Six Mistakes that Stop Creative Dreams in Their Tracks
1. Saying “It’s too hard” instead of “It’s challenging.”
This may seem trivial, but words really do matter. And if you are a writer, you know that all too well. The meaning of a word and it’s perceived meaning can change the whole story. Words have that power over your life, too. Say these two sentences to yourself: “It’s too hard.” “It’s challenging.” Which one feels like there’s no hope? Which one feels as if you can do it, it’s just not as easy as you thought it’d be?
That’s right. You know what else? “It’s too hard” is the last thing we say before we start toying with the real possibility of quitting. Our brains know this. “It’s too hard” is a trigger for “I can’t do this. I’m giving up.”
“It’s challenging” also means that it’s not easy, but it doesn’t trigger our brains in the same way. “Challenge” poses a choice and plays to our sense of wanting to win. So, next time your creative work isn’t easy, tell yourself “It’s challenging” and do not say “It’s too hard.”
2. Waiting for someone else to validate your work.
As a creator, only you know the intent of what it is you’re creating. Only you can judge if you’ve created what you started out to create. You can get feedback and should – from credible, experienced professionals who do not see you as a competitor, but as a valuable client and colleague in the industry. Be willing to pay for quality service.
But you alone should be the final judge of your work. We all need a second set of eyes – to give us perspectives we can’t see, to point out areas that need clarification or improvement. Yet, at the end of the day, we have to value our own instincts on our work more than anyone else’s. So, if you are waiting for someone else to validate your work and declare you an artist, stop. You decide who you are.
3. Not putting your own soul into your work.
This one comes down to motivation. Why do you create? If your first answer is to make money or be famous, then you need to realize that your work will never be as fulfilling as it could be. People will never be as moved by work that does not connect them to its creator’s soul. We see “formula” work all the time – and if this is what you want to do, there’s a place for you. But just be aware that “formula” work cannot stir the human spirit as work that comes from the soul.
Don’t make an excuse for yourself on this either. Just because you are creating work that someone has commissioned you to do, doesn’t mean you can’t go into the work, find what connects to your soul and bring yourself into it. If you do, you’ll bring us that magic that we all recognize, but can never define. And we need that. We need you to put yourself into it, to connect to us, to make us feel and remember our unique human journey.
4. Being desperate and assuming.
An actor the other day mentioned they had expertise in a non-creative job field that I am interested in for a script I’m working on. So, I asked if this person would be willing to tell me more about it. The person’s response? Only if they could be included in the storyline! As a writer, I have no control over casting, so I’m not sure what this person was thinking I could promise. But, I rescinded my request. Why? Because this person’s first reaction was “what’s in it for me?” It got me thinking about how easy it is sometimes to act desperate when we are living by fear or scarcity. People can smell desperateness. And no one is attracted to it.
No matter how badly you want something, if you come off as desperate or so fearful that you won’t get what you want (and respond with self-interest only), people will pass you by and move on to the next person.
Why? Because people react to you by the way you make them feel.
And there are always other people who will make them feel positive, happy to be involved, cared for, at ease and connected to why they got into this business in the first place.
Let that person be you.
5. Not caring how you treat other people – even people who don’t “deserve” respect.
This one is about your own well-being. It’s about being a person of integrity, about how you choose the way people will experience you. It’s not about the other person.
You can choose to react to people in such a way that they will never be harmed for having known you. And that goes to always respecting the human spirit in people. Even people who live by fear, selfishness, and pain. People who put you down or belittle your work, or say nasty things about you. People who can’t see the “big” picture in life and are tied to their limiting beliefs.
It’s about being generous.
Always be generous and give people a measure of respect, even when they don’t deserve it.
Why? Because you will know that you have not caused harm. Their spirit won’t be worse off for having interacted with you. They may have issues and pain that they don’t know how to resolve that come off in a variety of fear-based, self-protective behaviors. But, how you respond is not about them. It’s about you.
And you have the power to make a positive difference. At the end of the day, that’s how you find meaning in your creative life.
It’s not to say that you become a doormat or let other people use or abuse you. No. You have boundaries and you make choices not to work with them, not to engage, not to be caught into their fears. And if you do have to work with them? You still make choices about how they will experience you. Because, like I said, this is about you.
6. Not knowing when to turn a deal down.
There’s a lot of pressure to accept deals, to be able to say you are getting paid, produced, marketed, distributed etc. And, if you’re a creative professional, selling your work is how you make your living. But, is any deal better than no deal?
I don’t think so. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that it’s important to know when to turn down a deal. To say no to a client, a job, a deal, a person that just doesn’t feel right. And if you are paying attention to your inner guidance, you know when the warning bells sound off. Listen to them.
Every deal is ultimately about the people who make them, the people you’ll work or collaborate with. If you don’t feel a sense of certainty and ‘rightness’ about them, it’s probably not right for you. (Don’t confuse this with being scared at the possibility of being stretched by a new or bigger opportunity – we all get scared then, and that’s healthy.) But when your gut tells you something’s not right, you can say no. You can pass on a deal.
You can trust that the right one will come along or that if it never does, you at least made a decision that was right for your spirit.
Don’t entangle yourself in situations that are going to fray your spirit or your integrity or your preference for doing business in a way that nurtures the human spirit instead of tears it down.
This is your creative life. Live it well.