Do you hate what you create? Then this is for you. For me, it all started when I got curious about my voice, and as a result, this is my take on finding your creative voice.
Do you have a creative voice?
Not just a voice, but uniquely, stunning, very own YOU? Do you recognise your beautiful self within your works? Are you truly, madly in love with what you do?
I confess: I have been unable to use my voice for years and years. And I hated my work since forever. I’ve battled what must have been the most massive creative block possible. I’m still experimenting today, but as you can see (read), things do come into existence from under my hands now.
I’d hoped for THE breakthrough for a long time. Instead – especially in hindsight – it’s been a gradual trickling of insights. It’s the path from copycat to unique creator, but unfortunately, it’s a lot less fancy than it sounds.
Yes, I am the perfect copycat and it doesn’t help.
Since a very young age, I’ve learnt to perfect my copy skills. