Yay! You’re doing something creative.
We can all probably remember the moment when we first realized that we could create cool stuff. That moment when we looked at or listened to something we’d made from scratch and not only were we not disappointed by what we created, not only were other people impressed by what we created, but we actually liked the work we’d done. And – perhaps most importantly – we wanted to do it again. Whether what we created was a painting, a photo, a song, a lyric, a stanza, or the opening line to the book we’ve been meaning to start, creating something from nothing, something that wouldn’t exist if we ourselves hadn’t created it, something that other people respond to, is, let’s face it, a really, really cool thing.
Celebrate the Small Successes!
As we begin and continue along our creative journey, we may take notice that the more time and effort we put into our work, the better we’re able to bring our vision to reality and as such, we may eventually begin to share the work we’ve done with a small group or friends and family members. From that point, if the response is welcoming, we may begin to share our work with more and more people, putting it up on the myriad social media platforms where if the response continues to be welcoming,
Wait a second! People are doing things and doing them better than me!?
I remember the moment it happened. I had been posting some of my photography online for about a year and was feeling pretty good about myself and my work. Within my relatively small market, I was quite happy that my work was being compared to some of the local artists that I’d looked up to when I first picked up a camera. It was, to be honest, a pretty satisfying feeling. And admittedly, I reveled in it.
Sometime later that year, feeling somewhat creatively blocked, I began researching artists outside of my market. Sure, I’d briefly heard the names before, and I’m sure I’d seen their work once or twice, but I never really put too much thought or time into it. People were doing great things outside of my area, of course they were. But it wasn’t until I looked – really looked – at what was going on outside of my market did the full effect hit me. And the impact was immediate. Within seconds of browsing, I both blow away and humbled (and quite a bit embarrassed), by what I found. The work, their work, everyone’s work, was incredible. It wasn’t just what I thought I’d like to shoot, it was exactly how and what I wanted to shoot. And I will admit, I wasn’t inspired, I wasn’t’ motivated, I didn’t go and woodshed some new techniques. Instead, I shut down the computer, gave my camera a look of disgust, and locked up my Facebook albums. In short, the creative jealousy was I felt was paralyzing.
Ah yes, the rage quit.
Quick! What makes you unique?
I didn’t actually quit, but the next year or so was a blur. Whether it was a conscious decision or not I can’t say, but after my initial rage quit, I went through a period where I attempted to copy every style that I came across. And sure, in the process, I developed my own style, got some good photos, met some amazing people, and traveled around a bit. But looking back at the work I produced, it’s easy to see that although it was my work, I was essentially shooting my interpretation of someone else’s vision. The good feeling I had about my work was replaced by a shallow, empty feeling, as though I’d taken a birthday present someone had given me and simply sold it off. I felt bad about myself and my work and I realized it was time for a change.
I decided that it was time to shed the creative jealousy, take a step back, and think about what makes me unique. What do I bring to the table? What aspects of my life and my personality show up in my work? What are my influences and what are my hopes? What did I want to do? What did I want to be? I didn’t actually expect to have answers to these questions, but one thing I knew was that what I wanted to be, was happy with my creative output.
And I wasn’t.
Off to the woodshed I went.
No really, what makes you unique..
I’m not suggesting that my experience should be used as a lesson for anyone, or that you should or shouldn’t be happy with your own creative output. Some people find themselves very happy and/or in very lucrative careers copying the work of others. And there is nothing wrong with that. But for me, holding myself to the standard of others and constantly comparing myself to them was, as it turned out, detrimental to not only my creative well-being, but to my overall health as well. In shedding my creative jealousy and focusing on my own artistry, I found that I was able to work with a much clearer head knowing that what I was creating was mine and what they were creating was theirs. Are there some aspects of my work that are influenced by the work of others? Absolutely. Will it show in my work? Of course. Art, regardless of the medium, cannot exist in a vacuum.
The creative journey is truly an amazing thing. As humans, we allow the world to seep into our subconscious, to influence us, and to shape who we are. As creatives, we take that influence, allow it to spark something inside us and, if we’re lucky, see that vision through to it’s physical realization. It is truly a wondrous thing. I’m not one for hyperbole, but would it be too much to suggest that in this sea of over seven billion people filled with follows, likes, tweets and retweets, that perhaps the last stronghold of our individuality is to look upon what we’ve done and with a mix of childish wonder and pride and say, “I made this.”