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7 Powerful Lessons for Creatives from Seeing Is Believing: Women Direct

Recently, I watched a documentary called Seeing is Believing: Women Direct, an award-winning film by Cady McClain that explores the significance of storytelling in our society and the importance of including women’s voices and diverse perspectives.

The film offers an illuminating examination of women’s history in the film industry and the struggles female filmmakers still face today. What stuck with me most, however, was the sense of camaraderie I felt with these like-minded, artistic women as they shared how they navigate the challenges of following one’s creative calling.

It was an encouraging reminder that the challenges we face — including fear, self-doubt, and failure — are universal.

“My goal is to make these women, through this film, available to other women so they can have the encouragement, the support, and the insights they need to not feel alone floating out there in the world trying to do what they want against such incredible odds.” — Cady McClain

In this post, I’ve gathered some of my favorite advice on creative living from the directors featured in Seeing is Believing: Women Direct. I definitely recommend checking out the film for even more insight and wisdom from some truly inspiring women.

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7 Lessons from Seeing is Believing: Women Direct

Perseverance is key

“If you have a passionate pursuit for anything, you have to persevere. Perseverance is the key, and the way to persevere is to innovate. Innovation is often [associated] with a product, like, let’s make a cool laptop or a cool iPhone or like, a cool app or whatever, or a service or a company. But when I say innovate, I mean innovate yourself. Make the system work for you. Adapt to it. Figure out new ways that you are more relevant in the system. And I think that’s something we miss out a lot on. So, it sounds simple and generic, but it actually takes a lot.” — Reema Dutt

No creative venture is perfectly smooth from start to finish, including the biggest project of them all: building a life around your passion. The journey is filled with challenges, roadblocks, and disappointments — and it can be exhausting at times.

That’s why the commitment to yourself is so important. You’ll be presented with several opportunities to give up and you’ll probably consider it more than once. It’s in those moments that you have to remind yourself why this pursuit or project matters to you and accept those challenges as part of the process. And, as Reema Dutt advised, use your power of creativity to find solutions. 

“I think you just have to really put away that insecurity and that doubt. If it’s something that keeps coming back to you, just go after it. And I think that the biggest thing is to not give up. I mean, I cannot put enough store by that because I had so many moments where I could have, and it looked like I should have given up on every project I’ve done, and it was only because I forced myself to get to the end that I did. And I forced myself to keep going and I forced myself to not take no for an answer. You’ve got to carry on.” — Sarah Gavron

What new things can you try? How can you put a fresh spin on what you’re doing and what you bring to the table? Are there avenues you haven’t yet explored? Get creative and keep going.

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Find your own unique process

“There is no one right way, so you have to find your way.” — Lesli Linka Glatter

From a young age, we’re taught that there’s a “right way” and a “wrong way” to do just about anything. When it comes to creativity, we have to unlearn this because those (false) limitations will hold us back from our most fulfilling work.

Only through experimentation and a willingness to fail can you discover your own creative process. It’s scary at first not to have a specific formula or roadmap to follow, but once you accept it and shed those limitations, an incredible sense of liberation is on the other side. That’s where your authenticity as an artist is free to emerge.

Make your own luck

“I’ve made a movie with five dollars – not literally, but figuratively – and I will continue to. I’m not getting my meetings, so I’m just going to continue to make my own things. By the time I get that meeting, if they try to tell me, ‘We don’t know that you can do it,’ I can say, ‘Well, here’s my feature, which is a comedy. Here’s a short, which is action. Here’s this short, which is a drama about domestic violence set in the Marvel universe. Here’s this short, which is a thriller. Here’s this feature, which is this. Here’s this web series. Was there something you wanted to tell me I couldn’t do? Because I’ve already done it. Oh, you want to take a risk on a man who’s never done it? Then, this was never going to work out.’ But I can’t leave it to chance, so I’m just going to keep doing it.” — America Young

I love America Young’s tenacious spirit, how she’s not waiting around for anyone else to tell her what she’s capable of — she’s being proactive and creating.

The more action you take, the more luck you attract. Not only are you creating more opportunities for people to find your work and be inspired by something you’ve done at the right time, but you’re also refining your art and doing what you love on a consistent basis. It’s a win-win.

Release self-inflicted restrictions

“I think right now, young filmmakers feel like they need to choose one kind of medium and pursue that. I don’t want to be restricted to one medium. For me to feel fulfilled and just happy in general in life, I want to feel like I can do all these different things at the same time.” — Li Lu

As a creative, it’s important to grant yourself the freedom to explore and experiment in all the ways you feel called to. If you put your creativity in a box and only allow yourself to express it in one form, you could be missing out on many wonderful discoveries that could enrich your art (and your life).

