I’ve been working with creative and performing artists as, first, a therapist, and then for the last thirty-five years as a creativity coach. I’ve learned from my clients just how hard they find completing their creative work. Many creatives have trouble getting started; many have trouble working regularly; but almost all have special problems near the end, when the finish line is in sight. In this series, I want to spell out twelve reasons why completing creative work is so darn hard.
I’m framing this series from the point of view of a painter’s challenges, but the points apply to someone working in any creative field, from writing novels to game designing, from filmmaking to app development. I’m sure you’ll be able to easily translate the points I’m making to the medium in which you work. If you’d like additional resources, let me recommend three of my recent books: Redesign Your Mind, The Power of Daily Practice, and The Great Book of Journaling. Together they can provide you with a clear picture of how to get your creative work done through right thinking, good daily habits, and the self-awareness that journaling provides.
Here is challenge number 11.
Not being ready to start showing and experience all that potential criticism, silence and rejection.
While you are working on your current piece, you can say to anyone who inquires about it and who asks to see it, “Sorry, it’s not finished yet.” If they beg, you can hold your ground and repeat your message: “Sorry, it disrupts my process if I show things before they’re done.”
But how can you refuse them once you call the work done? What reason can you possibly offer up that doesn’t make it clear that you’re balking simply because you fear a cruel remark or an indifferent response? Once you affirm that your current work of art is done, you don’t really have a leg to stand on if you try to keep it hidden.
Since artists know that they don’t have a leg to stand on once they finish their work of art, they contrive a great solution: they don’t finish it. They may get “very near” to the end on many paintings but, by virtue of not having completed any of them, achieve their half-conscious goal: they can righteously announce that they have nothing to show yet. In this way, they keep all possible criticism, rejection, and negativity at bay.
The better solution is to grow a thicker skin and get easier—much easier—with letting your works of art out into the world. Yes, since every work of art is disliked by someone, it is indeed the case that some negativity is bound to come your way. Accept that; surrender to that truth; and finish your work and show it.
More to come!