Listen, I get it. You have an innate need to constantly create. Whether it’s pencil drawings, music, videos, storytelling, paintings, sculptures, poetry or just art in general: you need to make it. But when it comes to sharing your creations, that’s when things get… messy.
Maybe you have tried before and have gotten burnt. Not even an honorable mention in your grade school for that painting you spent so much time on. You only got a few views on the videos you put on YouTube. You put your finishing touches on something you were really proud of just to come to the conclusion that someone else is way better at this than you. Maybe someone critiqued your work and they were mean. Someone looked over your shoulder to see a work in progress and weren’t impressed. No matter who you are, no matter what stage in your creative development you’re in, you most likely have run into something that took the wind right out of your sails. So now what?
Did that mean thing someone said to you way back when cause you to stop growing as an artist? Did you put down your pen or keyboard or camera, too afraid to face the reality that maybe you’re just not as good as you think you are? Let me state, under no uncertain terms, that it’s time for you to get past that fear of rejection. The world needs your individual voice to be heard now more than ever.
What Holds You Back?
Meanness. It has been a long time since grade school, but those kids who teased you about your sketches are still in your head. But guess what? You’re an adult now, but the words they said still echo in your head every time you even think about starting a new project. Who’s to say that someone else won’t be just as mean?
No audience. You put up countless videos in hopes of being the next YouTube star or Twitch streamer. But the numbers just aren’t there. Nobody seems to be watching. Is it time to hang up those dreams and do something else?
Comparisons. Some people have said some really nice things about your work, but you can’t get it through your head that they’re not just being nice. There are just too many others doing what you’re doing that are so good at it. So much better than you, right? So, what value is there in the work you’re doing when someone else does it better? Why even try?
Ultimately, we can come up with an unending amount of reasons for not pursuing it, but I think we need to be honest with ourselves and realize that all of these things ultimately boil down to one, and only one obstacle: you.
Your Biggest Obstacle is You
You are your own worst critic. You are the only person who remembers that mean thing someone said to you once. You are the only one drawing comparisons with someone farther along in the craft. You know what else? You are the only audience member that really matters with your art. Forget all the rest.
I have struggled with all of these feelings as a creator. Posting a video online that I worked so hard on, only to not have it go viral as I was hoping. The depression that comes with that is real. To pour everything you have into something and not be rewarded with the boost of endorphins to make it feel worthwhile as a venture – that stings.
So, what can we do when this happens? The way I see it, we have a few options. We can either stand in our own way from continuing to grow as a creative individual, or we can accept the outcome as a natural stepping stone for our journey.
Here’s a hard pill to swallow: most creative people never get the approval for their work they were hoping to get. How many poets became famous only after their deaths? How many great artists have died penniless? So, where does that leave us?
You must humble yourself in order to be successful, because that’s the only way to keep rolling with the punches. Imagine that your ego is the obstacle standing in your way. If you lay it down on its side instead of deciding you can’t get past it, you might soon find that you’ve created a bridge where there used to be a wall.
Cross enough of those bridges and one day, who knows what might happen? You may be vastly successful or you may never find any recognition at all. Either way, you’ll never know unless you keep on creating. After all, it’s not possible to get where you want to go if you’re not moving at all.
One last piece of advice I have is this: look not at the sum of your success but at the individual reactions you cause in those few people you do reach. And hold onto those people, cherish them, thank them and let them know how important their reaction is for you. One day you may realize it wasn’t the masses of internet “likes” that mattered, but the smile you put on the face of a child or a relative or a friend that really gave you your greatest satisfaction.
Even if you never get famous, you can always look back on your body of work with satisfaction knowing that you gave it everything you had and you never stopped. Don’t ever stop creating. Don’t ever stop.