In our day-to-day lives, most of us live as critics: we spend our time consuming the things that others have created, and then judging them mercilessly. We do this with the films we watch, the books we read, the meals we eat; we constantly form opinions on our experiences.
Occasionally, some of us live life as creators. Whether we are artists, writers, musicians, or speakers, we follow a process that, in the best case scenario, ends with our creation being released to the outside world, to be consumed and judged with no regard for our fragile egos.
More often, however, this creative process is ended prematurely by the self-doubts and practical difficulties that always accompany such tasks. If you find yourself starting many different projects, but finishing few, these simple guidelines may be of some help.
#1: Start small
Ambitious projects appeal to our egos, both because they make us feel as though we are destined for greatness, and because we secretly know that we’ll never complete them and be exposed to the criticism of others.
Often even the smallest projects can grow out of hand as you notice the various ways you could improve on your original idea, or you realise that more effort is required to lay the foundations for your creation than you imagined at the start. Give yourself a chance at finishing your project by limiting your ambitions at first. You can always add to them later.
#2: Create for yourself, but do it with an audience
When you create something, create it for yourself. Be authentic – don’t just try to anticipate what others will approve of and build around that. If you’re writing an article, express your own opinion, not an opinion you think will be popular. If you’re writing a song, don’t be afraid to step outside of standard musical structures. No matter how much you work, you’ll never please everyone. You might as well work to please yourself.
At the same time, expose your creation to criticism from others as soon as possible. Not because you’re going to strive to incorporate their feedback, but because it will push you to to output the highest quality creations you can. It will push you to revise, review, and recreate. When some people reject your work, and you learn to accept that this will always be the case, you will become brave. When others accept and validate your work, you will discover increased motivated to continue.
Creating in secret is almost as bad as not creating at all.
#3: Embrace imperfections
As you near the end of any creative process, you will begin to see the mistakes, the things you could have done better, the imperfections. Don’t be discouraged. Finishing something imperfect is far better than never finishing anything at all. Fix what you can and learn your lessons for next time.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you create, or what happens to the things you make after they are created.
What matters is that they are made.