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11 Pointers for Creatives Struggling to Believe in Themselves

September 18, 2010

Like many of you, I am a Project Runway junkie.  And each time I watch the designers struggling with their concepts and the judges’ critiques at the end, I’m always struck by the poignancy of the creative process.  I’ve blogged before about my fascination with creativity and it occurs to me when I am witness to someone else’s creative process that all creatives must learn to trust their instincts. Some find this easier than others; my husband and my sister are both very black-and-white thinkers (both are creative in music, btw) and that helps them to make quick decisions without much drama.  But I’ve never had it that easy and it’s refreshing to meet others who see the world in mostly grays (there are hundreds of grays out there…), people who sometimes experience major creative quandaries.

Along the way, I’ve learned a few things that help me not to freak out as much as I used to when grappling with a creative decision.

  1. It can be hard – and scary – to believe in your creative ideas.  Let go of the fear.
  2. If you have a gift, you should be using it.  Period.
  3. No one else on the planet has your exact design sensibility.  That is a blessing.
  4. It can feel like a curse if your design taste is way out in left field.  Be open to feedback from others, but ultimately listen to your gut.
  5. Trust your gut.  If you’re doing something you believe in, don’t worry about what others think.
  6. Critics are not always right.  It’s true that design elements and guidelines exist for all the arts, but there are no rules.  A lot of the rules you learned in college should probably be un-learned if you’re ever gonna find your true voice.
  7. You will make mistakes.  Some will become “happy accidents,” others will be “excellent mistakes” a la Dan Pink’s wonderful book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.  (An excellent mistake is one that can feel devastating but helps you to improve.)
  8. Read The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.  Re-read the six main points of the book often.  Post them in your studio.  (No, I’m not getting kickbacks for promoting the book, it’s just that good of a book.)
  9. Receiving no feedback can be as unsettling as receiving negative feedback.  When you get frustrated, take a break, go for a walk, then come back and re-read #5.  It still applies.
  10. Keep the big picture in mind and have a sense of humor.  In the end, tastes will always change and healthy relationships are the most important thing in life.  If you lose all your work in a fire or flood but you have a good support system of friends and family, you’ll be back in no time plumbing the depths of your personal creativity.
  11. Making money off your creations can be a great confidence booster, but don’t put too much stock in the validation it seems to provide.  And don’t let it derail your visions of future projects.

Now for the nitty-gritty:  the unfortunate reality is that not every creative can make a living off their designs.  If you’re creating because you love creating, then not getting paid for your creations might be disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world.  Who knows, you might be ahead of your time, or you might just be too quirky for most people’s comfort levels.  Don’t worry about that.  Create for yourself and believe in your designs.  Remember that many avant-garde artists received scathing critiques by the so-called “experts” of the day.  See point #6 again.

Unfortunately, the old axiom “do what you love and the money will follow” can be both misleading and downright false.  There’s a lot of luck, perfect timing, marketing savvy, networking, and other factors involved, especially in today’s economy.  Don’t let that get you down.

It’s still worth doing what you love even if the money doesn’t ever follow, isn’t it?  If you don’t win Project Runway and become the next “hot designer” (who might be “out” again within a year due to the fickle nature of fashion)?  Because either way, you’re feeding your creative side and presenting the world with a huge gift — that painting, sculpture, song, dance, play, novel (or hat!) that no one else could create quite like you can!

As always, please feel free to comment on this post below.  If you like what you see here, subscribe to this blog for more great millinery stuff!

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