Jen Gray, a wider view, Canon 300D

I was reminded today of an important turning point in my creative life. A woman wrote to me and asked, “How do you keep your confidence up (without letting it dissipate) to keep living your creative dream?”

What came to mind is something a friend of mine told me years ago. I was saying something self-deprecating and insecure about my artwork and he turned to me and said, “When are you going to take it for granted that you are a talented artist? When are you going to stop trying to prove it? Assume it. Take it for granted and imagine what you could create from that place…”

My whole life changed that day.

I finally saw how much energy I was putting into becoming an artist. I thought I had to somehow earn the title, that there was some special magic attached to it. I thought I had to be plucked from the crowd, that someone from the outside (who? I have no idea) would say to me, NOW. You are good enough.

What a bunch of crap.

I think the label of “artist” is loaded and has a strange sort of baggage attached to it. People say, “I’m not an artist! I can barely draw a straight line” and I always cringe when I hear this. What’s so interesting about a straight line anyway?

It is not an exclusive club, this artist thing. It’s just a bunch of people who like to play, to make things, to dream up ideas, to color, to sing, to build, to string words together. Don’t we all? I think it helps to remove the labels.

Another part of keeping my confidence up has been learning to honor and trust my own unique way of doing things. I have to make peace over and over again with the fact that I run my business differently than others. I invent it every single day. It is very intuitive for me. I don’t read books about business, I don’t have a business plan, I don’t use spreadsheets and I don’t have a marketing program. To most, this is highly disorganized and BAD. (There is an evil voice in my head that reminds me of this all the time.)

Keri Smith wrote a brilliant list today called “10 ways to Infuse your Work with Your Personality.” #7 talks about the danger of comparing ourselves to others. She writes, “Ignore what other people are doing. The times we feel the most discouraged are usually due to the fact that we are comparing ourselves to others.” So true!

Your dreams are living, growing things. There will be times when you think, “This is never going to work! What the hell am I thinking? Who am I to do this anyway?” And then a few days later you will get a call from someone who wants to hire you to design their CD cover or shoot their wedding or DJ their party and although you are tempted to say, “Me? Are you crazy? You should probably call someone more qualified.” You will instead grin, nod your head graciously and say, “Great. I would be happy to do that.”

Living your dream doesn’t mean you are always confident. It just means that you keep going…

What are your creative dreams?

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.



  1. Katherine

    First of all . . . may I say again how much joy your jewelry brings me, and how many compliments I get on the earrings of yours I wear every single day. (now that I have a little collection of them going 🙂 And secondly . . . my creative dreams? I have gone for it and gone for it and gone for it, one creative dream after another getting enough loft for a vision of what life looks from a higher place, and then boom, back to the ground, face first in mud puddle. Classical acting, modern dance, two novels written, seven years dedicated to launching a career in the holistic arts, teaching, planninng, creating, writing, advertizing, three years dedicated to learning, developing, implimenting, expanding holistic health classes, teaching them in a hundred different places. Regrets? None. Sadness that they all eventually ended? Some. I have come to see that I have very little control over much of anything in my life, that something larger than me drives the bus, and that my job is to do as I feel with what is presented, with what I feel to pursue, to be grateful for what arrives as long as it stays, and to wish it well as it trucks off on down the road to hang with others. I so agree with you . . . living creatively, living four creative dreams means that we just keep going . . . We just keep going . . . because what else is there to do but get back up and do the next thing we feel to do? Next for me: back to college at 38! 🙂

  2. Donavan Freberg

    Oh wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!
    So much goodness and truth in your post.
    The label “Artist” is indeed loaded with baggage. In the ad agency that I am temporarily pretending in, people like me are known as “creatives”. The other people in the agency, like the account executives and planners and “business” people are separated. Ironically, some of the most interesting people there are not “creatives”….and inversely, some of the least interesting people are.
    Recently, I was presenting some of my work to a planner and she said, “this is so inventive! In my next life, I am going to be a CREATIVE!”. I smiled. The next day I left a pack of crayons and a pad on her desk with a small note that said, “You are hereby a “creative” in THIS life…YES!”.
    We are all so creative, so vibrant, so ripe with possibility. Sometimes we just need a crayon and a permission slip.
    You re-invent your business daily….hmmm.
    Multi-Billion dollar companies pay ad agencies lots of money to help them do just that. You are an incredibly savvy business woman, and don’t ever think otherwise. The fact that you do it differently proves this.
    Thank you for your wonder, your creativity, and your permission to invent ourselves daily.
    You are such a purple crayon.

