The Confidence of Creativity.
How confident are you in your creative efforts? Creativity is supposed to be a bottomless well of abundance. It is if you believe it is. Some people don’t feel this way and act as if we’re all doled out a finite amount of creativity at the outset of the journey. That it must be harnessed and rationed out like minimal food supplies. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is a wonder concept in creative circles called the Confidence of Creativity. It states that the creative individual believes in their ability to figure things out, to be disciplined and dedicated to creating every day, working toward specific, prolific quality output. The very statement makes you feel more confident in your abilities to get after it. The confidence part of creativity comes from competence. We’re already successful and have a track record to prove it. We’ve already created dozens of videos. We’ve written 100 blog posts. We’ve trained. We’re disciplined. We write each day at 5 AM. It is another one of those. It isn’t that you walk around, telling people how creative you are. It is that you have a quiet confidence in your abilities to create and see projects through to completion. You have been here before.
When you’re new to the game, you naturally lack confidence. You’re missing needed competence because you have no context when you’re an absolute beginner. Let’s face it: being a beginner sucks. Being a beginning writer sucks. Being a beginner in school sucks. Taking on a job where you have zero industry experience is hard. And when you go to create something, you don’t know how good it is. All you can do is compare your output to other, more experienced creators and see how you measure up. Depending upon the people who surround you, they may encourage you to keep trying or they may condemn your efforts. Either one of these can be encouraging — it depends upon the person. Regardless of the feedback, it is hard to slog through the early first attempts and keep going.
Look at early efforts to build an audience. If you start out like everyone else, you’re an unknown at the beginning. No one knows you. They don’t know what you’re about. They don’t know what you’re capable of. They don’t know whether you are competent. Most important, they don’t know if you’ll still be around next week. So, they invest minimal time in you. We all do this, by the way. We’re careful about whom we follow and become a fan of. Fandom is a gradual process of continuous successful exposure and past success. It is a lot like building trust, in fact. What does trust building look like? Continuously giving to a person while asking for little in return over a certain period of time of multiple, successful interactions. Fandom and audience building works the same way. Yes, you have to show up and give. But you have to show up and give consistently. You can’t show up every other month and expect to be hailed for such infrequency. You must be consistent. The band has to have a new album out every 18 months and follow that creation with a tour. The prolific, bestselling author aims to have a new book drop every two to three years, while giving speeches and creating online courses in between books. The video creative is constantly shooting, editing, and publishing, shooting, editing, and publishing. The creative frequency and fan expectations must align in order to build an audience. They won’t share your stuff with their friends if they don’t think you’ll be around next week.
Look at it as building a new habit. Any new habit is hard to keep at. The first week is always the most difficult. The behavior is awkward. It is uncomfortable. You don’t like it. You desire to go back to the way things were. Yet you realize this new behavior is the correct path for you, so you dig in and forge ahead, strengthening your resolve. You hang in there for two weeks. It gets easier. You’re far less tempted to go back to the way things were. You feel better. Your confidence builds. People notice something different about you and the way you carry yourself. This feedback causes a self-reinforcing of your new habit to cement it into your daily behavior. It is now a part of who you are, like a new exercise regimen.
This is similar to how the confidence of creativity builds over time. You wake up and know that you write. It is just what you do. In fact, the last 20 minutes spent in bed in the morning are spent thinking about writing. A new creative project at work no one wants to take on has your name on it because you have the experience and confidence to initiate it, to script it, to advise on it, and to see it through to completion. You can walk in as the go-to expert on the video project that has stalled because everyone hates the most current version and are thus stymied. All the work you’ve put in this far has prepared you for these moments. You’ve seen this before.
Most people lack confidence before they give a talk. They’ll be totally anxious and nerve-wracked for weeks leading up to the speech. They lack creative confidence in their abilities to give a good talk. This largely comes from a lack of experience and lack of perspective. Giving speeches is not a problem. They are a terrific opportunity for growth and prosperity if you treat them like that. To get out of the ball of anxiety mode and into the growth mindset requires practice: practice in shifting the way you think about your talk and practice actually giving the talk so you own it. Most people skip both of these practice sets and thus are on the verge of a wreck leading up to the time to talk. Being good at speaking is like any other skill: get a coach and practice, practice, practice. It isn’t that big of a deal emotionally after you get some experience and some practice. But it can be a big deal for your career or professional prospects if you take the time to improve.
Look at a big photo shoot for a commercial. There are camera crews. There’s the gear. There’s the lighting. There’s the script. There’s the client. There’s the location and its conditions of which you have limited control. There’s the budget. There are constraints. Someone new to directing the shoot might find all of this overwhelming and too much to handle at once. However, it is up to them how they forge ahead, even if they lack experience in such a professional situation. Creative confidence states you take what you have to work with and you make it the best you can given the constraints. There are always constraints. Each new shoot builds more creative muscle.
Certain Hollywood screenwriters are called in to save a script when it has stalled out. They go in and punch up the script, finding spots where it is emotionally weak. These are seasoned screenwriters who are paid handsomely for their consulting and their craftsmanship. They did not get here overnight. It took them years of whittling away at dozens of scripts (and selling them) to get here. If you can write the hits, you’ll get the nod. But writing the hits takes time, effort, and tenacity. Once you get a few of them under your belt, you achieve creative confidence in your abilities and your problem solving. You can take on anything they throw at you because you’ve likely seen this before.
Creative quality comes with experience in doing. Quality follows quantity. You cannot expect to be good when you begin. The only focus for beginners and intermediate practitioners should be exactly that: practice. Doing. Building experience. Building confidence with each creative output, no matter its quality. We get far too hung up on asking is this any good? when we begin and seek feedback from others. It is the wrong question. The right question is, did I create today? Did I practice today? Did I do my best to stick to my discipline today? Did I publish today? Did I give today?