It's Always Worth It
This summer I went through a pretty significant creative-doubt crisis this summer. (Not dramatic at all!) For someone who is a self-proclaimed creative and has a podcast on the topic, that’s embarrassingly hard to admit. It’s proof that everyone, regardless of how we portray ourselves online or in person, has their struggles.
Why these creative blackouts? Because sometimes you’re overcome with feeling like you either have nothing to share, your work isn’t valuable, or you’re just out of creative steam. I’ve felt this before, and I typically push through it, and it’s often the inspiration behind the captions.
I kept finding excuses and busied myself with work to avoid thinking about what aesthetically pleasing photo to use, just the right caption, and the right combo of hashtags.
Just as I encourage others to strive for exploring and vulnerability and growth, I needed to get back into that mindset. I started striving for giving it a shot instead of perfection, and to set the pressure to be “Insta-perfect” aside.
The Emotions of Creating Something New
Creating is always worth it, regardless of the result. The struggle, clueless feelings, and imposter syndrome will give you the experience and the strength you need to reach the next level and finish your next project. As my good friend Mikhail always says, “If you woke up tomorrow with all the success and experience you want, would you be ready to handle it?”
Very likely, the answer’s no.
And that’s okay. Every single experience prepares us, and we need to be open to the lessons throughout. Creating something new comes with these challenges because they’re the moments that shape us.
The Struggle to Create
I’d go so far to say that no person in a creative industry (let alone outside of it) has never struggled to create. It’s a part of everyone’s journeys, so why don’t we talk about it? Because the ultra-pasteurized world pressures us to hold it all together and pretend everything is perfect, we often feel confined to fit into the mold of perfection. No more. This idealized perfection is keeping us from creating.
Find inspiration within your struggle. Create a piece sharing your story through this struggle to make something new, and resist the temptation to make it “perfect” right away. This will help you in two ways. First, it helps remove the block and gives you an opportunity to create without the pressure of perfection. Fight the urge to be perfect, and just create.
Second, the more we talk about it, the more it can be normalized. I long for a culture that celebrates failure and attempts to grow because it means people tried, even though they ended up not succeeding at their original goal. Because very often, it’s failure that teaches the best lessons.
When you feel paralyzed by the desire for perfection, focus on just starting. Whether it’s writing one paragraph of a blog post or crossing one thing off your side gig’s to-do list, embrace the Nike motto and just do it.
This idealized perfection is keeping us from creating.
In the struggle to create, the mental block often comes from the overwhelming feeling of starting. When you’re trying to figure out what to create, don’t overthink it. Pick a medium, and just start. Grab a pen, open up your Notes app, or grab your instrument of choice. Know that it very likely won’t be great right away, but keep at it.
Tell yourself you’re going to work for 5 minutes and then, if you want, you can stop. Chances are, though, that once you get going you won’t want to stop.
The Benefit of Clueless Feelings
It’s a good thing to feel clueless. You heard that right. It’s good. It means that you’re learning new skills and seeking out new experiences. It’s not easy to enjoy, but I promise that the process is a lot more enjoyable when we find joy in everyday moments.
Like when you finally grasp a complex concept.
Or accomplish a task that seemed impossible just last week.
Or reach a goal that took years to achieve.
If you’re feeling listless and clueless, this is for you. There’s no reason we need to stay in that state. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips, and it’s time to use it. Look up videos or blogs or sign up for an email list. Scroll through relevant hashtags on Instagram to learn from different accounts.
Then put it all away and focus on starting. Push the thoughts that you won’t create anything good out of your head and do your own thing. Don’t edit, just create.
The opposite of feeling clueless is something I bet every single person has dealt with: imposter syndrome.
Finding the Positives of Imposter Syndrome
“I’m a fraud and everyone is about to find out.” I remember the first time I heard the term “imposter syndrome”. It was on a company’s blog, and it condensed everything I had felt from before college up to that day.
I still fight the urge to downplay my experience and to feel like I shouldn’t belong, but I’ve made great strides. I show up, I repeat “you belong” over and over and over, and I put myself in uncomfortable situations to force myself out of the imposter syndrome shell.
This isn’t to show how I’m perfect at doing this. If you’ve listened to my previous episodes you likely realize how much I use self-deprecation to get my points across. Possibly even too much, but that discussion is for another time.
Imposter syndrome isn’t a career killer. It’s definitely a challenge, but what would life be without challenges that shape us into who we want to become?
The biggest key to learning how to reduce imposter syndrome is realizing that you’ve had a pivotal role in your own successes. There’s certainly some factors outside of your control, but without your work, dedication, and unique views on the world and your craft, you wouldn’t be where you are today.
Resist the urge to downplay the lies your mind tells you that you have had nothing to do with what you’ve done. You would be nowhere near where you are if you sat on your couch and waited for accomplishments and knowledge to just show up.
Imposter syndrome isn’t a one-way ticket to a mediocre career. As long as we use it as motivation and don’t let it overpower us, we’ll be able to push through. Focus on providing value, and recognize what you’ve done to contribute to your success.
As an aside, I don’t mean that anything less than CEO of a billion dollar company mediocre. It’s how you function within your career, whether you’re at the top or the bottom of a company. I don’t care if you never reach the C-suite, especially if that’s not your goal. I do, though, care about settling for something less than what you want.
Make Your Someday Today
Make your “someday” today by using your hope and knowledge that you’re a beautifully creative person. If you could do anything, all your finances and physical needs taken care of, what would you do? What excites you and what are you passionate about?
Don’t put “someday” off. Make steps every day towards that goal. If you never work towards it, you won’t achieve it. So let’s change our mindset and achieve it. If you need new skills or experiences to make this happen, seek them out. There are free courses online about technical subjects, and there are blog posts and videos and emails and podcasts about any subject. Experiment, try something out of the norm, and look at life as an experience to propel you into your “someday”.
When we stop waiting for “someday” and make it happen now, we’ll experience the fullness of varied experiences meant to challenge ourselves and draw us nearer to our community.
It’s not a coincidence that I mention community in every episode. Without fellow creatives in your corner, life will be a lot less exciting and far more terrifying. With community, though, it’s filled with people willing to help you up, push you forward, and never stop cheering you on.
Hope Is the Missing Piece
Hope is the missing piece to all this. When you feel like nothing is working or you’re tired of feeling uncomfortable, remember that you’re here for a reason and that there are lessons in the struggle. As writer Anne Lamott describes, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don't give up."
It’s time to stop focusing on circumstances you can’t change and instead focusing on what you can do. You can choose to show up every day, putting in the work, embracing your experiences, and trying new things with the knowledge that what you’re doing is all worth it, and that hope will help you get through the muck of a mind ready to question everything.
Creating the Change You Want
I always want to end on a positive, hopeful note, especially since most of these episodes aren’t necessarily filled with easy topics. Know this: you’re creative, you have immeasurable worth, and it’s time to begin ignoring the thoughts filling your head with anything less than that.
Sure, much easier said than done, but it is possible. Every time you realize a negative thought towards yourself (and others, for that matter) appears, replace it with a positive one. There’s true power in positive thinking -- just look at the array of studies and personal experiences backing it up.
Post affirmations in your kitchen, repeat mantras during your commute, and surround yourself with people who will speak truth to you when you begin to falter.
It’s okay if that happens -- we’re human, and we have our moments. Look at mine from the past few weeks! The most important thing is that we don’t stop creating. Change mediums, look for something new, or rediscover one you used to love.
Create for you, but I encourage you to push through the self-doubt and share it with the world as well. It’s always worth it. I’d love to see your posts, listen to your podcasts, and hear your stories. Let’s connect.