  3. Deanna

    My dreams, well of late they have just been to get by.
    Lost in my Fierce post I sent a while ago, since that time my Nanny has passed away and my nephew has become deeply depressed and attempted suicide.
    All of these family tragedies are happening 6000 miles away so I am doing all I can to stay in touch, but at the same time use this bizzare energy in a constructive artistic way.
    There is a silver lining to this doom and gloom.
    I am a photographer, have been for 10 years, mostly alternative processes.
    I am studying multimedia part time while working at a commercial photo lab during the day.
    My studies are complete to the point that I can find work, I am armed with what the industry requires me to enter as a ‘pee on’.
    After reading this post, and the link you provided to ‘infuse your work with personality.’
    I have devised a job search campaign. I’m going to flog the public with resumes, and include a MAGNET, with a small image, my email address, and a link to the two web sites I have just finished. Who doesn’t like a fridge magnet?
    Complete with a follow up phone call to see if these people are checking out how cool my stuff is… some one is bound to take the bait.
    I have been at a road block with the idea of finding work, the lack of energy I have for this task is grand.
    But some how, had the dream that once I set my foot forward on my own road, I’ll have all the confidence I need to deal with what ever else life has to throw my way.
    Thanks Andrea, keep up the inspiration.
    (I”m going to treat myself to a superhero gift for my b-day,
    I’ll contact you soon with details.)

  4. kat

    Such wonderful words that everyone should read and take to heart! Thank you for reminding me that I can live my creative dreams…something I (along with many others) tend to forget!
    My creative dreams, in no particular order:
    to learn how to
    play upright bass
    blow glass
    to be able to sell
    my photography
    my jewelry
    to not be afraid to do these
    and so many other things
    to live my life as art

  5. Emily

    oooh andrea…. thank you for this!! you have a nice little surprising treat headed your way soon! and since i’ll be getting some graduation money, i’ll definitely be wanting some more jewels to add to my collection…
    my creative dream? i had spent the past two weeks figuring out exactly what it is that i want.
    *i want to live in a bright, vibrant place in the bay area… i want to make big chunky jewelry, knit wonderful scarves and purses, sew beautiful skirts and purses and quilts, taking captivating photographs, teach children and other creative souls, connect with women who can understand my struggles and triumphs, and write every day….
    there is, of course, more detail but i dont think it is necessary right now.

  6. melissa

    Thank you for this. I’m going to let it simmer for a bit, then I’ll post my thoughts over on my blog… Classical singing is so often about technique and being “Right”, that someone with a unique voice like mine often gets bypassed (and judged) for NOT sounding like everyone else. It breaks my heart (but forces me to strengthen my skin and my spirit), and it is no coincidence that relatively few classical singers I meet are bold enough to consider themselves Artists. As for me? I am an artist; I am a talented singer, tired of “waiting for my voice to be perfect” when I know I can (and do) touch people Now.
    A word and concept I’m concentrating on right now is “Manifesting”.

  7. R

    What a great post. Thanks Andrea for writing this. It was exactly what I needed to read this rainy Tuesday.
    I have picked myself up and pushed on with my plans over and over again. This morning was definitely one of those ” am I really heading in the right direction” kind of mornings. Now I feel reminded that I AM !
    As for creative dreams …top of the list is to continue to develop as a photographer. And near the end of the list is the tiny little wish to finally perform a belly dance sometime as opposed to hiding at the back of a class !!
    I loved the other comments too..also really reviving and I’m going to remember Donovan’s idea of giving crayons. That is filed away for use sometime too !
    With best wishes,

  8. fern

    eeek! Andrea…..that one spiked me right in the heart….just printing a copy now to re-read and re-adjust some smoldering truths I’ve been badgering about with lately..thank you ~Fern

  9. erika

    your words spoke to me in this post. for some reason i was thinking someone would come out of the crowd and pick me. say i was exactly what they were looking for and then i would feel validated. (i think it was too many 80s/90s movies like Big, lol).
    thanks for the reality check. i’m already an artist. 🙂

