No matter what you choose to make, one thing is for sure. There will be hard times. Making stuff is hard. There will be low lows.
There will be moments where you feel like you’re losing and like no one understands. You will feel like you’re not good enough. You will want to run away and hide.
Putting your work out into the world makes you vulnerable. You won’t always have a teacher or a friend or family to reassure you that you’re amazing and can do whatever you put your mind and efforts to.
Sometimes you have to do it for yourself, even when you’d rather eat a tub of ice cream in bed in the dark while watching reruns of Real Housewives.
That’s why it’s so important to master the art of the self-pep talk.
This practice has been crucial to my creative resilience.
The Anatomy of a Creative Self Pep Talk:
1. Take a moment of self-awareness. When you want to cry (or already are crying) realize what’s happening. You’re at a low point. Recognize the sadness, the feeling of helplessness, or whatever other negative emotions you’re feeling. Feel them fully. Be gentle. Allow yourself some time to cry and breakdown. Let it all out.
2. Separate your mind from your inner artist. Take a moment, breathe, and talk to your creativity—your inner artist. (This might sound a little crazy, but trust me, it helps.) Your inner artist is hurting. Console her/him. Stroke her hair. Tell her it will be okay. Tell her what you would want your mother to tell you when you were a kid and felt sad about being bullied or not fitting in.
“Don't doubt yourself, that's what haters are for.” ―Turcois Ominek
3. Take a moment to picture yourself coming out of this valley and rising. Visualize your future victories—what it will feel like, where you will be, who will be with you. Will you pop Champagne—picture how that will taste, how the cork popping will sound. KNOW that you will come out of this funk. You will (you know that, right?). You will. Remember that, and know it will come eventually.
4. Remind yourself of all the greats who went through YEARS of low points. Vincent Van Gogh. Emily Dickinson. Henry David Thoreau. Edgar Allen Poe. John Keats. Claude Monet.
5. Parallel yourself to these greats. Maybe it’s a little arrogant or far-fetched, but this is one way I pick myself up out of these moments of feeling worthless—by remembering that I am not alone, and there is always hope for me. Use these folks as case studies, as fuel. Relate to them and their hardships. It’s almost like it’s you against the world.*
*I say this with side note, because it really isn’t you against the world, but this mindset can be a valuable tool to get out of a funk and believe again. I don’t dwell too much in this space, though. I don’t want to become bitter or put a divide between myself and the rest of the world for any extended period of time.
When I am in a really sensitive space I can either be discouraged and saddened, or I can use this tactic to be encouraged and revved up. I think: “I AM GOING TO SHOW YOU”. This is just personally how I spin it to be able to keep going when nothing seems to be working and no one seems to be caring.
“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” ―Vincent van Gogh
6. Remember that this is your story, here and now, and all the setbacks simply make it more interesting. Those are the best stories, aren’t they? As Liz Gilbert says, “Mastery is boring”. The journey is the fun part.
7. Get mad + let it out. Feel ANYTHING but sad. Curse. Throw things. Get angry. March around your room declaring that you are good enough and your art is perfect as it is. (YOU ARE, AND IT IS.) Stand by your art. The truth of what you love and make is NOT at the mercy of others’ reaction to it. It’s great because YOU say it is.
8. Say (out loud) what you know is true: “I can do this”. Say it once. Say it again. Keep saying it until you believe it. Until you feel a flicker of conviction beneath the words. Say it again. Get louder. Say it over and over and over until you’re so on fire that you’re ready to get back up and tackle what’s next.
9. Get to WORK. Make plans. Don’t dwell on your last creation. Be so busy that you don’t have time to be sad about how your last piece didn’t sell or wasn’t well received. Keep going. Make, make, make, and make some more.
Next time you could use a little more pep in your creative step, I hope these pointers can help you out of your funk. It's a hard place to be, but you just have to remember that this too, shall pass.