How to get over yourself.
Ramblings of a introvert. I graduated 3 years ago, and I only just realised.
There’s something about being a creative person that feels altogether exciting, passionate, and exhilarating as well as simultaneously petrifying, crushing, and completely demotivating.
I find myself up at 3am thinking and scribbling about ideas for projects that don’t even exist. At the same time, the thing I’m supposed to be working on is sitting in a corner gathering dust, each day pushing it ever closer to the deadline and with no real solution in sight.
When I was in college, these things often resolved themselves in a way that I couldn’t possibly accept now; I’d hand in something half baked. It’s not that I hadn’t worked hard on it, but if you get creative block and a deadline is looming, you often don’t have much choice but to turn in something you’re not entirely satisfied with. Admittedly your skills at that level probably don’t match your vision, making the very thought of even trying to execute certain ideas paralysing, but I suppose that’s where college should be viewed as practice for real life briefs, as opposed to 4 years of solely honing your craft. Of course, you’ll get better at photoshop or whatever but then in that amount of time, who wouldn’t? The real value of going to art school is 4 years of practice briefs. So much time with nothing to do but inspire yourself and use the facilities available to you whilst you can. You get to test yourself, challenge your ideals, lay down your own personal design principles, decide what you want to say, all the while without any real responsibility to anyone other than yourself.
Now though, as a professional, a paid designer/maker/artist, if you get stuck, you’re screwed. The panic sets in. These days, if I feel myself in a creative rut, I have to either go to sleep, get drunk, or do something entirely different for about 24 hours until hopefully, inspiration finds me. Sometimes things get left for weeks until I find a reason to go back to it. Others are left by the wayside for longer, others are binned entirely. Perfectionism is not a quality I see in myself; I'm happy to try stuff out, see how it goes, and if I don't like it, that's OK. It's when there's the pressure of a client thrown in the mix that all of the sudden nothing's good enough.
This is the other benefit of being in college: mistakes are sort of a given. You’re learning, everyone’s new at this, you’re not supposed to get it all right first time. I remember for one of my first briefs at art school, I printed my entire collection on this cheap, calico material because I thought to myself, well, it’s not like I’ll use them for anything, it’s just one brief, why spend a load of money on expensive fabric? No, Stephanie, you will not use them at all because they are printed on shit fabric, see? Don’t make that mistake again. Don’t be afraid to invest in your own ideas, no one else will do it for you. If you give some sort of half arsed presentation of the idea you’ve been working on for the best part of a month, it’s literally there for all to see. It’s a visual medium, no amount of explaining away what you would do if you had more time/money/motivation will convince anybody of your talent. All that counts is what’s physically in front of you.
For some reason I had a really hard time coming to terms with that; letting myself experiment at college was a huge effort. I got better at it eventually, and now I relish the ideas and research stage; it’s the fun part before the hours of layouts and repeats, testing and prototyping come in. But still, I have to remind myself that initial sketching, pursuing multiple ideas at once and narrowing down the field later on is OK. It’s not a waste of my time, it’s how you come up with the best possible outcome and solution to your brief. Show your workings, don’t scrap them, save it for something else. Don’t expect the first draft to be the final draft, ever! You’ll probably never be that good.
Most of all, don’t be afraid of critique. Publish your work, learn from your peers, accept criticism and develop, keep moving, never stop creating. Sure, there’s people out there you think of as way more talented, so much so you feel like giving up and going back to waitressing, but that’s not what you really want. The fear is what should keep you motivated to succeed, to keep up with everyone else and not get left behind. I find I am most inspired by those who are confidant enough to try their hand at anything and everything, using their talents and expert knowledge of one medium to influence and affect another, often with the most interesting results.
And I know what you’re thinking... no, I’m not a writer. And yes, other people have written things in a similar vein to this. But I can speak English, and I wrote this, and you read it. So now that’s something else I once tried.