I saw two spiders in the bathroom at work this morning. If you know me at all, you know I’m terrified of spiders. Even if you don’t, you could probably venture a guess—it’s a common fear. Anyway, as I approached the sink to wash my hands, I saw a small black spider on the floor first. Not one of those creepy hairy ones or one of the giant brown ones (thank God), just a small, Charlotte-esque spider hanging out by the vent. She struck me as a “she” immediately because she just seemed like the type. Needed red lipstick or something. So in my fear I ignored her and turned to the sink cautiously, only to find an even smaller spider in the sink, a wispy brown thing almost not even real. Seeing its eight feather-light spindles, I panicked and immediately washed it down the sink without thinking.
Then a weird thing happened. I felt a flash of guilt (I’ve never felt guilty for killing a spider, ever), and then I immediately realized what I was seeing. What I was doing.
The creepy, ugly, much-feared spider is a symbol of creativity. I wonder how that’s even possible, until I recall the delicate, shining webs they paint like portraits in thin air. And it’s natural, you know? They don’t even really have to think about it. It’s just part of them.
My bright revelatory moment here was that when I saw that spider in the sink, I panicked and immediately washed it down the drain. How many times have I done that in my own life, with my own ideas, stories, poems, blog posts, business ventures? Too many to count. I’ll encounter a spark of creativity so crackling and bright it startles me, and I immediately wash it down the drain.
I do this when I self-sabotage through negative self-talk, procrastination, and dismissing my own ideas as unimportant or not worthy. I do this when I start on an idea—like a creative greeting card business—and buy everything I need to get started and then neglect all of my ideas, declaring myself too tired or not creative enough. Then my new supplies and good intentions sit in the closet collecting dust as though I’d never even owned them.
I do this every time I let a beautiful idea go to waste without even trying it first. Ever done that?
So how can we make sure we embrace our creative ideas without dismissing them too soon?
- Give in. Don’t automatically assume the idea is crap just because it’s yours. Your original ideas are worth something, and you’ll never know how much somebody needed your art, story, photo, or song until you create it and find out.
- Think less, act more. I saw that sentiment the other day and it struck me, because I’m terribly guilty of over-thinking things to death, literally. That’s one of the best ways to kill a good idea.
- Devote time to your creative pursuits. Stop dismissing them as unimportant. They are part of you, and you should develop them more fully…especially if you enjoy it!
- Stop taking yourself too seriously. If everything you create has to be perfect the first time around, you’ll never create anything. Enjoy the process and the progress.
I surprised myself when I stood there and looked at the spider, feeling okay with (even grateful for…shudder) its presence. It’s creativity there, even when it startles me.
I took it as a sign from God, who loves me, who uses even my greatest fears to teach me something new. Sound crazy? Maybe a little. But I’d like to think he operates in unorthodox ways.
Now I just have to stop washing my creativity down the drain.