Creative Obstacle 1: Self-Criticism
Most creative pros encounter that internal voice that says, “You’re just not good enough.” It’s a creativity-killer, that voice. It keeps you from getting started on a project, and it keeps you going on the project long after you’ve reached the limit of billable hours.
Nashville, TN-based freelance designer Steve Wilson says solopreneurs are especially susceptible to this creative roadblock. “As a full-time freelancer working from home, I tend to naturally downplay the quality of my work as compared to other agencies,” he says.
For Wilson, the longer a project drags on, the more doubt creeps in. “When a website sits on my screen with little progress for several days (or even weeks), it tends to grow visually stale and unprofessional in my eyes. Also, when the revision stage drags on or client feedback becomes overwhelming, it tends to create self-doubt about my abilities.”
And those questions about talent and worth hit experienced creative pros, not just design-school students. Pros like Debbie Millman, president of the design division at Sterling Brands in New York City, industry leader, fine artist, author, educator and illustrator. It’s hard to imagine that such a well-respected force has her own creative doubts to stifle, but Millman says she works constantly to conquer the demons. “I am trying very hard to ease up on myself,” she says.
“I love this quote by John Maeda,” she continues: “‘The computer will do anything within its abilities, but it will do absolutely nothing unless commanded to do so.’ I think people are the same—we like to operate within our perceived abilities. But whereas the computer has a fixed code, our abilities are limited only by our perceptions. I’ve been working now for 30 years and I am finally at a point where I want to rewire those self-inflicted roadblocks by facing the demons head on and trying to push through them.”
One key to overcoming self-doubt, says Julien Smith, is to take refuge in the fact that it hits everyone. “At the end of the day, it’s simple: people are constantly caught up in themselves and their failure, and they’re viewing themselves as a story in which they’re a loser. No one is watching. And everyone is pathetic. Everyone has this problem, and we all just want to admit it.”