As a creative, have you ever felt like your work wasn’t good enough? Have you ever struggled with feeling like you should be better by now, should create bigger masterpieces, or that your work is constantly falling short of your own expectations?
If so, you’re in the right place.
A couple of weeks ago, I was complaining to my husband Hunter that I wasn’t happy with my work. That I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to, or what I thought I would in my head. And he asked me the logical question – what my client thought about it.
She loved it. She truly did. And she had no idea how I felt.
So why did I feel this way, he asked. And to be honest, I didn’t quite know or understand. Because it really wasn’t logical. But I guess we’re not always logical people.
And I don’t really think of this feeling of disappointment as imposter syndrome, because to me it’s not so much about other people but more about me and being disappointed that I haven’t gotten further or that I’m not as capable as I think I should be in my head.
And it was basically around that same time that I encountered this quote from Ira Glass for the first time, thanks to Sarah Erickson from Sarah Ann Design!
I don’t think I’ve ever printed a quote so fast before. I had to have this as a constant reminder that I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I do as a creative. And that feeling like this is normal.
I’ve shared with some creative friends since, and seen similar reactions from them, so I knew I just had so share it with you too.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”Ira Glass
This quote is such a reminder that we’re all on our own paths. When you look at your work, and you feel the way you’re feeling. Remind yourself of the why. No one else has these expectations of you. Well, except yourself.
But the online world makes it easy to think this way. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others (whether consciously or subconsciously) People who are on other paths than we are. Who have different pasts, and also different futures. So how could our journeys be the same? Because that’s what it really is.. A creative journey.
Keeping this in mind, I wanted to share five things I’ve done in my creative journey to hone in on my craft, improve my confidence, and grow as a business owner.
1. “Who told you that”
So simple yet profound.
I came across this on Instagram. Someone’s therapist told them to ask themself this when stories popped into their head that made them doubt themselves.
Rather than accepting the story you create in your own head, ask yourself “who told you that”.
Next time you think, “She’s not going to like this…etc.”, remember – who told you that? Did she say that or did you just make that up? It is so important to practice this because not only are you getting to the truth but you recognize how many times a day you feed yourself lies and create doubt in your own head.
So ask yourself, “Who told you that?”.
2. Balance enough time with tight enough deadlines to maximize efficiency and growth
Parkinson’s law is really at play here!
As an enneagram 1, I could tweak my work forever; but, It is so important to set up deadlines, to force ourselves to produce good quality work but without distractions along the way.
You may have heard me talk about Parkinson’s law in previous episodes that says, “Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.” A lot of the time, more time spent doesn’t mean better work.
I have noticed the more time I take, the more I explore, which doesn’t necessarily yield better results.
In my own business I have had to set tight deadlines because I have found that I function well under pressure. With that in mind typically I deliver my brand presentations by day 3 or 4 after kickoff day and work with one client at a time.
Both help me produce my best work without procrastinating or doubting myself along the way.
3. Set aside time for creative exploration and learning.
Whether you’re taking a class on Skillshare, learning on YouTube or even just playing around with a different medium of creativity. This practice can really help you bring new perspectives and techniques to your work to help close that gap.
One of my personal favorites is to look through my saved folder on Instagram at work that I’m drawn to, and try to understand why. What is it that speaks to me about this work, what is it about the style that I love? And then try to replicate some of that feeling for practice.
I want to point out here that if your practice involves closely mimicking someone else’s work, you obviously never want to share that or take credit for it since it isn’t your “own work”, but it can be great in learning those new skills that you can then apply in a different way to future projects!
Breaking down and understanding “What is it about this image that speaks to me and how can I recreate this feeling?”, can help you become better at your craft.
4. Find industry peers
Find industry peers you can bounce things off of and help each out other out when in a rut. Booked Out Designer with Elizabeth McCravy really helped me find this!
I found a community through Elizabeth that allowed everyone to open up about wins and struggles. It has been so helpful, especially when doubts come, to send drafts of things I’m working on with my peers to get input.
It is always important to bring in another set of eyes to look at things from a fresh perspective.
Finding industry peers is a lot about providing value before asking for something in return. Rather than bluntly asking someone for something, form a relationship. Some of the most valuable relationships are built over time. Help someone out, be a friend, and notice how relationships can naturally present opportunities to share work – both wins and struggles.
5. Find solid mentors
I have found one to one mentoring so valuable to share, “ Here are the struggles I am in right now”. Mentors I have had have been so transparent with me and are so instrumental to this business and my growth. When I look back, where I had a mentor is always where I’ve seen the biggest jumps in my journey. Through mentoring, you can truly open up and share more openly about your struggles, where you are, and where you want to be!
I would love to give back and be open and share everything I have learned so far. Go to hyggedesign.co/mentorship if you want to learn more about how I can help you!