Well, the night before I wrote this article, I wasn’t feeling very productive. Eventually, after a lot of effort, I produced two mediocre pictures (one A4-sized picture and one A5-size picture) and an unfinished story. No articles, no drawing guides – just two mediocre pictures and an unfinished story. Needless to say, I wasn’t in a great mood.
At the beginning of the night, I’d planned to produce something great, to produce something which would astonish and amaze everyone and cement my place as a significant person in the history of the world. I planned to do something new and amazing and innovative which would still be talked about even two or three decades later.
That’s a pretty tall order, right? No wonder I felt too intimidated and disappointed to really produce anything. Worst of all, by failing to do the impossible task that I’d set myself, I didn’t feel particularly proud of myself and my confidence in myself as an artist and a writer plunged to new depths.
So, what’s the point of this depressing story? Well, as regular readers will know, this is usually the preface to a guide to how to get out of these kinds of moods (well, until the next one strikes. But, hey, if it didn’t then I’d probably run out of articles to write).
So, here are three tips to help you feel proud and confident about your creative work which might come in handy if you are starting to feel like a disappointment to yourself. I’ve almost certainly written about some of this stuff before but, sod it, it’s worth saying again.
1) Don’t set your standards too high (then surprise yourself): This is probably the true meaning behind the old quote that it is “better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven”. It’s better for your self-esteem to do extremely well when measured by low standards than to do extremely badly by high standards.
Yes, this sounds extremely paradoxical – I mean, shouldn’t you strive for greatness? Shouldn’t you only feel proud of yourself only if you’re better than the best of of the best?
Well, the first step towards being the best of the best is to feel like you’re the best. And an easy shortcut to feeling like you’re the best is to set very low standards for yourself and then to either meet them or exceed them. Not only that, because you won’t be under a huge amount of pressure, you can relax a bit and try new things.
Going back to my earlier example of wanting to produce something that “would astonish and amaze everyone and cement my place as a significant person in the history of the world” in a single night. This is a ridiculously high standard and it’s pretty much a recipe for disappointment.
Now, if I’d just stuck to the first standard that I’d set myself when I got into producing art regularly a couple of years ago, then I probably wouldn’t have felt like a failure.
Why? Because my very first standard was “I will draw one A6-sized picture per day”. Now, looking at the A4-sized and A5-sized pictures I produced that night, it’s pretty clear that not only have I met my old standard, but I’ve exceeded it.
If I’d just looked at it that way, then I probably wouldn’t have felt like a failure. In fact, I’d have probably felt extremely proud of myself.
Who knows? This might work for you too.
2) Watch motivational talks on Youtube: You have to be careful with this one, since it can be very easy to feel like a failure in comparison to the speakers or, even worse, to feel insanely jealous of these lucky and/or successful people. If you start to feel like this, then stop watching. It won’t do you any good.
But, sometimes, watching things like TED Talks can somehow make you feel proud of yourself. I don’t know why but, sometimes, the emotions and attitude of the speakers can rub off on you slightly. Sometimes just watching someone talk about a paradoxically clever plan that they’ve come up with or talking about how it’s possible to be a success can make you feel more intelligent or more successful.
And, when you feel intelligent and successful, then you’re a lot more likely to be in the right frame of mind to produce something that you can be proud of.
But, as I said, if watching videos of ridiculously successful people starts to make you feel depressed or like a failure, then don’t watch them. Seriously, it’ll do more harm than good if you keep watching. Or, at the very least, switch to a video by someone who sounds less smug.
3) Borrow something (but be smart about it): This is a bit of a short-term fix for the times when you don’t feel proud of yourself, but it can work. If you can’t create anything of your own that you can feel proud of, then copy something someone else has made that other people feel proud of.
But, you have to be smart about this. Unfortunately or fortunately, copyright laws exist. Yes, many countries and companies either explicitly allow or at least tolerate things like non-profit fan art or non-profit fan fiction based on things which are currently copyrighted. But, this can be kind of a grey area and – of course – you can’t really sell or “own” anything you make and whatever you make will probably only appeal to people who are fans of the thing you’ve created.
However, if you’re smart enough to copy something that is no longer in copyright – then you can “own” whatever you’ve made and stand by it proudly. Yes, you should still acknowledge your source in case anyone accuses you of forgery. But, if your copy is good enough for you to worry about accusations of forgery, then your work is good enough to feel proud of anyway.
Not only that, things which are out of copyright and which people still know about are usually things which a lot of people like (or at least respect). There are probably millions of stories, paintings, drawings etc.. which are out of copyright but long since forgotten because no-one liked them enough to remember them.
So, making your own version of an out-of-copyright picture or story (especially if you look on somewhere like Wikipedia or Project Gutenburg for something to copy) will probably ensure that you’ll copy something that people will recognise and like.
And, yes, if you do this too often then you might start to feel like your original work isn’t that good in comparison to the things you’re copying (and this is why I try not to copy old paintings every day). So, it’s probably best to only do this occasionally – but it’s still a good quick way of making something that you can feel proud of.
Sorry that this article is so brief, but I hope that it was useful 🙂