Recently I went into a therapy appointment and I realized that not only was I in a creative rut, but I had been living in a creative rut for the past few years of running this little old business. You heard me right. I'm sure that if you don't have full fledged imposter syndrome, then you've read about it somewhere on the internet. I've got what my therapist refers to as that amplified. I finish a project and for about 10-15 minutes I believe in it fully. Then slowly, but surely I begin hating it most of the time. My clients, for the most part, are always very pleased with my work. They love it. They never see what I do. Which is great because it means I get to keep my job.
For a long time I thought that that's just how the creative life worked. I thought that everyone was disappointed with their work all the time... and I'm still not convinced that there aren't more people out there like me. After explaining to my therapist how I feel, and then realizing that this feeling of not-quite-good-enough runs deep, she asked to see my work. She knew that I am not the kind of person who would accept a blanket I'm sure you're good.
So I showed her. I knew she'd be honest. And she told me my work was stunning.
I know I showed her stunning work because the shoot I shared with her was the reason we were having this conversation. It was a shoot that I feel in love with from the moment the backdrop stand showed up at my door 30 minutes before call time (cutting close... we know) and the peach paper backdrop rolled through my door. I felt it with this. I felt good. I felt really really good about my job. It was this shoot with Betty Alida... in which I walked away from it feeling alive and even better... a sense of pride. Here are a few frames from that shoot.
I wanted to feel the way I felt about these photos all the time. That's why I brought it all up to my therapist. So when she asked to see some of my work, even though I was nervous I knew that I was paying her to be honest to me and insight. I showed her the Betty Alida shoot, some photos from a wedding that I shot, some photos from 2 years ago and some photos from the week before, and she told me that my work was stunning. And I began to believe her because 1) I already knew I loved some of the images. 2) I knew she wasn't going to lie. That wouldn't get us anywhere.
I want to create great work. I really do. But I don't want to feel like the ceiling is unreachable. I want to know that what I'm creating in the process of getting to really great is really good in the meantime. I want to feel confident in my abilities. I want to feel sufficient. I want to feel good about my work, the process, my abilities, all of it.
When I left that therapy session she told me she wanted me to come up with a mantra for my creative life.
I told her all about the fact that this years word of the year is flourish. And I'm trying even though it's taken on a completely different meaning than I'd hoped it would. It turns out, flourishing can be a fight.
So I stressed over it. I thought about it long and hard. I tried desperately to figure out a few words that made me feel validated, efficient, good at my job, recognized the work I put in here, and would let me rest.
I couldn't come up with anything.
I was at Create + Cultivate's SxSW Pop Up and I saw a girl with a necklace that had my answer on it. I knew immediately that I had found what I was looking for.
That's what I want to strive for. It's an attitude, not a bench mark. I can be overjoyed in my ability even when I am not feeling it. I'm so happy that I get to do this job. I feel incredibly blessed that this whole thing is exactly what I'm willing to put into it + get out of it. I am overjoyed most of the time. Why shouldn't that translate into my work?
I can be overjoyed with my job + the work that I'm producing even if I'm not 100% confident all the time. And being overjoyed with this whole thing seems great to me.
The work I want to be actively produce is work that is joy-filled. If I show up, make the best that I possibly can out of the day, and work hard, then what's stopping me from claiming that?
What's your creative mantra? If you don't have one then I want to challenge you: find a few words for yourself. Be really honest about the areas that you struggle in + try and define an attitude to overcome it.