Seriously. What’s under there? You go first. The fear of starting a new project or putting pen to paper is fueled by the unknown and mistrust of one’s own abilities. Here’s how I conquer the beast.
Image is from the TurboTax monster-under-the-bed Super Bowl ad. Fitting, I think.
There are monsters everywhere in our psyches. The ones who tell us not to wear that, not to say that, and not to eat that. And, if we ignore them, they have all sorts of punishments: doubt, anxiety, shame, to name a few. These hindrances are at best an annoyance that we all fend off every day, but to a creative who has to silence these voices of self doubt each and every time they begin to work, these meddling menaces can be relentless and drive you right to Procrastination Town (not that putting things off is always a bad thing). Sometimes our deadlines and clients don’t sympathize with our inner struggles, so we have to put our big girl pants on and whip out that project. How does one do this over and over again without losing faith? Here’s how:
1: Remember: You’ve done this before.
Though the feeling is relentless and feels insurmountable at times, it’s not new. Speaking from experience, literally every time I have to start a new design, I am overcome with fear. Fear that I won’t be original. Fear that I’ve simply run out of good ideas. Fear that they hired the wrong person to do the job. Fear that I’m just winging it and have no right to call myself a designer in the first place and soon everyone is going to discover the hack that I’ve always secretly known myself to be. Sheesh! That’s a lot to get over. Then I have to take a breath, and remind myself that this feeling is oddly familiar. And, hey, I have made some pretty good stuff in my past (in fact, some of it has won some awards, gosh darn-it). And finally, the people who hired me have put their trust in my hands, not their lives. Which leads me to my next tip:
2. It’s (not) the end of the world as we know it.
Yes, it matters that you do your best every day. And, no, you should not half-ass something because you’re just not feeling it that day. That said, not every project is going to be the award-winning, golden nugget you hoped for. Sometimes, your very best is simply going to get the job done. That may sound like a copout, but really what it is is realistic. Any designer who has presented options to a client, let’s say, for a logo, knows that the client is going to pick the one you like the least. It’s Murphy’s Law. What I mean is, some of what we do is subjective. You need to trust your work ethic, your experience, and your gut, and hope that the client will be grateful and ecstatic for what you present. Chances are, however, you are putting way more into this basket of eggs than they are. They’ve come to this meeting with a long to-do list of their own, their own monsters to contend with, and your little logo is just something to check off the list. A fun break in the middle of a day of emails. They’re most likely going to be grateful for the opportunity to flex their creative muscle and respond to your work. They may not love it the way you do. They may even ask you to go back and try something else. The point is: they see this as a conversation, not a firing squad.
3. Start with your worst idea.
Sometimes, just getting started is the hardest part. So give yourself a break and brainstorm your way out of it. Put that bad idea down on paper or on screen and get it out of the way (probably involves a swoosh of some sort). Who knows? Maybe what comes next is the best one! Maybe there are fifty other bad ideas before you get to the good one. Remember that creativity is a process, not an equation. That’s what you love about it. Which leads me to my final cue:
4. Remind yourself why you do this to yourself.
The best way to conquer the monster is to turn away from it and look at the parts of the process you love. You chose this profession. You are grateful you get to do something that is completely based in creativity and get paid for it! The people who hire you are hiring you because they “could never do what you do.” You’re special. It’s always a good idea to give yourself a pep talk. No one will tell on you if you sift through your old projects, the ones you’re really proud of, to remind yourself of the creations that await the world because of what you do.
I hope this helps you. Truth be told, I’m writing this because I have a big project I need to get started on and this post is basically a pep talk for myself. Now get to work.