Creativity and "not good enough"

I have caught myself being stuck with the “not good enough” feelings lately.

I’m not a good enough writer.

I’m not a good enough teacher.

I’m not a good enough friend.

I’m nowhere near good enough to do anything creative.

I have a friend who is in a similar head-space.

Getting myself out of that space feels impossible. I try to counter it, but the position that I’m in for right now (financially, emotionally, socially) seems to confirm it.

But trying to get my friend out of that space, and suddenly I’m all optimistic. I can see the good things in life for him, but not for myself. So, I find myself listening to what I say to him.

And it’s all true for me, too.

“It’s bad/hard right now, but in a few years, it will be better.”

“Yes, you can do that, I’m certain you can. Here, let me help you.”

“People care about you.”

“You are creative, and you can totally reach your creative goals. How can I help?”

The things I’m saying to him, to inspire him, are things I need to hear.

That’s interesting, I think. How often do we do that? Give advice to someone that is just what we need to hear?

I was researching something on optimism/pessimism, and came across this fantastic piece by Ira Glass (of This American Life on NPR). Watch it. . . Listen to it. . .

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

“Everybody who does interesting, creative work went through a phase of years where they had really good taste but they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have this . . . special thing. . . that we want it to have. Everybody goes through that; it’s totally normal. The most important thing you can do is a lot of work.”

 For some reason, this just really resonates with me.

I’ve told myself for years that if I was really a writer, then I would write more. But it all always sounds so stupid when I read stuff back later. It never feels “good enough” to share with others.

For years there are things I’ve wanted to do, started to outline to do, and just ended up saying, “I’m not as smart as dy/dan” or “I’m not as quirky as Havi Brooks (and her duck)” or “I’m not quite as upbeat as Leonie Dawson” or “I’m not as gutsy as Naomi Dumford.”

I’m not organized enough.

I’m not brave enough.

I’m not good enough.

I bought Havi Brooks’ Monster Manual (that’s a link to the description of the manual and coloring book, but if you’d like to buy it, please buy it through here. I just checked and the price has gone up quite a bit – it is now $60 for the basic kit, but I’m pretty sure I only paid $25) a couple of years ago to try to work through this particular Monster.

my coloring and notes

Havi calls this the:  

PUHleeeeeeze,everyone else is doing the thing you want to do better than you ever could so why even bother – really why are you still even thinking about this


Obviously, since I haven’t done much with it in almost three years, just looking at it and coloring it didn’t help me much.

But maybe I can do something now.

The recommended method of dealing with it is to say, “Ok, so what? What if that’s true?” and go from there. . . I think I need to meditate on that for awhile.

What holds you back from doing what you want to do?

11 thoughts on “Creativity and "not good enough"”

  1. Yeah, the not being good enough is a big thing. My mother is an artist. A wonderful painter. She picks up a piece of charcoal or a pencil and just…draws. She slaps on paint on a canvas, and it all looks fabulous.

    I used to love to paint, but nothing I did looks half as good as what she does. I draw, erase, draw again, and then give up. Haven't even done that recently. Maybe I need to talk to her about what her process was – she always says I have a ton of talent, but moms are supposed to say that, you know?

    Thanks for bringing this up and letting me chew on it.

  2. I've been struggling with this for a long time, with a lot of different things. Like how I always dismiss it when someone compliments me or something I've done.

  3. If one life has breathed easier from your existence, this is to have succeeded.

    Just give it some thought, and perhaps, realize, that your littlest actions can produce the largest results imaginable.

    Talent? Yeah, we each have one kicking around. Think it's not good enough? It never will be with that mind-set, yes?

    The challenge is not producing “something” from your talent. It's convincing yourself that your talent is worth pursuing, in light of all those who proceeded you in the same realm.

    When I was in the military, on board a boat, we had a problem with the Halon fire system. 15 offshore techs couldn't find the problem; even the system designers were at a loss. While underway, and troubleshooting the system, on a whim I decided to detach a Halon warning horn from the bulk head and hold it in my hand during the test. I took 115vac arm to arm during the test. Yeah, spent some time in sick bay, but I found the problem. An encased AC filter was shorting to ground when energized in the warning horns.

    I found the problem because I thought a bit outside the box.

    The box. That encompassing structure that is the limiting factor. Bust the box, and know success.

  4. What holds me back is fear of failure. One of the wonderful things DH does for me is encourage me to fail. Go ahead and do it and fall on my face. And each time I do that, I learn a little more that it isn't actually fatal. And if I get past the total ego-crushing acknowledgement that I *did* fail, I can usually see things I could have done better… but no longer in a “OMG I can't believe you screwed that up!” way, but a “gee, next time I could change it like this” way. I'm learning to be okay with being imperfect. Hell, everyone else has always known that about me. And some of them love me anyway. It's time to be as gentle with myself as everyone else is.

  5. Yeah, see, I've failed soooo many times. I dropped out of school three? four? five? times before I finally finished, and now I'm still repeating a class to finish up something that should have been done a year ago.

    I've failed at relationships.

    I didn't parent entirely the way I intended to, because I didn't have the energy.

    I've failed at jobs.

    I'm comfortable with failure – too comfortable.

    I don't know how to handle things when they go right! 🙂

    Trying to get over that.

  6. You know… I don't think 99% of the people I know would say they parented the way they'd intended to. And that other 1% has crappy kids that only they find wonderful.

    I think sometimes (granted, not always, but *sometimes*) you define something as a failure simply because it wasn't as good as it could have been. I think sometimes you're more comfortable with failure to the point where you think of things as a failure even when they weren't.

    My last job was one of the few I wasn't fired from… and mostly because my boss was too non-confrontational to do it.
    All my relationships failed except the current one (and isn't that true of everyone unless their partner died?)
    I entirely failed to *become* a parent. Though I wanted to.
    I dropped out of high school, dropped out of college after 1.5 semesters, and never did go back for any kind of degree.

    But I'm mostly comfortable with all that about myself. (Not the job part. That's just awful.) I don't think that means I'm comfortable with failure. I think I just don't view those things as failure. (Except the job part.) I view those as perfectly normal parts of being an imperfect human; sometimes I zigged when I should have zagged. And some of those choices negatively affected my life path. But… so what? I mean, I can't change it. I can learn from it but I won't let it define me. I won't dwell on it or beat myself up over it.

    I'm having trouble expressing myself well here. But I see you define yourself in many negative ways. And I think it not only isn't productive, but it isn't even true in any deep, meaningful way. Certainly no more true than all the positive things you aren't focusing on.

    Which I guess goes back to being more comfortable with failure. So comfortable that you prefer to think of your life that way.

    You finished school. You're taking classes again. You raised an awesome daughter. You are a much admired and respected tutor. You've lifted yourself out of depression and continue to take steps to fight against it.

    I define all that as success. I see YOU as successful in all those areas. (:sticking tongue out: And you can't stop me!)


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