Hey, creatives. Raise your hand if you've ever doubted yourself. Tell me if this sounds like you :: I LOVE being creative, in fact, I've always been known for being artistic, yet the fear of failure stops me in my tracks [professionally speaking].
When I was little, I was obsessed with art supplies. There were few things I would have rather done than draw, paint, or color. Though I was a good student, I relied on doodling to keep me awake in class. I never had a clean sheet of paper on my desk, and I even drew in the margins of my college apps.
In toying with the idea of a career in art, the left side of my brain said, "NO! Too impractical, too risky, too personal." Meanwhile, the right side of my brain said, sheepishly, "But I like it..."
So, what did I do? I majored in Art History, not Art, and set my sights on becoming a museum curator. If I wasn't going to MAKE art, I was going to look at it all day!
In November of 2007, I landed a job as Senior Staff Assistant at The Getty Museum in Los Angeles. It took three years of being turned down to get it...and, even then, they only hired me because I strategically wormed my way in through a temp agency.
By February, however, I realized my "dream job" wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. I felt detached, uninspired, and stuck. I didn't admit this to anyone...not even to myself at first. I thought, "YOU wanted this. Your parents spent a fortune educating you, and a lifetime supporting you. Suck. It. Up."
Then, in May, my dad died in an accident.
To put months of emotions into three words: I was heartbroken, lost, and lonely. My dad wasn't perfect, but I respected and loved him with everything I had. He always told me how proud he was of me...that I was smart, talented, and capable...and even though I'd smile I was secretly scared he'd discover I wasn't as amazing as he built me up to be.
Unable to hack it in LA on my own, I quit my job, moved home, and enrolled in a Graphic Arts and Web Design program at UCSD (thanks to the support of my mom). I figured I had nothing to lose. I fiiinally realized—no, ADMITTED—it was the fear of finding out I wasn't good enough that stopped me from doing it sooner.
Of course, there's nothing I wouldn't give to have my dad back, but I am grateful for the [many] opportunities that unfolded in the wake of his death. People would say things like, "You're so strong!" or "I don't know how you do it," but dealing with loss wasn't a matter of strength. For me, it was about faith. I knew what I had to do :: grieve, keep an open mind, and have a grateful heart.
Creative pursuits are unlike others because your work IS you. Critiques are personal and it hurts when someone doesn't "approve of" or "appreciate" your vision. Wow...could you imagine if your parents told you your childhood drawings were horrible? It would crush you. The good news is: a) artistic skills improve with practice and b) experience allows you to fine-tune your style.
When I began freelancing, I took every job that came my way. "You need a custom form on a website? Sure! [Let me go learn how to do that.]" My To Do List would consist of things like:
- Add custom form to client's website
- Research how to add a custom form to websites
- Write up proposal for logo design
- Figure out how much designers charge for logo design
I offered EVERYTHING, and it was exhausting. But I took it all in like a sponge. I pushed myself, I made mistakes, and I learned from them. I worked twice as hard for a very unpredictable paycheck.
So. "Am I good enough?" In reality, I don't think you can answer that question before you try. I look at some of the work I did in school and I'm embarrassed. I thought it was sooooo good when I made it and now it looks/feels very elementary.
Alright, so what now? Here are some basic questions to ask yourself if you're scared to put yourself out there:
- How long have you been interested in [insert your creative field of choice]? Would friends and family members associate you with it? Do you daydream about it?
- Do you have ideas for how to bring something NEW to the table? What is your unique approach?
- Who and/or what is stopping you from making the change?
Rejection is tough to swallow, but I've been rejected plenty of times. The most important thing is to know you can always be better.
In closing, I'll tell you how I know design is IT for me. When asked my opinion, I have clarity and conviction and can answer almost immediately. The status of (or my relationship with) the person asking is irrelevant...it could be my mom, my husband, or the President of the United States. I have a confidence in myself unlike anything I've experienced before. When people trust your opinion and respect what you do, I'd say you're in the right place. :)
Now get out there and go for it!