  10. Cori

    Right on! I was doing the same thing. Then my boyfriend straightened me out when I was telling him that a costume designer from a low-budget Hollywood movie contacted me for some of my designs and I thought it was the funniest thing in the world. I was like, “She told me that she had just gotten some promos from Gucci and wanted to know if I could give her a few of my pieces?” And I continued to my boyfriend, “It was like she thought I had a REAL business, or something.” And he said, “Well, yeah you do. Why don’t you start acting like it?” And that changed everything. Just like you described in this entry. And I’ve had a giant surge of creative energy since this realization. Yep, ups and downs, but I ain’t fakin’ it and I don’t have to picked, chosen or annointed.

  11. tim

    i was gonna pass this to my wife who is an artist – then i suddenly realised that i am too – i am a writer – there i said it
    thansk a lot

  12. brenda in toronto

    wow – you are such a gift! i can’t tell you how many times i’ve read your journal and you’ve written something so intuitive, so pure, so perfect! and that fact that you can put into words what so many of your readers are feeling – wow.
    i should have been commenting on your entries sooner – you have been touching the life of a reader clear across the continent, making her feel better about things, inspiring her to become a kinder, gentler person like you, and i bet you didn’t even know it 🙂 bless you!

  13. bluepoppy

    Yes. Now. Permission granted! Let’s all make our own diplomas and hang them on the wall and have frivolous festivities to celebrate that we are artists NOW. Thank you Andrea for reminding us to stop the “chasing” and simply “engage.”

  14. Gayla

    You rock Andrea.

  15. penelope

    Oh Andrea, this is so perfect. I really needed to hear this right now. I feel that I’ve fallen off the horse lately. I need to get back on and keep going. You’re right. I get so scared that I’m not going to make it. It’s almost paralyzing.
    My goal is to be a self-employed artist this year. And I’m going to do it.
    You are such an inspiration. Thank you.

  16. ani

    To get published as a children’s author. It’s difficult. I hope to accomplish it someday.

  17. Marilyn Scott-Waters

    My creative dream is to get my book of paper toys published and sold. It’s been a long road, like a snail crawling up a well. peck, peck peck, creep creep creep… I’m getting close! I’m doing the prepress now!
    I have a little 3 x 5 card in my medicine cabinet that was a grade from college. It says, “B- Take your art more seriously. You are capable of more work.” It was the most useful grade that I ever got.
    Thanks for a wonderful article!
    Best thoughts,

    “Abrideri et Oblectare”
    “To Amuse and Delight”

  18. Danie

    Thank you for just what I needed to hear.
    I have been doing a lot of work manifesting my dreams. “Becoming” an artist has always been first on the list. Until now I thought I needed someone to accept or approve of my work or that I would have an emphany on just how to do it. Your entry just reassured me that I already am an artist.
    One dream I am currently living is the start up of my own company! I have my name, logo and business account all set up. And my handmade journals are being sold in a store for the first time!
    Thank you for inspiring me and letting me share.

  19. Jen

    Andrea – what you just wrote is so well put and I couldn’t have said it any better. I’ve been through those exact thought processes that you have gone through.
    I run my business the same way you do – and always have a doubt that comes into my mind about having business plans, etc. Usually the doubt comes (which you also mention comparing to others makes you feel doubtful) when I have talked to others that talk of business plans, lawyers, yada yada yada….ughh……
    I think it took awhile to finally feel the full thresh of confidence within myself. I was always being tormented every now and again with different doubts while starting my business.
    When I have my failures, I kind of look at them as if they are the stock market. What goes down must come back up. As long as I persavere through it and just keep going, the failures are just learning posts that only assist me in the future.

