Today’s post resonates in my creative soul. During a recent conversation about creativity I heard myself say, “I need a hobby that is not also my job.” I write for work, I write for my blog, and I write for my sanity. And sometimes, I just need to slam the computer shut. Which doesn’t stunt my urge to create, however. This post explores that conundrum: when what you love becomes your work and then loses (and gains) a little bit of shine. And also, why does creating for others feel like generosity while creating for self feels selfish? I’m going to have to sit with that question for a while…
Create Challenge #36: Annie Nybo
I am lucky enough to have a job in a creative field, and blessed that my hobby (reading) is what I do (editing books).
But the downside of that is that reading and writing become work to me, and my personal reading tastes have changed drastically because of it. As my career has grown, so too has my need for another creative outlet, and so I have spent the past several years knitting, cross-stitching, and embroidering up a storm.
The thing that strikes me upon writing this, however, is that I find it nearly impossible to own that talent. When people compliment my work, my first response is to tell them how easy it is. (And guys, it is. Cross stitch is really freaking easy if you can count). It feels wrong to get compliments on some hipster sayings I sew when I look at tapestries from the middle ages. Suddenly my little Darth Vader doesn’t look so great.
I can’t even literally own my own work—I find it hard to create for myself. I dream up projects for other people, but I do not have a single piece of my embroidery displayed in my room. And I think it’s because making something for myself feels selfish. What a waste of time when I could be making something as a gift.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it challenging to create for themselves. To create is to be vulnerable, and it’s nerve-wracking to be so enamored of something you’ve made that you’d show it off. In the way many of us have been raised, that smacks of pride and arrogance.
But the urge to hide and deflect and demure is one I want to quash in the coming year. Because true creative freedom comes in being able to say, “I made this and it is good.” And I wanted to call attention to and honor the space within us all that knows we’re talented—even if that talent is remembering state capitols—and owning that spark.
This holiday season, I will be sewing many gifts, but in between all the projects I will be finishing one for myself, one that I’ve worked on for almost a year. As I finish, and try to finish strong, I will have to constantly remind myself that “it is good.” I don’t need to sell it or give it away, I can be proud of a job well done. That’s not arrogance, that’s understanding oneself.
Annie Nybo is a children’s book editor and lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she reads, sews, and plays video games.