I’ll admit that I am one of those people who knew what they wanted to do since they were little. After getting past my Legally Blonde-induced Harvard Law dreams of fourth grade, I shifted my focus to advertising. I know, that doesn’t seem like a very natural progression, but it makes more sense if I explain that my uncle – one of my greatest inspirations – works in the industry as a producer. I grew up listening to his stories about bringing these amazing creative ideas to light, and I was drawn to it.
When I got to college, though, I was in for a bit of a wakeup call. Even though I had a creative spirit and an interest in the field, that didn’t mean I would be good at it. And this is a fear I think a lot of people in any creative field have to face. No, in COM, we may not six exams per class per semester, but learning how to be creative, and be talented, is an entirely different mountain to climb. It requires you to push your mind to places you never thought it would go, and that can be unbelievably challenging, yet is often not recognized as such.
Obviously, every person’s creative journey is different, but there are some remedies that can help most all of us. With that, here are some of the things I always try to keep in mind when I’m faced with writer’s block, rejection, or just plain old frustration.
As hard as it is, as attached as you get to an idea, as much as it may break your heart, sometimes you have to be realistic and scrap something you’ve put a lot of work into. Even if it may seem like your best idea yet, if it doesn’t reach people, have an impact, or make sense, sometimes it has to go. This may make you feel like quitting, but I can assure you that there is always another idea – a better one – around the corner. By allowing yourself to let things go, you can eliminate tunnel vision, and open yourself up to so much more inspiration.
That being said, sometimes scrapping work you care about is not your own idea. Rejection is hard in every situation, but it is just a part of the creative world. When a professor or boss rejects an idea you care about, it is bound to hurt you, and that is okay. It is your job, though, to find out their reasoning behind it, and learn from that information. You also have to realize that, most likely, they are not attacking your talent or dooming you to an unsuccessful future. The best creative people in the world, in all fields, faced rejection hundreds of times, but they let it shape their work into the art it is today. A thick skin is important, but don’t let it blind you to what you can improve on.
All of this is easier, of course, with a team. Full disclaimer: if you can’t value working in a group, creative work (besides painting, probably) may not be for you. That doesn’t mean you will love every group assignment or every partner you ever have, but when you work with the right people who are all determined to create something great, you will succeed. You’ll challenge each other to think outside the box, and when something doesn’t work, you will all help to find a solution.
Whether you’re working on something together or not, surround yourself with people who inspire you. They don’t have to be in a creative field, either! Find people who dare to dream far beyond their capabilities, and help push them there. Use their stories, their points of view, their strengths and weaknesses to help you craft a story, and pick you up when you’re down. Never close yourself off to meeting new people, because you never know who will become your greatest inspiration.
Never, never give up on being creative if that is what you want to do. The road ahead may be a very confusing one, but if you can try to keep these tips in mind, you can always find a silver lining, and turn it into a work of art.