  20. Julia

    You must have read my mind! You put into words precisely what I struggle with, daily. Thank you! Thank you! I too, find myself often appologizing, or down-playing my own creative abilities. Your words really made me stop and take stock of how much time I have wasted trying to be “good enough” or “talented enough” Your insight really helps me to get over myself, and my doubts, and just go for it. How liberating!!! Thanks again. You rock! 🙂

  21. lisa

    Thank you so much for this. Exactly what I needed to hear. I am trying to start my own jewelry line (your site has been one of my inspirations:))and I am so good at criticizing myself and my talent.
    I have a hard time calling myself an “artist” because I haven’t gone to “art school”. For some reason, in my mind, those who have formal training are “artists” and the rest of us aren’t, even though I marvel at people’s work, regardless of their background.
    I make stuff. Some if it is successful and some of it isn’t but it comes from my hands, my heart and my mind and because of that, I am an artist!

  22. caroline

    very well said sister! Thank you for this inspiration.

  23. Michele

    This is very well said, thank you!
    I too hate it when people say that they aren’t an artist. My husband says this all the time yet I remind him that he has much artistic talent.
    I love creating, but sometimes it is hard to let go and just become what it is that you want to be. I’m still in transition.

  24. tania

    i needed to hear that…

  25. jeremy

    yes. the worst burden to place on an artist (i’m thinking of writers, particularly) is to ascribe to her the role of prophet. no, that is too apocalyptic. lovers, yes. noticers, yes–these are the good labels, if labels demand being heard.

  26. mademoiselle a.

    Yes, yes, yes 🙂 Wonderful!
    My creative dream…to be granted the liberty to take up the way I feel is good and healthy for me and turn it into a “career”. But we are judged by the diplomas we receive, and going new ways without a diploma in whatever puts you in the box of being a loser, a stupid, uneducated, worthless pain for society. Talent and gift, as well as work experience are still not valued as much as they should be.
    It’s truly painful to constantly hold the negative thinkers and box pushers at a distance.

  27. bluefaery

    well it was a delicious day indeed when I discovered your website. My current reserach position is sucking the creative life out of me. My journal entrys are begginning with “I hate…” YOu know its funny because I am a practicing social worker but it still feels weird to say that because in my heart I feel I should be saying “no I’m an artist!!!” and it’s also funny because a part of me feels as if I have no right to be an artist because my husband is the stuggling musician and I have to be the supportive wife. But yes, it is not so hard to inject your creativity into your work. thankyou.

  28. G-Man

    Wow. What an awesome post! Do I somehow know you? LOL. You tapped right into my veins with that one. The similiarites to how I feel about my art are amazing. Thanks for a great post!

  29. Monica Lee

    Dreams ARE teasures that need to be fueled daily. I have been happily skipping my way through keri’s wish jar tales and am so glad to have found this entry from you. I often set my creative self aside to become mother, partner, friend and then I look all over under stacks of laundry and school papers-where did I put all those creative ideas I had last week?
    Living your dream doesn’t mean you are always confident…hooray! I need to realize I am in the midst of my dream….

  30. nuene

    “LIFE is what passes by when you’re dreaming” but for thos who likes to dream than “If you wanna touch the sky, you better learn how to kneel.” Sorry to be harsh but I don’t agree with the notion of dreaming. Its something that just happens, you can’t make up dreams like you can make up fantasies. If you follow your dream you might never reach become anything. Now if you would have asked whats your creative goals than yes you are asking the right question. Everyone should have a goal and follow it till the day they die. embrace your goals not dreams. Real life is not about making your dreams come true, real life is about reaching goals. If I was to follow my dreams than I’d be in jail for stalking Angelina Jolie. Sorry if I don’t fall in this circle of dreamers. I stopped trying to make my dreams a reality once I reached junior high.

  31. Elizabeth

    Living your dream is terrifying.
    I have been drawn to design, be it fashion, typography, furniture, etc.. I cannot draw a straight line. I have let this deter me from becoming a fashion designer and artist. I am trying to overcome it but I believe that everything happens in its own time and maybe I am not ready yet. Maybe I haven’t experienced what it is that I MUST experience in order to do the things I would like to do. However, the universe is funny sometimes. The things that I am interested in that I don’t think I have any talent at, I find myself being drawn to again and again.
    Thank you very much, Andrea for this post. You reminded me that I am as much of an artist as the next guy or gal. I should not be ashamed of the art I create or the way I go about my creative process and neither should you. Just do it.

  32. Melly

    All I really want to write is the word, yes.
    and thank you. and keep being you. Hold yourself, enjoy even this sadness, presently. It will end and be transformed, before you visit it again. thank you.

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