How to Feel Accomplished When You Think Everything You Do is Garbage

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

An artist spends the whole day creating and then at the end….they hate everything they did!

Haha! Hilarious right?

Ok, not funny. But if you do any sort of creative work, it sure is relatable.

Everyone has bad days, and creative people are no exception. The only difference between an employee that wasted a day versus a creative is that at the end of the day, the employee still gets paid. Creatives get to look back at the wasted potential of our day and wonder why they didn’t just take that job in sales.

A day without a feeling of accomplishment gets me one day closer to thinking the entire thing is going to come crumbling down around me. And one day…THE CAGE COMES DOWN!

Luckily, I’ve become aware of the fact that this is just a part of the creative cycle. It’s similar to the business cycle. The business cycle can be a rollercoaster ride of massive sales and success. One day you’re riding high. The next day you’re struggling to make your credit card bill.

But you know what, it’s just a ride. What goes up, must come down. And what goes down, comes back around.

It’s just a ride.

Creativity is circular. Sometimes it’s easy and you enjoy the work. Sometimes it’s painful and you hate it. When you hate it, every little thing causes you anxiety. You’d rather do nothing than endure more doubt about your work. Or, at the very most, consume somebody else’s creative work instead. Consuming instead of creating is the ultimate silencer of doubts.

Having a day job with expectations and work you can finish is an interesting contrast to the creative cycle. The creative cycle doesn’t have an end goal. There is no finish line. You might finish a piece of work, but then what? “What’s next?” comes up as soon as you’re done.

A Day in the Life of a Creative

For instance, let’s talk about the creative slump I had this week. Take the day before I wrote this article.

I woke up, meditated and went for a run. I scheduled some emails to go out to my newsletter subscribers and then sat down to write my quota for the day. I published that article as this article here: Inspiration is for Losers, Try This to Boost Your Creativity Instead.

From there I did a shitty first draft of an article about podcasting. Shitty firsts drafts are better than a blank page so I left it at that. My word count for the day was reaching 2,000 so I thought that was acceptable and moved onto other things.

In the afternoon, I worked on a couple mixes for bands. Then, my studio partner came over to review a video project we’re working on that helps home studio musicians record with microphones. This paragraph is potentially the most confusing to you if you’re not an audio engineer, and that’s ok. Substitute all the words you didn’t understand in the previous few sentences with “tangentially creative projects.”

Afterwards, I finished Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday and got halfway through Growth Hacker Marketing, by the same author. I ended the work day by creating a new sales page for my best-selling eBook, Step By Step Mixing. (Hint: if you didn’t understand that audio production paragraph above, you will 100% hate that book).

Why am I telling you all this?

Overall, I’d say my workday was fairly productive. Progress was made and there was some output to show for it. And yet, I hated every minute of it.

However, there’s a lesson I can pass on to you, and it’s this:

Because of the erratic nature of creative projects, you must prepare for the slump. Even though I know that I accomplished things on a particular day, there’s no guarantee that I’ll feel like I did so.

For instance, I’m writing a lot of these Medium articles because I’m in between bookwriting. I haven’t decided on my next project yet because I don’t know whether I should keep writing about audio or switch to the broader subject of “creativity.” In the meantime, the writing muscle needs flexed.

Ergo, articles.

That’s what’s next. Today. And tomorrow. And the next. Until I find the next big project.

It makes me wonder if the creative slump of doubt is because I’m not focused on a bigger project and a long-term goal.Without a long term goal, every day becomes a sprint instead of a marathon.

Sprints go full speed until you’re done. Marathons take longer and you can spread out your bursts of intensity. Without long-term goals, every day is a sprint to a non-existent finish line.

Without pacing yourself and focusing on the long-term goal and the big picture, you’ll run yourself to death.

At any rate, if you intend to do anything creative with your life, know that you will face the creative slump. It will make the day suck. It will make you doubt everything you’ve done. It will make you believe that you’ve wasted all this time for nothing.

Fortunately, there’s an easy cure to get back on track. It’s called awareness. It’s realizing that this too shall pass, and you will be fine in the morning. At that point you need to disconnect, decompress and get a good night’s sleep.

The cycle will reset tomorrow.

And if for some reason it takes a little longer, don’t worry.

It’s just a ride.

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Bjorgvin Benediktsson

Bjorgvin Benediktsson

I write about music, creativity, and entrepreneurship. My new book, You Get What You Give, is out now. Grab it here: https://geni.us/YGWYG

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