.” This is an important distinction because the test is measuring how you ideally prefer to perform a task or overcome a challenge. You’ll still see it referred to as a personality test almost everywhere you go, but if you come to understand it as a preference test, it will help you interpret your results more accurately.
An easy place to take the test is at 16 Personalities (see? Personality test!)
My MB type is ENFP, though my professor and I have discussed the possibility that I am an ESFP, though that might just be characteristics of my Enneagram type shining through. I have a lot of overlap between the two types so it’s an interesting mental exploration. And because this is super scientific, it also helps me to see that I am either Ariel or Elsa. Mermaid or Ice Sorceress? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. Choices, choices!
I hope these resources ultimately help you in your own journey to delving deeper into your identity as an artist and a citizen of our planet. Self-awareness, compassion, and unblocking the way toward our ultimate wellspring of purpose… sounds good, huh?