Over the past few years, I’ve been concentrating hard on directing a more-than-usual amount of energy into my creative endeavors, and have really been loving the challenge of spreading my artistic wings. Whether it be running my bookstagram account, or chipping away at my freelance and creative writing work, it’s no secret that I’ve been spending a significant portion of my time knee-deep in some sort of creative task. And whilst I can’t deny it hasn’t been incredibly satisfying exploring different creative avenues and watching a range of exciting visions come to life, I’d be lying if I said birthing an idea into this world isn’t scary. Because it is. In fact, sometimes it can be downright terrifying.
I’m not shy to admit, that on more than one occasion after uploading a post to Instagram, publishing a written piece to a website or pitching a project idea to an editor, I’ve felt like little more than an overprotective mother watching helplessly from the sidelines as her precious brain-child ventures away from home and into the unforgiving hands of the big, wide world. At the push of a button, the small seedling of an idea that was once mine; once protected from the eyes of others as though it were some sort of dangerous secret, suddenly becomes very public property. It’s usually at this point my hands start sweating.
You see, the moment one decides to release their creative work for public consumption, is also the moment at which one becomes incredibly vulnerable to the judgement of the masses. More often than not, creators will have a deeply personal attachment to their work and as such, choosing to send it out into the universe is undeniably an activity of choosing to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve —much like having your diary laid open on a table for absolutely anyone to read.
Whilst this can be an incredibly daunting experience, watching as others enjoy, learn from or find comfort in a piece of work you’ve created, is also, I believe, quite possibly one of the greatest feelings in the world. So, I guess the question on everyone’s lips is this: How can one go about fulfilling their artistic desires and find the courage to create in the face of inevitable vulnerability? Well, allow me to offer a few handy strategies I’ve learned in the infancy of my creative journey so far:
You’ve probably heard this spoken about before but I’m going to say it again: if you don’t believe in your creative ideas and instill confidence in your work, how on earth do you expect anyone else to? All too often I hear people worrying that their creative project is ‘silly’ or ‘probably not that great’. We tend to think about our artistic visions as less legitimate than those dreamed up by others. This is the voice of self-doubt we must do our best to silence.
You probably don’t realise it, but even the minds behind some of the world’s most ground-breaking ideas have had to overcome their fair share of creative uncertainty. Did you know author extraordinaire, Stephen King, initially threw the opening three pages of his highly-successful debut novel, Carrie, in the rubbish? It wasn’t until his wife found the crumpled manuscript in the bin and encouraged him to continue writing that King began to believe in his idea and found the confidence to see it through. And good thing he did! Today, Stephen King has published over 61 novels and has an estimated net worth of $400 million. Wow! I think it would certainly be wise to take this as a lesson to wholeheartedly believe in whatever you’re creating and treat it with the respect it deserves. You never know where your idea might take you!
Get friendly with failure
If you choose to pursue any form of creative endeavor, you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll be shaking hands with failure at some point. The creative process is, after all, primarily centered around making mistakes and picking which one is best. This definitely deglamorizes the romantic view many people initially hold at the thought of pursuing a creative task— but it’s the cold, hard truth. Ideas will flop. Proposals will be turned down and there will be times you will need to let go of a project or consider steering it in a different direction.
There may also be situations in which you will be required to persistently continue pushing an idea into the universe despite repeated rejection. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series for example was turned down no less than 12 times before gaining publication. Meanwhile, Thomas Edison made a whopping 1000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the lightbulb and music legend, Elvis Presley was told he’d ‘never make it as a singer’. As you can see, failure is part and parcel of the creative journey. Embrace it, learn from it and in the words of Samuel Beckett, ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better’.
Ignore the naysayers
It isn’t uncommon for those undertaking creative work to cop a demoralising mouthful from others. People may tell you you’re ‘wasting your time’, ‘should get a real job’ or will ‘never make it’ when it comes to pursuing your creative endeavors. Ignore them. Usually the people making these statements either didn’t follow their artistic desires or never had them to begin with —if you went looking to see what they’ve achieved in the creative arena, chances are you wouldn’t find much! So, stay focused on your project and block out the background noise. After all, those who say you can’t and you won’t are usually those most scared that you will!
Don’t define yourself by your work
Simply put, know the difference between who you are and what you create. Bringing ideas forth into this world is hard! If a project flops it doesn’t mean you’re a flop. Similarly, if a project is a raging success it doesn’t make you higher and mightier than everyone else. Stay focused, stay humble and as hard as it may be, aim to separate your personal identity from your creative work — regardless of whether you think your idea is worthy of a red-carpet reception or the bottom of the dumpster!
Consider the criticism
As humans, we have a natural urge to deflect criticism of our projects in order to protect our image and ideas. Some criticism however could actually be useful in learning new skills and developing creative potential. And yes, whilst you’ll likely receive a portion of criticism that is nothing more than useless hate, some constructive feedback, if used wisely, could in fact prove to be quite a valuable tool. Work on developing a thick skin, keep an open mind and resist the initial urge to shoo away anyone who challenges your creative work — on closer inspection you might find their words serve to help rather than hinder!
Alright, I think that covers everything! Hopefully some of these strategies will allow you to overcome the more daunting aspects of the creative journey and bring you one step closer to unleashing your artistic vision into the universe. So, what are you waiting for? Get those thoughts flowing, embrace the vulnerability and start working on your creative project. Who knows, maybe you have an idea that will take the world by storm!