How to Reclaim and Protect Your Creativity

Have you ever had your creative spirit crushed?

Some might say that I am too sensitive. Over the years, I have struggled with receiving criticism from others in any creative endeavor, because at times even a hint of “you’re doing it wrong,” can make me crumble into a pile of colored pencil shavings.

I’ve met people who are tough. Nothing seems to disrupt their confidence. Someone could tell scream “Your art sucks and you are failing at everything!” and they’d just brush it off and carry on with life. It would be awesome to start out tough and confident, but some of us just aren’t wired that way. Though, don’t worry. There are ways we sensitive flowers can build our own sanguine security.

When I was taking art courses in college, I felt my creative energy drain away as I butted heads with instructors and classmates. Everyone had their own opinions on what art should be, how it should be made, who it’s made for, and even if what I was doing was in fact art. It’s important to engage in critiques, ask questions, and figure out what drives you as an artist–but I found that the majority of my interactions in the arts community were making me feel small and inadequate. I began to lose my drive to create, because I allowed opinions from the outside world to pollute my creative spirit. I needed to do some internal work to build my resilience.

I know I’m not the only one who has been through this and I want to share a few tips that I have used over the years to reclaim my creativity and how I currently protect it today.

How to reclaim and protect your creativity

1. Define your intention and reason for creating.

This is the first place every creative person should start when they want to share their art with the world.

Anytime you make something and show it to another human, you will hear opinions, complaints, critiques, or questions about your work. Some people will like it, some people will hate it, some people won’t care, some people will tell you to make it into a career, some may tell you never quit your day job. If you are sensitive to this sort of thing, the best way to protect yourself from negative feedback or even to prevent your ego from over-inflating from positive feedback is to define why you do what you do.

Why do you make art?

Do you create for fun? Do you create to make a statement, to upset people, to comfort people, as therapy for yourself, as a means to capture beauty? Whatever your reason, put it down on paper.

Then, if someone shares their opinion/critique/commentary or whatever, you can hold it up against your original intention and reason for creating. As long as you are satisfying your original intention, then outside opinions don’t really matter.

I have had quite a few people leave comments telling me to try doing something different with my art. Past me would have interpreted these comments as “They are tired of what I am doing and I should feel bad because I didn’t please this random person and maybe I should try doing something different like they said.”

Current me is like “Nah. I did what I set out to do and I’m going to keep doing that.”

Defining your intention for creating and holding true to it builds your confidence and helps protect your creative energy.

2. Don’t waste energy defending why you do what you if being judged (rather than critiqued).

In academic settings, the art critique process involves a lot of explanation of what you did with your art. You can find yourself ‘defending’ your choices. Which, is a great exercise to teach you awareness of your own choices and art process, BUT this is an exhausting practice if you feel like your creativity is being judged rather than ‘critiqued’. There is a big difference.

If you ever find your art being assessed as “bad” or if someone is simply saying “I don’t like this,” don’t waste your time or energy trying to convince them why it’s not bad and why they should like it. As an artist, your energy should be spent on the actual creative process. If you waste your time defending your work, you’re not protecting your creativity.

Thank that person for their opinion and move on.

3. Always, always, always remember, it does not matter if your work is “good” or “bad”. Don’t leave room for internal judgment.

I used to be really critical of my work. This would leave me feeling frustrated and defeated when I would try to create, because I wasted a lot of time in the middle of creating worrying about my work looking bad. I polluted my own creative process with judgmental thoughts. Once you release your creations of judgment, your creative spirit can fly free.

There is no place for judgment while creating. Even when you are finished with a piece, don’t allow yourself to stop and judge. Move onto the next work of art. Take notes of what you want to try improving upon, and apply that to the next piece. Do not sit back and tell yourself your work sucks.

Few things have killed my creativity more than staring at a piece I didn’t like and ruminating on how terrible I am as an artist. The best thing you can do is to keep your creative momentum moving forward. Don’t judge. Just make things.

4. Only accept criticism from select people.

There will always be people who will dislike your art. It’s a fact that you can’t please everyone. You won’t be able to prevent negative comments about your creations (especially once your work reaches a larger audience), but if you make a decision in your mind to only accept and internalize the criticism from trusted sources, you can protect your creativity more easily.

This means you have the authority to ignore any and all negative comments from strangers on the internet. You have no idea who they are, their personal preferences, their experience in the art world, or if they know your drive as an artist. Don’t let a 12 year old on Instagram convince you your art sucks.

