You, The Ideal Creative

Over the last couple of days, after a grueling week of work, I started reflecting on what it would take for me to be completely happy with the work I’ve been producing over the last couple of years. I started asking questions about why I do what I do: Do it like it? Is it the money? Am I doing everything I can? Does my work reflect what I want to achieve?

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely parts of what I do that I like and of which I am proud. However, I also get that twinge of regret/sadness/humiliation (?) when I know there are parts of what I do that I am not completely happy with because of various reasons (i.e. laziness, subpar quality, lack of faith in what I do, etc.)

I won’t get into discussions about being an artist because I think discussions on art and the “noble pursuit” of it always turns out to be a little pretentious and a touch naïve. Besides, I am not an artist. For the creative professional, there’s a much simpler question: are you doing all you can to achieve whatever ideal you’ve set forth?

“The Guy”

I would sometimes get confronted with situations and opportunities that are amazing and truly great. However, in my mind I’d say this, “If I was the guy, I’d go for it now! But I’m just not the guy.”

I recently caught myself in the middle of this thought pattern. I then began to ask, who is “the guy?” And who decides who “the guy” is?

I eventually came to the conclusion that “the guy” is just the ideal creative professional I want to be. It’s the guy deserving to get the job, the guy who will perform to the best standard, the guy who gets it done. But really, the main breakthrough I had was finally realizing that being “the guy” has nothing to do with what others thought I ought to be.

For instance, I was approached to do a photo shoot for a magazine a couple of years ago. At the time, I declined it because I didn’t think I was ready to do a shoot. I thought I might mess it up. However, now that I think about it, there’s a reason they asked me to do it. To them, I was “the guy” already. I missed out on a great opportunity because I was fearful of failure and not living up to my own expectations.

The lesson here is that sometimes we focus too much on what we’re not instead of what we already are. Is that helpful? In some ways, I think it can be since focusing on the things we are not allows us to see where we can improve. However, focusing on it too much also hinders our own personal progress. The key is to be more proactive about achieving the ideals we’ve set for ourselves.

What’s next?

Picture the ideal you in your mind. Now ask how he/she got there.

In my mind, the ideal me became that person because he worked hard, produced better and better work, and was always doing something new. The ideal creative professional I have in my mind is successful, sure, and confident. He gets great jobs because people recognize the quality of his work and the originality of his ideas and clients respect and like him because of it.

If you think about how to achieve those things, there’s really nothing stopping me from becoming that ideal creative. It’s just a matter of will. It’s just a matter of actively pursuing it instead of allowing opportunities to pass because I don’t think I’m “the guy” for it.

To me, everything else is secondary. The ideals that you’ve set for yourself are personal. No one cares about the kind of professional you want to be or the kind of work you want to produce, people only care about what you are able put out there. In other words, people only care about what you can do, not what you can’t do. “What you can’t do” is for you to ponder; it’s for you to do something about.

In any case, I think you’ll find that discussions about hopes, dreams, feelings, and personal struggles about what we aren’t able to achieve will ultimately lead nowhere. These discussions you have with yourself should never occur beyond the confines of your mind. Those discussions are yours. They are your struggles. Use them to move forward so you focus instead on outward actions and what you’re actively doing to make things happen. Pretty soon, the ideal creative you have in your mind will start to actually come true.

Share your thoughts in the comments section.