If there’s nothing else you get out of this article, I want you to remember this one oddly comforting and horribly true thing: Nobody cares. Now, onto the things that stop you from putting pen or brush to paper or canvas, or writing that song or resume–and what you can do about them.
Fear of Failure
I’m not sure what people mean by this, because there are so many ways to fail, it’s almost impossible to count them. I’m tempted to ask, but I think that would just make these people more fearful. That said, there are also countless ways to succeed.
The key is to define success for yourself. This is a necessary step in the creative process anyway, as soon as you set out to do something specific. It helps to have something in mind that you’re aiming for, and it could be something as simple as wanting to create a better one than the last one.
But artists generally focus on an aspect of the work and are much more specific than that. They also set personal challenges for themselves: “I want to get the shading right.” “I want to widen my vocabulary and description powers.” “I want to try poetry.” “I want to write a gospel song.”
See how this is not copping out and going easy on yourself, but actually creating a specificity it’s damned hard to be afraid of? The worst that can happen is you don’t get the shading right. Not the end of the world and public shaming.
What to do: Set a personal success target that has nothing to do with anyone else. What would constitute achievement, a new high mark, make you proud? If the answer is nothing, examine your mindset. If literally nothing is ever good enough, you are probably driving yourself crazy and upset everywhere in your life, not just with your creative projects and art.
Setting unrealistic expectations
Related to fear of failure and defining success, this has to do with imposing expectations and requirements you feel you must be held to in order for it to “count.” Example: first time writer wants to write a runaway bestseller. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting that, and it certainly is possible, having that be your sole motivator is intrinsically disempowering. Whether something becomes a hit or not is at least 50% out of your control (maybe more like 80%) and is a bonus to actually making something of good quality that you will be proud to put your name on.
Fantasizing about being rich and famous because of your work is one thing; using that fantasy as a standard of success is all or nothing thinking, and a set-up for disappointment.
What to do: Break your expectations and benchmarks into much smaller, doable steps. Want to write a bestseller? Sketch out story ideas. Make a reading list. Schedule in a time every day to write. Browse the Amazon bestseller list. Write your chapter headings. Write character sketches. Map out the plot. If these are too big, guess what? Make them even smaller. Clear the space, get the notebook or document file up, and mess around, for a specific period of time.
Fear of criticism
Repeat after me: Nobody cares. Criticism happened when you were in school and everybody had to pass judgement on everybody else, before we were all enlightened and realized that good/bad, right/wrong is old school, and there’s something for everyone, and process and product and purpose are three different things. So shut up. (I may have digressed a little.) What happens when we’re adults and we create something someone else doesn’t like is they ignore it and move on.
If you create something you don’t like, you move on. And if there’s anyone left in your life who’s criticizing you on a regular basis, besides the gremlin that’s criticizing you (and me) right now, distance yourself quickly.
And p.s., it’s really good to know if your biggest critic is you, because that’s so normal. But still ignore it and move on. See of Fear of Failure and Setting Unrealistic Expectations, above.
What to do: Create anyway.
Thinking you should know how to do everything from the outset
Now didn’t I just say you could have an idea of something you wanted to accomplish? And didn’t I say that you could use that as a measure of success instead of whether you went viral because of it? What I didn’t tell you is, you won’t automatically know how to do what you’re setting out to do. This is why it’s a benchmark and a goal. It’s going to force you to grow. Yay! This is not a reason not to start. Stopping yourself here is a form a perfectionism.
What to do: Stay present and as each problem is encountered, do your best to solve it. Research how others do it. Experiment. Realize that it may take you hundreds of tries before you master something. The journey of a thousand miles consists of with one tentative, innocent, misguided and wrong step after another. Wrong isn’t the end of the world. And once you’ve mastered whatever, you will feel as if you’ve actually been to the end of the world, and you’ll want to go back again, as soon as possible.
Thinking it should turn out as you pictured it
Making goals and configuring your idea of success are great ways to get yourself off the starting mark, but by the same token, being too rigid about the outcome can make you judge yourself a failure, a disincentive to continue or try again.
Creativity is a process of making something where there are no instructions–and nobody cares. (Did I mention that?) Give yourself permission to follow the process, be alive in the moment and surrender to the dictates of something wiser than–gasp!–your logical mind. Get to enjoy not knowing, flying by the seat of your pants and all those other things that got you into trouble in school. In the creative process, there are no bad grades, only people who don’t show up.In the creative process, there are no bad grades, only people who don’t show up. Click To Tweet
What to do: If you want to get over yourself and start being happy already, download my book, Happily Creative: How To Become a Happy Creative in Just 30 Days! It’s a 30 Day Plan that includes dealing with perfectionism, fear of failure, lack of ideas, the time-space continuum and guides you through the revolutionary process of putting a stake in the ground of your life and saying “YES!” to creating everyday for the next 30 days. Now THAT’S badass.