are you where you want to be with your creative work? keep working

Are you where you want to be with your creative work? Have you started working on a project or an idea and realised that what you are making and what you envision making are not on the same level? Is the vision in your mind so much better that the result right now? Are you disappointed? Wanting to chuck the idea?

Whether you are starting out on your journey as a creator, or are anywhere along your path, you will hit spots where what you’re creating might not live up to the grand idea that sprung forth fully-formed from your brain. I am going to step out on the high wire 10 stories above the pavement here, and say:

I think everyone who embarks on a journey or a life of creating has experienced those moments where their creations are not living up to their expectations and hopes. Everyone.

The not-so-secret answer? Keep going.

Make lots of work. Keep working on your craft. Create a body of work. Create a large body of work. Create an even larger body of work. Keep practicing. Accept that this is your path, and embrace it. Keep working on your ideas, keep inspiring yourself with more ideas.

There are so many things about this life, this creative life, that people don’t tell you, maybe we don’t think to tell each other. I don’t think it’s that anyone is keeping secrets, I think we stumble upon our own answers as we go. We wade through a few streams, and climb a few hills, stumble and fall a few times, and if we’re lucky we have some breakthroughs, and we keep going.

There are many times in my my life where I have wished for a training manual or at the very least one of those picture-based directional pamphlets, like you get when you purchase furniture from Ikea. But as I write that, I also realise that if someone had told me all the things I wished I had known, would I have listened? Probably not. At least not to all of them. You? Perhaps the same?

What I have learned (some of it kicking and screaming along the way) is that the only secret to getting to where I want to go is to just keep going. Your ideas may change. Your vision may shift and grow. Keep going. Your ability to express your creative idea, in whatever form, will only get better. Keep going. This is an ever changing landscape, this creating thing, and since we know that one of the few constants in life is change, accept it in your creative work, too.

Oh, and the second part of that not-so-secret answer? Don’t give up.

Think about the work that you’ve given up on in the past. I have a short to medium list myself. Think about how even after you gave up on the idea or the project, it still comes back and visits you. In dreams. In thoughts. Remember the great idea that you were so excited about but you couldn’t execute just the way you saw it in your mind’s eye, so you stopped? Yeah, that one. If it keeps returning to you, you might want to look at it again.

To get where you want to go with your creative work, to get closer to the vision that you see with your mind’s eye, you just have to work and keep working. It’s that simple.

So the work is not quite the way you want it to look, read, or be heard. Keep working. So you didn’t get the response you wanted from your partner, best friend, studio mate. Keep working. It’s going to take time, it’s going to take practice, and it’s going to take – yup, you got it – work.

This whole topic – how to get where I am going with my art work – is often on my mind. I’ve written many pieces for myself in my creative journal, and then I started working on this piece for Scoutie Girl about 10 days ago. Yesterday, when I was working on edits, a friend sent me a video with words from Ira Glass on just this topic. It’s a lovely bit of synchronicity, and Ira Glass says it all so very well.

So have a listen. Feel his words.
And then go back to your work.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Where is your vision lining up with your executions? Where is it not? Tell us your stories about how you’ve kept working.

Video from David Shyang Liu

9 thoughts on “are you where you want to be with your creative work? keep working

  1. I love this post Liz! So dead on to what I have been feeling. In line with Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory the great work comes from WORK for most.

    Sure there are always exceptions that strike gold early and either burn out early, or have a long plateau, but for most of us it is nose to the grindstone to achieve our vision.

    Often that vision changes as we change, but my favorite piece of this is those nagging bits that return. I find that now in post mid life my earliest visions are still with me. It’s pretty cool.

    How have I kept working? Well that is pretty much the constant topic of what I write here. It has been a journey of searching and learning to navigate social media and have an online identity, while realizing I still have to figure most of it out myself. No manifesto or how to e book out there has my recipe in it. So, I keep working!

    Love the Ira Glass video too.

  2. OH this post sure ‘hits home’ and I could not agree more :) It is so ironic I posted about perseverance just the other day! I have a painting and a story about not giving up…if anyone is interested in seeing a painting that took over 6 years to complete AND waited for me to go to art school…please read this story! (usually I do not post links in other peoples comment section, but this REALLY does relate so well :) xokp

  3. I can’t help but think of “Finding Nemo” and the little tune “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

    There are countless resources out there for guidance, direction, and encouragement, but no matter how much of that I might have it ultimately depends on my willingness to just do the work.

  4. CMM! “Just keep swimming” is my motto – and YES! This essay made me think of it too! LIZ! Such a good reminder today. Just in time. Shared. This. Everywhere. Amen!

  5. I also think that even as we wish for a manual, we should throw it out. Manuals limit us to someone else’s idea. Sharing along the way when we hit the speedbumps and ruts is so powerful.

    Thanks for the post.

  6. Thanks for this post, Liz, and for sharing the great video! It’s very timely for me. I’ve just gone back to a photo project that has been “resting” for a while…now that I have a wealth of new material and ideas, I’m finding that I’m having trouble executing. My enthusiasm is high but I feel like I’m fumbling! So I keep telling myself just one picture at a time, and to get all the ideas out on paper, and it WILL come together.

  7. Dear Liz, this post was right on! Being a beginner crafter I feel so much of what you say. Having a ton of ideas but frequently not being able to make them materialize with the quality and wow that I envision them in the first place. There are also times when I imagine something and feel it’s an amazing a-ha moment and that nobody has thought of it before but as soon as web searching of the day starts so the does the humbling down – someone HAS already thought of it and sometimes in an even better form. So these are the moments of feeling that I’m not as original as I thought and (almost) giving up the dozens of unfinnished works/ideas that lie around the creative space. But just then someone like you comes along and recycles all that initial enthusiasm that was on its way to the trash. And I’m a huge fan of recycling or – as I like to say – of recre(ativ)ating. Thanks so much for that

  8. Staying motivated and on track is always tough. When we first started trying to sell our work online, it didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t going to be an easy task. After several years, I’ve come to the conclusion that doing a little everyday is better than killing yourself and getting burned out.

  9. What I create (for the most part) is words. And to that end, I started a daily writing practice sometime back in May. It keeps me creating, keeps things flowing, and occasionally turns up a gem or two that turns into a bigger piece or project. I don’t always want to write in the morning – and sometimes I cut it shorter than my goal of 750 words – but I’m always grateful that I did, and I can tell the difference in my Self when I let it slide too long (like, more than two days). Having a regular practice that I stick to even when it’s crappy keeps me on track and moving.

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