Opinions are not facts, and people are far to generous with their criticisms. I assure you, that not every critique should be given attention. Take criticism from the people within your field that you respect or the people who have reached a level you want to reach. Criticism is beneficial when it helps move you closer to your goals.

5. Find a trusted art partner with positive energy.

We could all use a cheerleader for what we do.

The creative process requires that we be vulnerable. When we are at our most vulnerable, negative comments can be incredibly crushing. Finding one person or a couple of people to share your creative process with who understand you, your art, your intentions for creating and have empathy can work wonders for your creative spirit.

Do not show your work to people who are consistently negative or hard to please, or at least don’t listen to their judgment and opinions. You don’t need to win over anybody’s approval when you are within the creative process. You need to nurture your creative energy and convince yourself to just keep going. Having trusted and like-minded people in your inner circle can give your creative spirit a boost.

I also want to say that it doesn’t matter if someone is ‘lying’ and they tell you your work looks good when they personally don’t like it. The important thing is that you have a support system that encourages you to keep creating.

If you don’t have someone in your life like that right now, read this:

Don’t stop what you are doing. If your creativity brings you joy, then make whatever it tells you to make. If someone said something discouraging, it’s okay! Just check in with yourself. Are you pleased with the process? Do you like what you’ve created? I promise you will find others who will enjoy what you are doing. And maybe what you are doing is just for you. That’s okay too! You don’t need to share your art with others. Sometimes our art can act like a private diary that’s meant only for the creator.

Whatever negative comments or experiences are burned in your memory that prevent you from creating, I give you permission to let them go. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure that comes from embracing your creative urges. Keep painting, drawing, knitting, sculpting, or doodling on the margins of your notes in class. It doesn’t matter if the end result wins awards or earns you money. It’s all in the process.

Go get messy and show us the art that fulfills you.

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And that’s my little pep talk! Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

How to Get Free Art Supplies and Become a ‘Micro-Influencer’

Leverage your social following and work with well known companies.

The first time I got free art supplies from a company through my Instagram account was one of those “I’ve made it!” moments. Looking back, the supplies I received probably only retailed at $12, but I was still crazy excited for it. Whether you are a professional artist, or just a hobbyist you have the potential to become a micro-influencer on Instagram and get free products in exchange for social exposure.

This post isn’t really for everyone and getting the “free” supplies will require work. I will not be including resources here on how to just click a link, fill out a form, and get free supplies delivered to you. Although, I did provide something like that a long time ago that has since expired–I promise if I find more absolutely- no-strings-attached-free-supplies, I’ll let you know about it.

First, getting free supplies will require that you have a decent social presence for your art. I know. I know. It’s not easy to build a following online. I’ve written a lot of blog posts on how to grow a following on Instagram and I will continue to put out more information on that subject.  Though, lucky for you, you don’t have to have a butt-ton of followers in order to have social power as a ‘micro-influencer’.

What is a micro influencer?

Being a micro-influencer basically means that you have created a brand for yourself online and have a dedicated and engaged following. Micro-influencers are usually pretty niche and appeal to a specific audience. The exact follower range for a micro-influencer varies depending on where you get your information, but you can have anywhere from 1,000-50,000 followers.

Companies need to advertise their products, and often giving free products to a micro-influencer can be more cost effective than spending money on actual advertisements or paying big influencers. Also, micro-influencers often have a higher engagement rate than big influencer accounts.

If you currently have an account for your art above 1,000 followers, then you can start exploring your pull as a micro-influencer and approach companies for free products. Though, this will require you to step out of your comfort zone and make the opportunities happen.

Here’s How to Get free Supplies as a Micro-Influencer

1. Reach out to art supplies companies you want to work with.

Yup. I’m telling you to ask for free products. Though, you need to start thinking about how it’s not a ‘free’ product and it is actually a trade. In order to get a company’s attention you need to convince them you have something to offer. Having an engaged audience that will be interested in the products you mention is the main draw.

Customer service contact information is usually listed on company websites. I look for an email address and craft a basic email that includes a few key things:

  • Start with an intro of who you are.
  • Explain your current social power (how many followers, your engagement rate, your niche, and how you can provide a benefit to the company by promoting their products).
  • Ask if they would be interested in providing free products in exchange for social exposure or as a focal point for a review.
  • You can even ask to partner in a giveaway.
  • Consider making/offering YouTube reviews or blog posts as well.
  • Thank them for their time.

