Every time I write or take on a new creative challenge (like filming videos, ugh), I feel several things.
There’s always a sinking sensation in my stomach; I feel my toes freeze and my fingers go numb as I hit the send button, and I mumble my words through the first five minutes of speaking on phone or Skype with someone. My thoughts go haywire; the imposter syndrome kicks in, and even worse, I’ve been known to abandon almost-complete projects because of what others might think.
This isn’t because I’m talentless or stupid. Rather, it is purely because of something we’re all familiar with: the fear of failure. But it wasn’t until I listened to Mridu Khullar Relph, that I had my a-ha moment.
Mridu nailed it when she said that what most creatives struggle with is “the fear that we might be doing something and get so good at it that others start to pay attention…and eventually judge us to the point that when we do fail, we feel ashamed to try again.”
Ashamed because I’ve deemed myself unworthy of even trying in the first place.
And I know a lot of us are the same.
Now here’s the thing: I can’t be called a creative if I’m afraid to do the work. So, in other to keep showing up, doing the work, and get better in the process, I have identified ways to strengthen my creative muscle so that I can stay in the game.
1) Tell yourself that you’re awesome because you’ve done this before.
If I’ve done it once I can do it again…and become better at it. If I’ve written a 300-word article, I can do it again and double my word count. If I can wake up in the morning to do write two lines in my journal, I can pen a book that both communicates my feelings and resonates with the right readers.
I tell myself that my failure isn’t anyone’s business unless their destinies are tied to my message. And in that case, I haven’t failed; I just haven’t nailed my message yet.
2) Let others tell you how awesome you are.
A couple of days ago, I had a conversation with a colleague, Tania, who introduced a fun concept to me. While talking about the highs and lows of the creative life, she mentioned the need to have something called your personal “box of awesome.”
Your box of awesome is simply filled with cool things others have said about you online or in print. Tania told me that if people write nice things about me on the internet, I need to print them out and save them in my personal box of awesome. Then on days when I’m feeling like an imposter, I can pull them out and lift my spirit, giving me the courage to take more creative risks.
You too will have moments of identity crisis, and one way to deal with it is to have your own box of awesome.
3) Push your boundaries.
I write because I can. Because I dare the voices in my head to tell me that I’m not allowed.
I ask for shares, likes, and money because I believe my work deserves to be seen and respected.
I don’t wait for others to buy my work. I create the demand for my work by amplifying our shared values through shared struggles.
I go to places where social convention says I need permission to be present.
And like the writer and activist Lurvie Ajayi says, in a world that wants us to whisper, I choose to yell.
4) Ask for money so that your art can thrive.
Well, here’s the thing: we need to get paid for our creative work so that we can do more of it. There’s no such thing as a “good” or a “bad” time to monetize your art.
If we want to change the world with our skills and talents, we need to get paid to go far. Our dreams to redesign our world cannot be sponsored by retweets, likes, and shares. We need to be comfortable with the act of asking to be compensated for what we create.
5) Fall in love with the messy art of the creative process.
Success doesn’t come at once. It is usually disguised in several layers of failure and rejections. But it’s okay. You won’t be hailed as an expert and worshiped as the new ‘guru’ of XYZ process on your first attempt. But you will learn a lot from the process.
And this is why building a creative lifestyle requires courage. We will have moments of unhappiness…but at the same time, we need courage to give it another try. Again. And again.
So, from one creative to another, don’t give up.