Feeling Like Your Work is Not Good Enough?

Think about the people.

People watching art in a museum

Working is hard. It is incredibly hard when things are uncertain. Being creative is double, triple hard. Creative work is excruciating and emotionally taxing. If creating things up out of thin air is easy, everyone would be doing it. When we’re creating, we don’t know the results, how it will go. Mostly the things we make will fail, and when they fail, we think we fail (spoiler alert: this is not true).

Let’s all be honest here. Failure sucks, and it feels like a kick in the teeth sometimes. That’s why we don’t feel motivated when we’re being rejected; when our story doesn’t go viral and when no one likes our art. After all, we’re humans, and we need a little encouragement once in a while. This is the hardest part of being creative; when we painfully put a portion of our souls into a product, and people don’t like it, it hurts.

And there’s society as a whole telling us lies about how we’re not good enough, or these creative jobs will earn us no money, we get even more fearful. With the birth of social media, the outcomes of our work became little digits on the screens. Social media opens up the creative world, removing the gatekeepers; it pushes a mass amount of work, but it also resulted in a lack of quality control. Sometimes, popular work isn’t good. So we keep asking ourselves: is our work good? And what’s the point of doing anything if people don’t see it?

But our work does matter, even if 2 people “liked” it. It matters even when we don’t make any money from it. It matters to us, to our friends, and if we’re lucky, a stranger, somewhere in this world. Maybe the reason why people don’t like your work is because not enough of them have seen it. Creative work became more and more digital, it is now about the outcomes and not the journey. We only see the overnight accomplishment and not the sweats, blood, and tears along the way.

It takes 20 years to make an overnight success. — Eddie Cantor

In reality, creative success requires more than just talent and hard work. It also needs time, timing, and a lot of luck. But after rejections and rejections, after years of working hard and you still don’t think the work you’ve been doing has made a dent. In these moments, it’s easy to give up. In these moments, think about the people, use our own empathy to encourage us. Instead of checking the stats, which is unhelpful, imagine the numbers we see on the screens are the numbers of people whose hearts you’ve touched. You have 50 reads on your Medium post? Imagine those 50 people in the same room as you. That feels so much more encouraging, doesn’t it?

It is the same with any other creative ventures you’re on. Making art and your art reached 100 people? Imagine 100 people watching your art in a room instead. How many of those people may come up to you in real life and say “This is amazing!” if they have the chance? You never know who your work will touch, and when. Take your audience at their words, be opened enough to trust that people like our work. Use that and move forward.

Two ways to get people to notice your work:

1. Gamble for virality

This requires a breakthrough viral idea or spectacular work. Difficult to achieve, but possible.

2. Consistency

Show up every day and do something consistently for a long time, people will take notice.

— Tobias van Schneider

Being a creative person may require you to do more than just create. Building an audience is hard. It takes years. And you need an audience who likes your work to continue creating. We try to inspire our audience, but our audience also inspires us.

On the other hand, finding where you stand within your own creative space is extremely hard. It takes years of daily practice. The old saying is still valid; practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. What we need to do is to keep going, keep showing up to our work, and keep showing our result to the world. Brick by brick, eventually, will become a house.

And then, we forget why we even doubted ourselves in the first place.