Dan Holden's Blog

Screenwriting, Film-Making and Web TV

Five Ways Creative People Sabotage Success

girl eyes closedIt’s often said that creative people are their own worst critics.

Many will go their entire lives without publishing their work or showing their art. Fear is a paralyzing force, and creative people imagine far more things to fear than most.

In recovery circles, it’s sometimes said that FEAR can mean ‘f**k everything and run,’ or it can mean ‘face everything and recover.’ In other words, once you make the choice to face your fears, you can usually find a way to walk through them – even baby steps at a time – and eventually, accomplish your goals.

Here are some common fears of creative people that can be overcome with practice.

  1. It’s not really that good, I’m the only one who will appreciate it. You can’t really know that until you expose your work to others. It’s a scary proposition, for sure, but once you’ve gotten over that first hurdle, it gets easier to do the next time. Importantly, you will want to learn how to take criticism as well. Some of it will be helpful, and the rest you can just throw away. After all, you are the artist, and this is your expression. If they don’t like it, that’s fine. On the other hand, don’t rest your entire artistic career on one or two projects. Great artists can produce up to hundreds of works and select from the best for any given show or presentation.
  2. I can’t seem to finish it, it’s never done. Artists are a lot like engineers in this respect. They shoot for perfection, which of course can never be obtained. But if you spend too long trying to get there, you’ll eventually miss opportunities to show and sell your work in the real world. Use your best judgment, and when you say it’s done, stop. Move on to the next project.
  3. This work has lost its meaning for me. Sometimes an artist can work on a project for so long that it really does seem like work, not art. Screenwriters run in to this problem a lot, because a large portion of their jobs involve tedious tasks like formatting, spell-checking and checks for consistency and flow. With rewrites and edits, the process can take months. Take time for yourself, away from the project, and come back to it when you feel fresh and ready to tackle it again. Another strategy: work on a few pages at a time, no more. Then, step back and think about your work again. Can you describe it in a couple of sentences, in a way that delivers the meaning you intended? If not, set it aside again and work on something else.  You may find the answer or the motivation to continue comes to you from an unexpected direction.
  4. I’m afraid of being rejected. This is the bane of most writers and performers. But rejection simply means that one person didn’t put your work ahead of the others in their pile. Your work didn’t come out on top, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t close to it. Resist the temptation to take it personally. Celebrate the achievement of showing your work by treating yourself to something special! Then, keep trying, you may find others who feel differently. Or, take it to someone you trust – a mentor or a close friend who has some skill in your area – and ask them what they would do to improve the product. Does it need an edit? Don’t be afraid of comments and advice. If it is a piece of art, is it an appropriate installation for the environment? Be cognizant of who you are dealing with and their expectations; for example, don’t take a work of fiction to a non-fiction editor.
  5. I’m too young/old to be taken seriously. This is a lie. Talent can emerge at any age. Appreciation of your art depends entirely on the quality of your work, and its ability to inspire your audience. A corollary to this fear: “This is not cool where I come from.”  Don’t let that stop you. If you’re good at what you do, you enjoy it and you’re getting positive feedback, ignore the naysayers. No matter how young or old you are, or what side of the tracks you live on, your ability to express yourself through your art is a gift that will only be appreciated if it is shared. You’re creative. Get out there and live it!

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