Are you making these mistakes creatives make without even knowing it? Whether you’re just starting out on your creative path or work full-time in a creative field, you need to read this list!
One of the things I’ve noticed in my life is that it’s really easy to fall into the same traps over and over again. Maybe this is because the creative journey is just that — a journey. As you travel down this road, you begin to realize that each destination leads to the next one and so on. Even if you make it to your initial goal, you can easily slip back into bad habits.
These mistakes that creatives make can be made by anyone — whether you’re just starting out or you own a successful business. The key is to notice and course-correct when you veer into these mistakes or see them starting to become a pattern in your life.
The Top Nine Mistakes Creatives Make
1. Compare Your Beginning with Someone Else’s Middle.
I first heard about this concept from Jon Acuff and constantly quote it to myself. When I start looking around with a mental measuring stick and use that as a way to measure the success of my projects (or worse, myself), I’m setting myself up for failure. A friend of Acuff’s once told him what else can happen:
“Don’t compare yourself to other people. If you’re ahead of them, you’ll get too prideful and be tempted to coast. If you’re behind them, you’ll get depressed and want to give up. Just write your own paper.”
You have your own story. Own it.
2. Don’t Champion Others.
It can be easy to be working so hard on your project that you forget the world around you. If this is a momentary thing, aka, you’re in “the zone”, that’s fine, but if this is your lifestyle . . . you need to re-assess. Look for ways to promote the work of other people, especially those who are just starting out. If you’re a blogger, make it a habit to promote other bloggers. You can even do this secretly by pinning and sharing content in your newsletters. It’s the 2015 version of sending an encouraging note to someone.
List five ways you’ll promote others this week, and then do it.
3. Take Criticism Personally.
Yuck. Who likes criticism? I would venture to guess, absolutely no one. Still, it’s a fact of life, and if you’re in a creative field, you’re going to have to learn to handle it well. My husband went to design school and realized quickly that he would have to learn how to separate himself from his work.
I asked him for some advice for this tip and he said,
People are going to have opinions about what you make. Sometimes something is wrong with the design and sometimes it’s just their opinion. You have to separate yourself from your work. You need to learn to process feedback in a way that benefits the client or the work itself rather than feeding your own ego.
Words of wisdom. I love how he always sees the big picture for his projects and is focused on creating great products and experiences for his clients.
Take notes if someone is critiquing your work. This has a way of separating you from the project and will help you to look at it objectively.
4. Isolate Yourself.
Though the word, “artist” tends to conjure up images of someone working alone in a studio, one of the worst things you can do is isolate yourself. Most people don’t think of community and collaboration when they think of artists, but that is such a key element of a creative life.
Yes, there are definitely times when you need to work alone, and that’s fine. But you will benefit greatly by sharing your work and being open to other people’s ideas. This one is particularly difficult if you’re an introvert like me–it’s really easy to make things in a bubble–but gradually taking steps to share and to move out of the bubble is so incredibly healthy. Promise.
How could you share your work with someone else this week?
5. Try To Be Perfect.
Um, yeah. Have you ever started a project and everything was going well until you were nearly finished? So you tweaked a few things and then another few things until it became The Project That Wouldn’t Die?
I am not talking about:
- Projects that naturally take a long time to complete,
- Skipping revision rounds and taking all of your original ideas to the finish line,
- Throwing quality out the window, or
- Ignoring your gut that is telling you to PLEASE STOP this project because it’s getting you nowhere.
I am talking about:
- Needing to ditch the perfectionism at the door. Your project will never be perfect. There, I said it. I hate to admit it as much as you, but it’s true.
- Remembering that your clients are looking for expertise and help from a real person. They want you to be professional and offer quality, of course, but they also realize they’re not dealing with a robot. That’s a good thing.
Perfectionism actually leads to the next mistake creatives make. Because when you let perfectionism rule, it’s likely you will start to procrastinate.
If perfectionism is your bane, try giving yourself clear due dates, even if it is for personal projects.
Have you ever noticed that you can procrastinate JOY?
I realized this a few weeks ago when my husband all but pushed me out the door to go on a creative retreat for the morning. It had been penciled in on the calendar for several weeks so I knew it was coming, and I really wanted to go because creative retreats are AWESOME, but when it came down to me actually leaving, I procrastinated. I literally was refolding the t-shirts in my dresser (what?!) when he walked in and asked me if I was going to go. Um, yeah. I just need to organize my sock drawer and then . . .
He didn’t let me finish which was incredibly nice of him. Later on that morning, I was journaling and wrote the question, “Why do I procrastinate joy in my life?” I know I need time to create and process, and yet I put it off. Making creative retreats a regular practice in my life has helped keep the procrastination at bay.
Are you pushing aside creative pursuits you love to do? Are you making time for creativity on a regular basis?
7. Stay in Your Safe Zone.
This is a tricky one and so easy to slip into. The truth is, you have talent, and you’re living it. You’re actually making money doing something you love. Or maybe you don’t do your creativity thing for the money; maybe you’re spending your afternoons teaching your kids craft projects (which, by the way, hats off to you and why do you make it look so easy?)
Whatever it is, you’re using your skills. But then this weird thing happens. Your creativity starts to stagnate. It might even start to–dare I say it?—get boring. A quick fix for this is to step out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Learn. Don’t ever get to the place where you think you’ve “arrived”, and you’ll be good to go.
What are some activities you could try or books you could read that would challenge you to take a step out of your safe zone?
8. Don’t Practice.
When I was in elementary school I took piano lessons from Mrs. Vaughn. I really wanted to learn how to play the piano but wasn’t too excited about practicing scales and songs that only used three notes. What always surprised me was she could tell when I didn’t practice. She would sit there quietly and listen to me struggle through Three Blind Mice and then say, “You didn’t practice, did you?” Ah, man, you got me.
You see, I wanted the skill without having to work for it. Isn’t that the secret desire of all of us? Yes, I want to learn how to take better photographs! Sign me up! Oh, wait, I have to take how many pictures?
And P.S., all of you arteests know this, but you won’t ever get to the point where you don’t need to practice anymore. Keep learning and honing your craft, whatever it is.
9. Forget that Creativity IS life.
Sometimes we compartmentalize areas of our life that would do better to flow into everything else. Creativity is one of those things. In a strange way, you stifle yourself when you make rules about when creativity is “allowed.” You also set yourself back when your definition of creativity is extremely narrow.
Here are a few examples of creative acts that wouldn’t normally be thought of as such:
- The mom who comes up with a meal plan for the week for her family
- The babysitter who makes up stories for the kids before naptime
- The woman who leaves a kind note on a table at a coffee shop
Wherever you are, be all there. -Jim Elliot
Train yourself to notice this crazy, beautiful life you’ve been given. Live your life. You’ll soon see that creativity doesn’t stop when you leave the art studio or the office. Maybe that’s where it starts.
Think of a couple new places you could allow your creativity to spill into this week.
P.S. I believe in retreats so much, I ended up writing a book about DIYing your own personal retreats throughout the year. 🙂 Check it out here.