This is where the term “Renaissance man” originates, which is based on a concept cultivated by Leon Battista Alberti in Renaissance Italy that “a man can do all things if he will” and should develop themselves as fully as possible. It’s often used to describe men (but the idea applies to all genders) who develop skills in many different art forms and areas of knowledge.

So, go on — follow whatever interests light you up and be a proud Renaissance man/woman/person.

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Embrace the restrictions you can’t change

“It really doesn’t matter where you’re from. You just have to figure out how to make it work. And sometimes, creativity is what you make within confines. That’s really when creativity sprouts.” — Naima Ramos-Chapman

We all face our own set of constraints in life. What defines us are not our limitations, but how we maneuver them.

As Naima Ramos-Chapman points out, some of our best creativity actually blossoms when we’re forced to work within confines. It inspires us to think outside the box and search for less obvious ideas.

Instead of thinking of your restrictions as forces working against you, use them as fuel to make your art even more personal and innovative.

Give yourself permission

“No matter how many times friends or my husband or people I know say ‘You can do it,’ if I don’t find it in myself and give myself permission to do it, and take that risk… It’s not going to happen.” — Cady McClain

The best thing you can do for yourself as a creative (and one of the most fundamental) is to give yourself the permission to follow your dreams and create on your terms.

We often seek external validation to make us feel confident about our choices, and while support from others can be very valuable, it shouldn’t serve as a replacement for our own instincts and sense of self-worth.

“I mean, really, I think the biggest obstacle for me has always been sort of myself or preconceived notions of what I’ve been capable of. I would attribute that to, like — there’s a host of things. You know, it’s patriarchy and racism and sort of constant storytelling coming at you from a very young age of what, as a young woman of color in Flatbush with a single mother and a father who’s not around, this is statistically what your life should look like. It’s just sort of having to tell yourself a different story.” — Naima Ramos-Chapman

We have the power to shape our own stories. It’s our perception that ultimately determines how we approach life, the decisions we make, and the person we show up as. What is the most empowering story you can tell yourself about who you are and what you’re capable of?

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Understand that creativity is inherently risky

“I remember talking to Steven [Spielberg]. I’d had the classic nightmare before shooting. I get to the set, it’s a crew I’ve never seen, and they’re shooting something I didn’t prepare for. So, I told him this, and he said something so generous. He said, ‘I have that before I start everything.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my God, Steven Spielberg, who’s a master storyteller, you know, goes through some sort of creative angst before he starts.’ And maybe that’s something about being in a creative field where you’re always on the line. And yes, you know your skills as you get more familiar and more practice with it, but it’s always putting something on the line. There’s always a risk involved.” — Lesli Linka Glatter

It’s easy to get caught up in the impression that once you’ve “made it” or reached some particular milestone in your career that all of your fears and self-doubt around your work will disappear. But the truth is, creativity is inherently risky and uncomfortable as long as you’re doing it right.

If you’re engaging in work that is creatively fulfilling and challenging, you’ll always be taking risks. That’s where the magic is. So, you must embrace it — and know that you’re in good company when you do.

It’s an innate part of this wild, messy, beautiful thing called living a creative life.

To learn more about Cady McClain and her documentary Seeing is Believing: Women Direct, and to find out where you can watch it, click here to visit the film’s website.

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The award-winning documentary Seeing is Believing: Women Direct by Cady McClain explores the importance of including women's voices and diverse perspectives in storytelling. The film offers an illuminating examination of women's history in the film industry, as well as insight into how several women are navigating the challenges of following one's creative calling. Here are 7 inspiring lessons on creative living from the film. || creativity / creative living / female creatives / female writers / female filmmakers / women in film The award-winning documentary Seeing is Believing: Women Direct by Cady McClain explores the importance of including women's voices and diverse perspectives in storytelling. The film offers an illuminating examination of women's history in the film industry, as well as insight into how several women are navigating the challenges of following one's creative calling. Here are 7 inspiring lessons on creative living from the film. || creativity / creative living / female creatives / female writers / female filmmakers / women in film The award-winning documentary Seeing is Believing: Women Direct by Cady McClain explores the importance of including women's voices and diverse perspectives in storytelling. The film offers an illuminating examination of women's history in the film industry, as well as insight into how several women are navigating the challenges of following one's creative calling. Here are 7 inspiring lessons on creative living from the film. || creativity / creative living / female creatives / female writers / female filmmakers / women in film The award-winning documentary Seeing is Believing: Women Direct by Cady McClain explores the importance of including women's voices and diverse perspectives in storytelling. The film offers an illuminating examination of women's history in the film industry, as well as insight into how several women are navigating the challenges of following one's creative calling. Here are 7 inspiring lessons on creative living from the film. || creativity / creative living / female creatives

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