The Art of Setting Oneself Free

What happens when I create?

(Maybe something similar happens to you.)

I sit down to write — or stand at the easel to paint — or, now, to record the next episode of my podcast — and I feel nauseous. There’s a churning inside. It’s the war I know well. I didn’t use to know it. I used to just feel sick to my stomach.

But now I know. Now I know that there is something that wants to be written, painted, or spoken. And the truth is I don’t know what it is.

This is the truth. I don’t know what it is. And I cannot know until it has been written, painted, or spoken.

Whatever this is waits, not so patiently, in the darkness of my inner world. It pulses and pushes to get out. And, my tendency has been to attempt to let it out slowly — like barely opening the mouth of a filled helium balloon — so that I can contain its wild nature and control it into something I will be pleased by. Because being pleasing was always the goal.

There’s the rub. Life force is not pleasing. It is wild and unpredictable. Look at nature and you see yourself. Wild and unpredictable. Not always dark and stormy. But always what it is, always changing.

We know we cannot get nature to conform. So why do we try so hard to get ourselves to conform? We are nature. We are not robots.

It feels as if our true humanity, the experience of really being alive in a human body with all of our foibles and quirks has been turned into some sort of pathology. Especially truly free creativity.

“Creative people are odd.”

“Creative people are crazy.”

Hell, our creative expression IS wild. But it is not abnormal. It is not a problem. It is what we are.

It is what we are.

I’ve bought into this crazy thing. That’s the war inside me. The war between my own nature and the part of me that fears the power of my nature. I have to be willing to be this nature. And I don’t know how I will be.

I was taught to fear the power inside of me. It isn’t (necessarily) pleasing. And the opportunity, now, staring me in the face, is to set myself free.

So I move from keyboard to easel and canvas to paint.

I paint long, strong strokes of Aqua. Up and down. Lots of paint. I’m painting with awareness in my hands, not my head. I can feel my hands are filled with a vibrancy. They feel alive and conscious. They make both broad strokes and small ones. They want particular colors — today it’s blues

As I paint, I notice the moments when I think something about the painting rather than simply being aware that I am painting. And in these moments, I can feel the subtle sense of leaving myself when I think about and judge what I am painting. It’s often so subtle. That judgment sneaks in quickly and silently. But I feel it because I am suddenly uncomfortable in my body when it happens. I feel a little separate from myself. I notice I am thinking rather than immersed in the way I was just before.

I am suddenly self-conscious.

And the issue with being an artist, or writer, or human being, is that more often than not when we are conscious we are judging ourselves. Judgment is so damn rampant in our brains. I’m not talking about the helpful and healthy ability to discern. I’m talking about flat-out judgment. And it is painful to do it to oneself. At least it is once we wake up to the fact we are doing it.

Before I was self-conscious, I was painting in joy. Just happy strokes. Boom, and now I am aware of (and judgmental of) what I am painting.

These are small acts of leaving myself. Separating myself into two. The one who is painting. And the one judging the painting. And here is the chance to set myself free.

In this moment, I can re-write how my left-brain relates to my right-brain. My right-brain needs my left-brain to support it not judge it.

When I become self-conscious, I am learning to be aware of how this self-consciousness can support my acts of creation, thereby setting myself free to express fully and wholly, something I have longed to do.


I am pretty conscious of this process of helping the two sides of the brain end the war and retrain how they are with each other. This is what I do when I coach artists, designers, coders, business execs, and all sorts of people who long to stop judging themselves and start creating.

Come say Hello if you’d like to know more.