Unveiling Your Creative Superpowers: Backstory, Part 7 - Sorting the Past to Build the Future

I’m about to say something that’s true for everybody, even though none of us want to admit it:

Our creative backstories contain bad parts.

Painful parts.

Parts that we would much rather not talk about.

It hurts a little just saying it (part of me doesn’t even want to say it), but it’s true. As Emily mentioned last week, we all have some portion of our backstories that causes us pain, making us question ourselves, our purpose, or our creativity. As much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, these painful portions of our backstories have an effect on us. We might like to bury them, but they are still there, waiting to be addressed. They need to be addressed, so that we can move on into our creative futures without the weight of past hurts and old baggage.

But where do you start? For some of us, the pain in our backstory is so old, so long a part of our lives, that it’s hard to pin-point where it began. For others, the hurts are tangled up with cultural mores and family obligations that make it impossible to tell what was wrong. The task of sorting through one’s emotional history can seem impossible.

I find that practical, ordered steps are helpful in these situations, especially when there’s a tangle of emotions involved. Remember, we’re sorting through the rubble of our stories, searching for both the good and the bad. Just like sorting your closet, you need a method. The method here is about naming, categorizing, and responding. Let me break it down:

First, begin by naming the beliefs you have about creativity and creative living. Start with phrases like, “I believe creativity is. . .”,  or “Being creative means . . .”, or something along those lines. Write down the thoughts that come to you, without stopping to evaluate them too closely. It doesn’t matter whether the beliefs are good, bad, or neutral; just write them down. More often than not, your immediate response is a good gauge of your true feelings on the subject. Most of us harbor a vast collection of beliefs that go unspoken but affect how we perceive and interact with our world; the goal of this step is to help you speak out your beliefs so you begin to see them with more clarity.

This first step is important because you cannot deal with what you will not name. Toxic beliefs that we won’t name are like illnesses going undiagnosed inside our minds and hearts. We can’t treat the issue if we don’t even have a name to give it.

Once you’ve named your beliefs, the next step is to categorize them. You have two piles here: gemstones and rubble. Is the belief good or bad for you? If it's good, it’s a gemstone to use for your creative castle. If it’s bad, it’s rubble. If you are uncertain how to answer, look at what that belief has produced in your life. As Paul put it, you’ll know them by their fruit. Does this belief encourage you? Does it give you hope? Does it empower you to grow? If the answer is yes, then it’s probably a good belief. If the answer is no, or if the belief seems to be producing negative fruit in your life, then it’s probably a bad belief. Beliefs that generate hopelessness, fear, or self-hatred are all examples of this.

As you’re categorizing the good and the bad, ask yourself where these beliefs began. What is the source point for this thought process? Is it something that was said to you throughout your life, or an idea that began after some sort of trauma? The answer may be obvious for some beliefs but less so for others - don’t be too worried by this. Just naming and categorizing the belief is a big step in the right direction.

Naming and categorizing aren’t the whole process, however. You have to decide how you will respond to these beliefs that you’ve uncovered. The good beliefs are pretty easy to respond to: celebrate them, highlight them, and cultivate them in your life. The bad beliefs, on the other hand take a little more care. Since most negative beliefs are built on a lie, begin by asking God to help you see the lie behind the belief. Then ask Him to show you what the truth is about that subject. Write that truth down so you can remember it. You can use it to combat the lie when you feel the old mindset trying to pull you down. For some bad beliefs, this will be enough to tear them down; others may need to more time or even outside help to be destroyed. Never be afraid to seek help when tackling bad beliefs from your backstory. It is neither shameful nor weak to admit that you’ve been hurt by your past, and it’s the strong who know how to seek help when they need it.

We all have pain in our creative Backstories, but even the most painful stories can become beautiful when the rubble is cleared away. Some of us may need only a little sorting, and others might have some demolition work to do. However you find yourself, know that you are not alone. We all have pain. And we all have hope. The future is born when the hope is larger than the pain.


Sarah is the co-founder of Bright Ideas, a designer by trade, and an artist by passionate choice. She was born and raised in South, and delights in sharing Southern culture with anyone who cares to learn. Sarah collects creative hobbies; when she isn’t making art, you can usually find her on the dance floor. Follow her creative adventures on Instagram and Twitter!