8 THINGS EVERY CREATIVE SHOULD KNOW
- It’s magical, not magic
- You are kind of an idiot
- You don’t need permission
- Failure actually is an option
- Labels will kill you
- You don’t have to be the best at everything
- You will hate your work
- Just be nice
IT’S MAGICAL, NOT MAGIC
Creativity is sort of a catch-all idea that encompasses so many things. It’s hard to nail down, but you know it when you see it. One thing it isn’t is a superpower you’re just born with. It’s not exclusive. Anyone can tap into their creative energy to make something special with hard work & a little bit of luck.
YOU ARE KIND OF AN IDIOT
Nobody knows what the fuck they are doing & that is totally okay. So much of what we do is learned on the job, as we tackle new projects or encounter new perspectives. Everyone had to start somewhere & everyone is constantly learning more. You are kind of an idiot but it’s going to be okay.
YOU DON’T NEED PERMISSION
The internet has given us unlimited resources in terms of learning, software & production. We no longer need to wait for the green light from industry gatekeepers. With a bit of digging you can design & execute the projects you want to see in the world, distribute them & watch them flourish.
FAILURE ACTUALLY IS AN OPTION
Umm, failure is totally an option. It’s actually one of two main options in most scenarios. Instead of lying to yourself about the possibilities, choose instead to brace yourself for any outcome & be ready to learn from the experience. Your creative life is a journey & every step is moving you forward.
LABELS WILL KILL YOU
You may feel tremendous pressure to assign yourself a label or align with a craft, but the truth is that most of us do a lot of different things. Maybe make a bunch of work to figure out what you’re best at before branding yourself in a single role that limits possible opportunities that may come as you grow.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE THE BEST AT EVERYTHING
You might be fucking amazing but you’ll still never be the best at everything. This isn’t weakness, it’s self-awareness. Assess your strong points & then collaborate with or hire people who excel at what you are merely adequate at. Grow together while doing what you actually love
YOU WILL HATE YOUR WORK
Do you ever lie awake at night agonizing over shit you did years before? Similarly, you will look back at previous work & cringe. Respect your growth process & recognize that as you learn, what was once your absolute best will feel amateurish. You will find new approaches to old problems & that is something to be proud of.
JUST BE NICE
You know how hard shit is, so you know what everyone else is dealing with too. You are not in competition with everybody else. You are unique, so focus on being the respectful & (generally) positive version of yourself that people choose to work with, trust & help along the way. Being genuinely kind is not a sign of weakness.
GET OVER COMMON CREATIVE FEARS
Though we’re all learning to conquer our individual challenges, there are some fears that probably ring true for all of us. These are some of those fears, and we’re going to get over them together. Maybe.
If you think about it long enough, pretty much everything is a little terrifying, right? Our brains and bodies are built to protect us and they’ve got to remain on high alert as life teaches us what to stop worrying about. Are carrots safe? Yeah! Touching a hot stove? Nope. A first date? Probably. A job interview? We’ll see . . .
- Break it down
- “i can’t do this”
- “nobody cares”
- “it’s not perfect”
- “i’m too __________”
- “what’s the point?”
Making something & sending it out into the world is terrifying. Relying on your passion to make a living is terrifying. Embrace that your fear doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. Now face it head on:
BREAK IT DOWN
What is this fear telling you? What are you reeeaally feeling? As creatives, we’re always solving problems in new ways. So what the fuck is your problem?? Figure it out so you can find a solution!
I CAN’T DO THIS”
This might be the most basic of all fears? Also the easiest to conquer. How do you know you can’t do it if you haven’t actually, fully tried? You can’t win a race you don’t run & it’s not really running if you didn’t train beforehand. Maybe try trying.
It’s easy to feel like nobody cares when you live in the bubble of your own industry. We get so wrapped up in our “thing” that we forget that to others, who are doing totally different things with their lives, the shit we do every day is foreign & wonderful.
“IT’S NOT PERFECT”
It’s hard to let go of a project that feels imperfect. But not only is “perfection” non- existent, your current perfect will one day be your “meh” as you continue to grow your craft. Basically, do your best & then shut up & let people love it.
I’M TOO _______”
Really? That’s the fear we’re going with? You could let this rule your entire life, but if we’ve learned anything since high school, it’s that what doesn’t work in one place is exactly right in another. Let your work speak for itself.
“WHAT’S THE POINT?”