You have nothing to lose by approaching a company with an opportunity that can benefit both of you. Just focus on what you can offer them and be prepared for rejection.

2. Tag companies on social media.

When you create art and post it online, start tagging the companies that made the supplies you used. This is a really indirect way to open the door to getting free supplies, but occasionally these companies take notice and may offer up more supplies as a thank you for your dedication. Your success is their success.

Don’t hold your breath, though! The direct approach will work much better.

3. Let the universe decide.

If you want to leave everything up to chance, you can just focus on your art and growing your following. As you build a bigger presence online, companies may reach out to you completely organically to offer you free things to promote on your account. This has happened to me multiple times without tagging or mentioning any company.

One time I got free soup.

Yup. Soup.

Additional things to consider

Greedy Companies- When free supplies aren’t enough.

If a company approaches you with free products, do not let them dictate the terms of how and if you present the products on your social accounts without considering requesting additional payment for your time and work.

Free supplies can only buy so much from an influencer. Your following has a value and sometimes a free product isn’t enough. I’ll go over actually getting paid to promote products in a bit.

Whenever a company approaches me, I tell them all the same thing: I’d be more than happy to try your product. If I love it, I can share on social media as I see fit. If I don’t like it, I simply won’t say anything. If you want control over any part of the post, then you must pay for a sponsored post.

Companies weigh the cost of paying for advertisements against the cost of free products for influencers. Learn how to establish the value of your posts vs. promotions.

Companies likely aren’t just going to give you free products out of the kindness of their hearts. Free products are just another way to advertise. I know when I first started getting offers for free supplies, I didn’t realize the value of my social exposure. So, I want you be smarter than I was and to evaluate your Instagram posts through two things: 1) the ‘reach’ of your average post through the post insights (see the left picture) and 2) a hypothetical promotion spend through Instagram (see the right picture).

You will need your account to be a business account to see both of these screens (you should get on that if you haven’t already). I took a look at the insights from one of my posts in July 2018 (I had around 53,000 followers at the time). You can see the post reached 11,343 accounts. If you scroll to the bottom of the insights, you can see an option to promote the post.

I want you to go through the promotion screens until you get to the one that looks like the right picture. From here, you can slide the Budget and Duration around until you get a projected ‘reach’ that is similar to your post. That will give you an idea of how much a company would have to spend on one post in order to get the reach your average posts get already. Then just back out of the promotion.

If a company is sending you a $20 kit of supplies, and you reach an audience of that would cost more than that through paid promotions, the company will likely be happy with the results. Not to mention, the retail value of a product is marked up from the actual cost of making the product…

Greedy Influencers- Are you asking for too much?

If you approach a company first, be mindful of the value of the products you request when compared to the value you can give the company. By looking at the cost of advertising vs. the reach on your posts like we did above, you can get a better idea of what kinds of products you can realistically expect to get for free.

Breaking away from your brand- Don’t promote unrelated content.

If a company reaches out to you and their products have nothing to do with you, your art, or the brand you’ve created–then I suggest not promoting the product on your social media accounts. Building a social following takes a lot of work, and if you start to pollute your brand with content your followers have no interest in, then you risk losing dedicated followers.

Stay true to the brand you’ve created. Though, you can get away with posting company shout outs in your stories that stray from your brand a bit.

Instagram micro-influencers can make money in addition to getting free supplies.

Free supplies are great, but free supplies plus a paycheck is even better. If you are reaching out to companies, I wouldn’t push your luck with asking for free supplies AND money unless you really have a good deal to offer them. But, if companies approach you to promote their products, you have all the power to ask for more and/or turn down or accept the offer.

You can find a lot of different suggestions for what influencers should be paid, but it’s different for every company you work with and you will need to develop some negotiating skills. Though, to get a general idea of what you can be paid as an influencer check out this Influencer tool by Influencer Marketing Hub.

Moral of the story…

You can get free supplies if you work for it and create opportunities for yourself. Keep in mind that companies will be more willing to work with influencers who can clearly benefit them. Sell yourself. Start searching for email addresses and send out a couple of emails and see what happens.

Becoming a micro or macro influencer doesn’t sound like it should be a real thing but it totally is. You can start at any level and the bigger you get, the more opportunities you can create for yourself and the more free stuff you’ll be able to get in your mailbox. Though, the bigger you get, the more you should demand payment for your social posts.

