Professional photographer and filmmaker Sean Tucker has produced editorials for established corporate clients. He has accrued thousands of followers on platforms like Youtube and Instagram. He even creates tutorials for fellow photographers learning the ropes. Yet, he still experiences doubts and insecurity despite the success that he’s found as an artist. Doubt is something that virtually every creative (big and small) faces from time to time. But what exactly does it take to pull yourself out of a creative slump?
As Tucker shares, Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art offers some insightful advice on defeating personal resistances. Pressfield defines a resistance as anything that prevents you from accomplishing a goal. It’s that little voice inside of your head that tells you to put off whatever it is that you’d like to be doing for another day and that you’re not ready to show the world what you have to offer.
The most important thing to understand about a resistance of any sort is that it’s rooted in fear. And it’s not the sort of fear that you’d experience when threatened or in danger. Instead, the fear that fuels a resistance is the sort that you experience when you want something badly enough that the notion of failure is terrifying. So for some, the idea of never attempting to reach for a dream is safer and more comforting than the thought of trying and failing at attaining a dream. Acknowledge your own personal fears; the more a project or goal scares you, the harder you should try to make it happen.
More often than not, getting back on the right track creatively is a matter of changing mindsets. Here are some of Tucker’s takeaways from Pressfield:
Let go of your ideas of perfection
Perfectionism actually proves to be a detriment to the success of many professionals. Think of whatever project you’re working on as a draft on a longer timeline—not the end all be all. Done is better than perfect, and failure isn’t the worst thing in the world. After all, mistakes and trip-ups lead to improvements over the long run.
Don’t overthink everything
Not everything has to be completely rationalized, especially in the field of art. Being creative and expressive is more important than having everything figured out logically.
Quit comparing yourself to others
“Better”and “worse” are subjective terms. Expressing yourself shouldn’t be about outdoing the competition. We all fight and we all struggle, and just because it seems as if everything comes so easily to others doesn’t mean that it actually does.
Don’t let your shortcomings hold you back
There will always be holes in the art you make, holes in your skills, and holes in your knowledge; everyone has them and you shouldn’t let them hold you back.
Make a list
Acknowledging your resistances for what they are is the single most effective way of overcoming them. Pressfield suggests making a list of the things that you battle. Being aware of your struggles and actively combating them greatly reduces the chance of them dictating your actions.
When you don’t feel like creating, get up and do it anyway
Press through and make it happen. The best way to ensure that you don’t attain your goals is to never try at all. Even if things don’t work out the way that you’d like, getting out and making work often spawns new ideas and offers a bit of direction creatively.
With any great thing, there’s always a risk. Don’t let those risks discourage you from doing what you love most.
“I hear a lot of creatives say, ‘I didn’t make anything today because I just didn’t feel it.’ But I wonder if we have to feel it before we create something.”
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