Remember that the reason we do what we do, that we’re carving our own path, is because we have a deep-rooted need to connect & this is how we do it. If you’re losing sight of the point, or just feeling a little dull, take some time to sharpen & you’ll be as good as new.
If all else fails, try combating fear with humor. Like a good cry, a good laugh can be a great release. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Everything is terrifying but you are going to be okay.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU FAIL
Success is about so much more than just talent or the merit of our ideas. Timing is everything. Connecting with the right person matters. So you take failure in stride, take whatever lesson from the experience you can, and do your best to not let the gut emotional reaction drag you down.
FEEL LIKE SHIT
- Reassess your work
- Process any feedback
- Seek advice
- Make adjustments
- Plan your attack
- Try again??
Stop everything. In the first moments of, you know, not-success, it is a normal human reaction to be hurt. You may feel like doing something you will regret. Do not do that thing. Avoid burning bridges or you’ll just have to rebuild them later.
FEEL LIKE SHIT
Failure sucks. We all want to succeed on the first try, be the best & instantly win. But life doesn’t work that way. Instead of blaming yourself or others, just know that great things take time. Feel a little shitty but get mentally ready to move forward.
REASSESS YOUR WORK
Even if you did your best, there is always room to improve & adjust to better meet the challenge at hand. Maybe you weren’t the right fit this time? Maybe the timing is just a bit off? Focus on how to make things that much better.
PROCESS ANY FEEDBACK
In some cases, there are reflections or review notes attached. Don’t obsess over this critique, but do think about how it might apply to your situation. Sometimes this failure now ends up being more valuable in the long run for when it reeeeeally counts.
Your friends & peers may have additional insight for you. This will be kinder than rejection feedback & you can seek targeted thoughts on how to adjust for the future. Try to identify specific elements to ask about rather than a “hey uhh how do i fix this?”
Which parts do you know have been great all along & which would benefit from adjustment or a little repositioning? Take it all into account – initial comments, outside advice, your own thinking in the time since initial failure – & make changes to reflect all that.
PLAN YOUR ATTACK
Success is about so much more than work or talent alone. Think about how to next submit, apply, or present your work. Plan a course of action using what you now know about what you have to offer & who might most appreciate or benefit from it.
Submit your new resume. Present your adjusted product. Pitch your revised concepts. You knew you had something great, it just needed some fine–tuning. Or maybe you’ve been inspired to move on to something else altogether? Follow your gut & keep going.
HOW TO BEGIN AGAIN
Fresh start can come at any time, in any way. It might be a nagging feeling that you can’t ignore anymore, or a major life event may force you to rethink things all at once.
Regardless of when, how, or why, it’s never too late to begin again. You can embark on a new challenge, redirect an existing focus, or come back to a passion that you abandoned years ago. It won’t be easy, and it may be a little terrifying, but you can do it.
- Don’t look back in anger
- Check your pulse
- Do your research
- Retool your practice
- Be accountable
- Write your manifesto
- Disappear (with intent)
- Charge forward
DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGER
It’s never too late to begin again & there are many reasons why we may need or want to. But one thing you can’t do is resent your past. Sure, some of it was shit. But you learned. You grew. You are who you are because of what you know now.
CHECK YOUR PULSE
What do you care about? Where does your passion lie? Our motivations shift & change as we do, so it may be radically different. Knowing what stopped being important to you was how you got here. It’s time to identify what matters now.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
While you were out there changing, so was the industry (& the world). What are trends like now? What can you offer that you don’t see represented? How are people in adjacent spaces operating? Learn as much as you can.
RETOOL YOUR PRACTICE
New resources are likely available now that weren’t then. Arm yourself with tools that you might not have had the first time. What is essential? What saves time? What now easily solves a problem you once had? Start with what you really need.
Touch love time: sometimes, some of us, maybe, possibly, talk about doing things & then don’t do them. Hold yourself accountable for your fresh start. Don’t let planning the thing trick your brain into thinking you’ve done it. Try trying??
WRITE YOUR MANIFESTO
One huge step in accountability is writing things down to make them real. This might be a sticky note or it may be a traditional business plan. Regardless of what you’re doing, write something down that you can’t ignore
DISAPPEAR (WITH INTENT)
Nobody actually reinvents themselves overnight. There isn’t a magic switch. You’re already out of the game, might as well take the time you need to catch your breath. Plan your next steps. Put all the pieces together.
Everything is a little bit terrifying when you think about it too long, so after preparing as best you can, it’s time to just go for it. Run into the darkness with your map, your new flashlight & the destination you’ve set sights on. Go get ’em!!!