There’s no denying it. Following a creative path has its ups and downs.
But does comparing yourself to others, creatively speaking, have its advantages?
Yes and no.
This year has been painful for me in many ways, particularly for my mental health.
The reality is that having a full-time job to support myself while working on my online magazine, Juliet Oscar Yankee, is exhausting. I’ve been putting in the work and making sacrifices for so long, and yet I haven’t seen many results.
I’ve been working, working, working on my creative project and nothing has come of it.
Am I even allowed to complain about it?
It’s not often people candidly talk about their struggles without a success story at the end of it, but here I am.
Let’s talk about frustration, jealousy and creative breakdowns.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill
I recently ran two 10km runs in the space of six months. I decided I wanted to start running and signed up with no real training. While I was running, my brain kept repeating “I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this” but my legs kept running. Before I even realised, I had done it. I had ran the 10km that had seemed impossible and somehow crossed the finish line.
The lesson? We’re not programmed to give up, even when we are both mentally and psychically exhausted. We’re conditioned to always run to the finish line.
The question is: how, when it comes to creative projects, do we deal with steep hills, difficult days, fear of failure and the constant temptation to compare ourselves to others?
Should we silence the chorus of “I can’t do this” or should we maybe start listening to it?
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing” – Henry Ford
2016 was a year of creative breakdowns for me.
I didn’t plan them in my diary, but they became a regular evening occurrence.
Yet something interesting seemed to happen the day after I had a “breakdown”.
I felt inspired and energised to tackle the work I had to do for the magazine. Embracing my fears and negative feelings, instead of suppressing them, actually improved my work and my well being.
I spoke about this realisation with Bianca which lead to her pointing out: what if these breakdowns are actually breakthroughs?
“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space” – Johnny Cash
Being told repeatedly that in order to succeed you have to fail countless times is annoying, I know.
But hear me out:
The problem isn’t “failing”. The problem is our connotations around words like “failure” and “breakdown”.
We associate them with negativity. They make us feel fearful and weak. They are negative emotions we’re told we mustn’t give into.
Time and time again, I found myself overhauled by negativity when in fact, my late night freak outs are nothing but the preceding tempest to my sunny days.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better” – Samuel Beckett
It’s time we start owning not only our skills but our struggles, too. Because it’s not only natural to freak out, but actually pretty powerful and insightful.
Julieta is a writer, cook, food stylist and photographer at www.julietoscaryankee.com