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I hope you enjoyed this post! Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Why You Should Create Videos of Your Art Process

This is what I do to get more exposure on social media and you should do it too.

I’ve written a lot of blog posts about how to grow your following as an artist online. How to pick the right hashtags, how to brand your Instagram, how often to post, and more, but there is one huge thing that helps me continually grow my following on social media and I want you to do this too: Make videos of your art process.

I have shared my recording setup in a couple of other blog posts, so I apologize if you find some of this info repetitive, but you’ll still get something out of the first bit of this post. Especially if you still haven’t gotten around to actually making videos.

Videos, videos, videos!

Process videos, time lapse videos, close up videos, slow motion videos, real time videos. Any kind of video you can think of. I’m going to give you a clear chunk of proof as to why videos will be beneficial for your social media accounts.

Take a look at the insights I pulled from my Instagram account for the last 30 days below. On the left is a screenshot of the number of accounts I reached through still photo posts, and on the right is the reach of my video posts.

All you have to do is look at the first thumbnail on each screenshot.

  • Best Photo Post: 68,793 accounts reached
  • Best Video Post: 165,999 accounts reached

My best video post clearly blows my best photo post out of the water. Same with the next 6 video posts. I could use the same hashtags, post at the same time of the day, use similar captions, or replicate any other variable, but videos get more attention than photos on average.

This has been consistent for me since September of 2017 when my following first started to grow and I’ve continued to create videos since then to maintain the momentum. Don’t delay. Start making videos. I’ll show you how I do it.

How to Create Videos of Your Art for Social Media

*Any product links provided in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase. These commissions help fund the creation of more content like this at no additional cost to you. So thank you for supporting this site! Buy all the things 😉 *

You don’t need any crazy expensive equipment to get started with making videos. Most of us have high quality cameras in our pockets that we can start recording with. When I first started making videos, I used my Samsung Galaxy S6 phone, a cheap smartphone tripod, and a pre-installed video app to create time lapse videos. Regardless of the equipment you use, I have some tips for you:

Basic tips for creating videos:
  1. Use good lighting: In photos and videos, you want to make sure you don’t have dimly lit or highly shadowed products. Keep things bright and clean with natural sunlight or daylight bulbs.
  2. Control the chaos around your art: Keep your work space clean and make sure the colors of the surface you’re working on don’t clash with your art. I stick with clean(ish) white surfaces. Reduce the clutter around your art so the viewer’s eyes don’t get distracted.
  3. Show an interesting part of your process, and capture dynamic moments: People who aren’t artists will not know what your pencil sketch of a bird will look like once you add your distinct watercolor style unless you show them. Capture a piece from start to finish, or capture satisfying moments of adding details during the last 25% of a piece. Show a transformation and tell a story through your videos.
  4. Don’t waste your time with video intros: You only have a couple of seconds to grab your viewer’s attention. I suggest jumping right into your art content.
  5. Consider working small to create more content: If you only work on large pieces, creating 7 videos a week may be a bit difficult. I suggest working on “content filler” pieces of art that are smaller and that you can finish quickly.

My Video Setup:

When I was at my most ambitious state, I was posting a time lapse video of my work once a day. If you want to aggressively try to grow your following, I would suggest you do the same (and don’t forget to research a good list of hashtags). At a minimum that means I needed 7 videos a week, so I basically started to record everything I did in the studio. This led me to “upgrade” my recording equipment to make it as easy as possible for me to hit record. (Smartphones run out of storage space quickly when you record that much!)

Right now, I record all of my videos using a webcam. I record right onto my laptop and I edit them with Adobe Premiere Pro. Easy peasy.

If you want to stick with using your phone to start, you can still use the lights, scissor arm, and then get your hands on that cellphone tripod and screw the phone holder onto your clamp arm.

Are you ready to get started?

I can’t stress enough how beneficial video content can be for your social exposure. Using videos on Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and whatever other platform you’re on can easily grab more attention than a still photo. Making videos may seem intimidating at first, but we have so much technology around us that we can use.

If you have a smartphone, webcam, iPad, or even a camcorder, you can get started. Use what you have and hit record.

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Lastly, I want to take a moment to touch on the fear that a lot of artists have about sharing their art process. I understand that you may not want to show people how you make your art for fear that it’s giving them a blueprint of how to copy what you do. A lot of us fear having our work copied, but take a moment to read this post if that fear is holding you back from making videos. Don’t let fear get in your way.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: