Someone on a recent Instagram live session asked me “What makes you do what you do and stick with it?” after a bit of rambling I arrived at my most straightforward answer: “It’s the only thing I'm good at”. I acknowledged it was a bit of a shit answer and thought about it for a while after that... “there has to be more to it, how did this become the only thing I’m good at? I wasn’t good at this the day I was born”. I then recalled some conversations with interns about design, life and persistence. I know there are a lot of people who want to create but are unable to start for whatever reason, this is for them.
I am beginning this as a series, which I may or may not add to depending on how much sage-level shit I have/wish to share.
Step 1: Getting over yourself.
Fear of failure:
Someone smart (I forget who) once said (I forget when) that people who can have careers revolving around creativity aren’t necessarily born with some enate talent that other people don’t have. Most of the time it’s a result of their willingness to fail and improve within their chosen medium. There are a lot of stigmas both from society and within our minds about failure. I hardly ever gave a shit about school in the 13 years I attended it, but one thing I always remembered was the acronym for F.A.I.L. First. Attempt. In. Learning.
It is completely unreasonable to think you are never going to fail along the way, it is of utmost importance that you do fail from time to time, whether to retain your humility or to analyse and learn from. Anyone who follows basketball knows this quote: “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I have been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” That person also made 24,000 shots, won 700+ games, and took 25 game-winning shots. All that failure was necessary for the subsequent success.
Accepting, preparing for, and learning from failure are all required aspects of any endeavour. Failure will come, you can either get upset about it or learn from it.
Accepting failure as an option can be freeing in many ways, it opens the door for you to give it 110%. I'd rather fail having given everything I had than fail because I held back.
Now that we have covered the importance of failure, we can cover the frequency of failure. If failing equals learning: the higher the frequency and velocity of your failure, the faster and more you learn. The faster you learn the better you become. It's not rocket science.
Perfection is a mirage:
Make the thing you’re doing “good enough”, put it out there, and improve it based on internal or external feedback, whichever suits you.
Internal feedback: The thing you are creating has no specific end-user and is interpretation based, E.g., painting. You will get to the point that you think “yeah this is sick, ship it”. 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, or 1 decade later, you will think to yourself “that was shit”. Typically because you have failed along the way, learned more, and become better than you were. This has happened to me countless times. The thing you thought was perfect at some point in time is no longer such, according to you.
External feedback: The thing you are creating has some level of interaction with an end user, E.g. clothes, software, hardware … you get it. If the product of your creativity has an end user there will inevitably be feedback, which you use to improve the said product. Rinse and repeat this cycle till there's no more feedback (this won't happen; the perfect product is a myth. You can never please everyone.)
So someday, either in your or someone else's opinion, your work will be deemed “Not perfect”.
This, much like the concept of failure can be taken in two ways:
So why bother then? Sure.
So I’ll keep getting better and my output will keep getting better? Sure.
Your outlook is your choice, I’m just here to tell you the facts.
Accepting feedback, either internal or external isn’t necessarily fun or easy, sometimes it stings, but letting your ego get in the way of improvement is a recipe for disaster. So as the title of this post says, get over yourself. Start creating.
There is another aspect to getting over yourself, which is Taste vs Skill. But that deserves to be an individual post.