A few years back, a teacher of mine once told me, “It's not your job to be great.” He went on to explain that your real job as a creative is to keep yourself out there...available. The rest will come as a result of hard work, talent, and luck.
At the time, that statement seemed flippant and not exactly relevant to the actual question I had asked him. His answer kind of annoyed me because I couldn't see its tactical application — I guess that's why they call it wisdom. Reflecting back on that nugget of advice, I can't remember the question, but I remember his answer. I've come to realize that he was addressing the creative struggle itself.
If you're reading this, there is no doubt your inner muse and your inner critic are already at odds with each other, so you know what I'm talking about. Sometimes it sounds like, "I think I should change my major," or down the road, "Why didn't I just become a lawyer?” Statements from your inner critic like this are not fair. Even though a lawyer's career path may be clear, being successful in any profession takes hard work — not to mention lawyers are some of the most creative people I know.
Most of the time, the issue comes up as a result of your muse mentally preparing you for a big challenge. Other times, it can be more jarring; perhaps the result of a businessperson throwing the word "creativity" into a PowerPoint or saying how creative you or your department is. Doesn't that just grate your nerves? I'm sure you've heard countless variations on the theme.
The most common are more self-reflective, such as, "I'm not feeling creative today." Those have more to do with your mood and how your self-meter is currently rating your performance on any given day. Mind you, keeping your inner critic at bay is no easy accomplishment, regardless of the situation.
Sometimes a well-executed pick-and-roll is all that's required to clear a path for your muse. Other times, it feels like your muse will be on the injured reserved list for the entire season.
To give you an example: Blogging is still a new challenge for me. If I had thrown in the towel — and believe me, I have been tempted — then you wouldn't be reading this right now. Granted, this post may not be the best one I'll ever write, but to my point, it is now published and available for consumption.
Had I set out to write the end-all-be-all dissertation on Creative Resilience, more likely than not I'd still be banging my head against the proverbial drawing board, trying to figure out how to slay the large, fire-breathing dragon of my own design.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting setting your goals low. What I am saying is — don't shoot yourself in the foot before you're even out of the gate. Give yourself the room to create; to be available.
Or, as I say when I'm teaching friends how to snowboard, "Don't fight the mountain." Learn to ride the board. In effect, stop worrying so much. Give your muse the freedom required.
Get out there. Go produce. Have fun. Create.
Find a way.
Peter Bossio is an Associate Creative Director/Art Director. He graduated from Syracuse University's Advertising Design program and attended intensive film/video production at Tisch School of the Arts. Peter has been a guest speaker at NYU School of Professional Studies and is president of his local Toastmasters Club. Want to connect with him? You'll likely find him on twitter @PeterBossio in a salsa club or at www.peterbossio.com.