I Don't Know What I'm Doing, And That's OK
Do you ever wake up, look at your phone and feel like everyone else is doing something huge? The successful online-people have their creative paths set, seemingly written in the stars, while you’re the only one still figuring it all out? Well, here’s the truth: No one knows WTF they’re doing. And it’s OK that you don’t too.
The novelist and poet Maya Angelou once confessed, “I have written 11 books, but each time, I think ‘Uh-oh. They’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out’.”
We know how it feels. You see that girl from school getting published, your friend launching an animation project and a 15-year-old prodigy labelled, “the voice of a generation”. Going online can make it seem like you’re missing some secret formula for creative success.
Even if we’re happy for other people, we're often left questioning our own creative journey. Is this career right for me? Am I fooling anyone? How does that kid on TikTok have more plays than all my projects combined?
We all face uncertainty. Literally, all the greatest minds in history weren’t sure at some point. Yet we overlook the self-doubt, sleepless nights and missed rent that came before another's success, instead attributing their creativity as a god-given-gift. In reality, everyone feels like an imposter somewhere along the way.
Although uncertainty isn’t fun, there are arguments that embracing it can open you to broader creative outcomes. Neuroscientist and author Beau Lotto sums this up: “nothing interesting begins with knowing, it begins with not knowing” (check out Lotto’s Big Think talk for an in-depth explanation).
As much of a cliche as it sounds, sustainably moving forwards comes from living in the moment. In job interviews they ask, “so, what’s your five-year plan?” and as kids, we imagine our grownup lives. But really who has a clue what they’ll be doing in a few months. If you're constantly thinking about the future, there is no time to breathe and savour what you’re doing in the current moment.
Being mindful of your emotions and preconceptions when feeling uncertain has massive benefits. Taking simple steps to ground yourself, talk and reconsider your assumptions can reduce anxiety and even makes you more creative.
Below are a few things to consider if you’re feeling uncertain with your journey into the creative industry:
Celebrate The Wins
Now, we're not saying launch a confetti cannon every time you make your bed. But actively acknowledging small wins will make you aware of your progress. After all, big achievements are made from many small ones.
A Harvard Business Review study reported people to feel happiest when they're making progress. Even if it's a small victory, like taking time to exercise or practising a feature on After Effects, reflecting on achievements make you more confident in your creative journey.
The chances are, if you feel unsure about your journey into the creative world, someone you know has felt the same. When you talk to someone who's been through this experience before, you realise uncertainty is part of the process.
Studies show simply putting feelings into words and being listened to can drastically reduce anxiety.
Being mindful of your emotions, reflecting on uncertainty as part of the creative process and looking at others success rationally can make a huge difference to your mental state.
Studies frequently link social media comparison to negative thought cycles. Try to rethink how you look at your peers' success and know social media doesn’t show the rejections and heartache all creators go through.
In our previous article Stop & Breathe we talk about the importance of stepping back. This is particularly valuable when we fall into creative ruts or feel overwhelmed with our search for the next opportunity.
If you feel uncertain in your creative path, practising simple mindfulness exercises like meditating or drawing will help you to rethink stressful ambiguity.
Yep, we’re all clueless, floating around pretending to know what’s best. We can fill in the gaps by saying big words or over-analysing motivational quotes on Facebook, however, embracing uncertainty as part of the journey frees you to focus on the current moment. Not knowing is a beautiful part of the creative journey, it is discovering new outcomes and directions never imagined.
Cover illustration by: Jordan O’Connor
Animations by: Kael Oakley
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