Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Creativity Booster: Embracing Imperfection

One of the major keys to being a more creative individual and allowing your inner creative voice to speak is to let go of self-criticism and embrace imperfection.

I know exactly how to feels to look at the creative work of other people and become dejected - even after the successes that I've had, I still (frequently) see others work that just wows me and after I get past the beauty of if I start comparing it to my own work and instantly feel smaller.  I think, "I could never be that good!" or, "I like their style better than mine!"  And on really bad days I'll think things like, "Why even bother trying?  If they're already doing it, then what's the point of me trying to do it, too?  The world doesn't need another photographer."  And then I look at my work and remember that's exactly the reason why I should.

If I had given up the first time that I had that thought, my work would never have evolved and improved and become what it is today. And it certainly would never have had the chance to become what it will be tomorrow.

There are tons of people out there that don't like my work!  And that's totally okay.  Because for every person that doesn't there's another that does.  That's the greatest gift of art: it is completely personal. Your work will not be loved by everyone.  But it will be loved by some, and that's what matters.  You have captured just a little more beauty and you've done it through your own eyes and you've helped make someone else's world to be more beautiful because of it.

Every great artist, writer, photographer, and creative person has to start at the beginning.  How quickly we advance all depends on how much time we spend doing what we love - and how much time we spend loving what we do.

Imagine if Ansel Adams had taken a few rolls of film on his very first camera, and when he developed them, he said "Well these aren't very good.  I must not be cut out to be a photographer," and then he quit!  Can you imagine the world without his stunning landscapes?  I can't either.  But you know what?  He had to start where we all started: trial and error.  Imagine if they made a book out of all his bad photographs.  Doesn't happen, does it?  But people don't realize that even he took bad photos all the time, too.  They just don't get any publicity. He continued to take pictures because he loved to.

Change the way you talk to yourself about your abilities.

This one takes a little effort if you're used to looking at your work and feeling your heart sink and frequently think thoughts like, "See?  You suck!  Everyone else out there is so much better than you.  You're just not improving fast enough."  Changing the way you think is the second most important thing you can do to improve, after practice.
  • Give yourself permission to create endless bad things.
  • Remind yourself that anything you don't like can go in the trash and you will never have to look at it again.
  • When you are feeling frustrated, remind yourself that even creative geniuses create things that they don't like; in fact, they are often their own worst critics.
  • You might not be seeing your work as it actually is, but through your own "not good enough" filters.  It might be better than you think.
  • Remember that you are only going to get better.
  • Try to create when you are in a really good mood.  This doesn't mean make excuses to not go out if you're in a bad mood, it just means that if you're feeling great and you have time, go create something.  When you are feeling good, you will automatically be more creative.  (Seriously!  I'm not kidding about this one!)

Making Ugly is Good.

One of the smartest people I know (aka Mom) is a professional artist and a teacher.  There have been countless times I have gone to her after drawing a particularly ugly picture or trying to take a photo that doesn't turn out, completely frustrated because it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. She always reminds me, "When you're making a lot of ugly, it's a sure sign that you're about to have a breakthrough."

A lot of people quit when they're not doing as good as they think they should be doing, because they take it as a sign that they must be bad. But the truth is, that's just how the learning curve works. Every time I create something new and brilliant and wonderful, I always take a look at what I created right before (if I haven't thrown it away already) - and it's usually especially terrible!

But isn't that good to know?  Next time you don't like what you're creating, don't get mad at yourself for not being better. Instead, remember this and take it as a sign that good things are in the works.  "Making ugly" is like the creative brain's way of rearranging and reordering itself to make room for new pathways and new ways of doing things. Work through it, and watch what you create in the next day or so.  You might just be pleasantly surprised.

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