Validation – How does it affect your creativity

Creativity and expression, Photography and wellbeing

Validation – How does it affect your creativity…And can you live without it?

Social media (or any) validation is like eating a box of chocolates. In every box you’ll experience pleasure and disappointment; the excitement of opening the box will be replaced by the disappointment of finishing it. The high of chocolate consumption will be replaced by the low of eating them all and being back at an empty box. How can a box of chocolates be anything like creating art? Read on to find out

I’m sitting down to write this post. I have had to physically remove my phone from my reach, such as my attachment to it. There, I have said it. I have an addiction to Facebook and Instagram, and I hate it. Once again, this morning, David Du Chemin gave me much food for thought. It was like he’d been through the struggles I have already and was reading my mind, much like social media seems to be able to these days, but the latter is not in a good way. To be honest, I have known of my challenge for a long time, but just like any addiction, I’ve kidded myself that my awareness is the first step to control and management, that I could stop at any time, except I’ve tried and failed. This morning’s podcast (or as I like to think of many of them as pep talks) opened up my eyes to the reason why I seem to be unable to leave social media alone. It boils down to a need for validation. A need to know that what I’m creating or saying is reaching people to whom it is useful… or is it simply that people like what I have to say?

We are brought up from a very early age to recognize praise and value it. Positive feedback and not negative is we’re told essential to ensure our children grow up with self-esteem and with confidence to be who they want to be. So how do we get to this point where no feedback also equals negativity? No ‘likes’ means no reaction. Does that mean something I have created warrants no response? Does it really have no value to anyone? I feel I’m waffling around the edge of what I want to say here because what I really want to address is what happens if we forget our need for validation. What would happen if we never had negative or positive affirmations? If we had no one to tell us if what we were creating had value.

I see your eyebrows lifting in horror here. Not knowing if my work is good. How can I possibly create it if I don’t know if it’s good? …But define ‘good’. Good for one person is not necessarily good for another.

The likes of Van Gogh, Picasso, Hockney and Thoreau have loyal and massive followings. They are all individuals and very different from each other. You don’t have to like them all, in fact, you don’t have to like any of them! It’s worth noting that all of these created their work with no immediate social media feedback loop. They all created for themselves and in a way to express what they were experiencing in life. At the time, many of them were snubbed by society in fact, for being a bit ‘different’. Unfortunately, the stigma of being ‘different’ still exists, and is what stops many of us creating the work we deep down want to.

Three very simple images of grass. I just fell in love with the colour, simplicity, detail and the way the light was playing on the seed heads. I gave it no thought as to whether anyone would like the images because I made them for me.

It is worth noting that it is not just social media that we look to, in order to see if our work is okay. And when I say ‘okay’, let’s be honest, I am really looking for another way to say does my work stack up against others. We ask our friends, who invariably say only lovely things and when we feel their responses are too supportive, we look further to judged competitions. I’ve worked with enough individuals who have become so despondent with their photography (me included) as a result of entering competitions, that you need to ask yourself what you hope to gain from entering….but that’s probably a whole other blog post. Finding the right support network and the right people to gain feedback from can be really valuable. And I’ve already written a blog post on this. The value of a photography support network.

So, what I want to ask here is; would your work change or your creativity be affected if it didn’t matter to you, what others thought of your work?

I’ll let you in on a secret, my best work, my unique work and often the work that steps away from what I normally do has all been created by pursuing ideas that have captivated me. The desire to play an experiment and photograph that subject has been greater than worrying about what others would think. Interestingly, it’s these projects which have remained under wraps for a while longer because I didn’t want anyone to judge me on them. In fact, I was so happy just creating for the love of it, that I was content without affirmation. Looking back, when I finally did release this work, the release and sharing was an endpoint to the journey that didn’t really matter. The achievement had already been delivered in that I had created something I was proud of. I look back on making these images and think about how much I loved the journey and the creativity.

So if you can, I urge you to go out in the next week and make some work for you with absolutely no intention of sharing it. Make your images or artwork or writing with the love of the experience or the enjoyment of the process, not how they will be received. Give yourself the chance to learn and love the journey of creativity with no expectations and see where it takes you. If afterwards you feel like sharing, by all means, do so, but again do it without expectation, and do not allow anyone to affect what you have created. Reflect a little and recognise how creating for the love of the experience, process and learning made you feel. A small slight smile might even escape over your face and the realisation of how much you enjoyed it. Now to hold on to that memory and maybe even print out an image that you attach to your pin board with a note to remind you how good it can feel to do something just for you xx

A black and white photo of Charlotte Bellamy

Hi, I'm Charlotte

Creative Artist