Here’s a piece of advice very few people talk about but, the further I get on this weird and wonderful creative journey, it’s something I feel is absolutely crucial to bring up.
Avoid being jealous of other people’s success. It will never help you achieve the things you want. Focus on your own growth, not a scale set against someone else’s achievements or timeline.
Does that sound obvious? It doesn’t matter. You still need to hear it. I still need to hear it.
Being part of a roller coaster creative community like comics involves seeing a nigh-constant stream of promotion for new projects, big and small; Press releases, interviews, reviews, tweets, conventions, panels… It’s a barrage.
Every week it seems like everyone else is doing amazing things while you are standing still. That feeling can breed an intense amount of fear and doubt. It can eat away at your confidence and poison your ability to create.
You put yourself into the work. Your ego is wrapped up in these creative projects. You can’t help but compare yourself to your peers and have a knee-jerk reaction that their success somehow reflects back as your failure.
Trust me – You’re not the only person who feels that way. Every single creative person I know goes through periods of doubt, periods of frustration, periods of jealousy. What’s important is the ability to recognize it and do everything you can to push past it.
Don’t let jealousy motivate your communication. If you’re going into this business to be a creator, I feel you should be focused on creating, not tearing holes in other people’s work. Read it, like it or dislike it, learn from it either way, and then move on. I’m not telling you to be fake and pretend everything out there is wonderful, but the old adage of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is pretty sound advice for a professional conducting themselves in public.
Is there crap out there? Absolutely, and more crap coming every week, but I rarely talk about that online or in public. I’d rather let people know about things I enjoy and spread the word about work that inspires me. It helps me maintain a positive attitude and reminds me what’s important – creating stories I’m proud of instead of trying to tear other people down.
Try not to flail when you feel like you’re falling behind. Focus will take you further than fear. If you lash out with desperation or anger you’ll push away the very people you’ll need later on.
If you try and those frustrations still hit you hard, walk away from outlets where you could do damage and not be able to take it back. Seriously. Step away from email, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. If you need to, contact someone you trust in private instead of broadcasting negativity out to the world at large.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been to a would-be creator’s blog/twitter feed and seen a screed of negativity a mile long. It doesn’t impress anyone. It doesn’t improve the situation. It won’t open doors for you. If people are discovering your work online, your public persona matters. Attitude matters.
I can be neurotic at times about where my career is headed. I worry I’m not doing enough and wonder if I’m making the right choices. The more I talk to friends in this business, the more I realize it’s a common fear. It’s part of being invested in my work.
It’s easy to see everyone else’s career like a highlight reel while your own is lived out in slow motion. It’s a flawed perception. Purge it.
Instead of looking at someone else’s opportunities as ones I haven’t had, I do everything I can to appreciate where I’m at in the here and now – The work, my amazing collaborators, and the wonderful people who have shown me support so far. I remind myself of the distance travelled and stay focused on current achievable goals.
The audience for good quality work isn’t shrinking.
People are hungry for great stories and memorable characters.
There’s room for you to create and build your skills.
It’s an exciting and wonderful time to be creative.
It will never be easy, but it is doable.
I’m not a psychologist or therapist and I have good and bad days like anyone else, but the above thoughts have kept me motivated and moving forward on my creative journey so far. I’ve had my share of successes and setbacks, but I’m still plugging away and hopeful for the future. That’s a ‘win’ in my books.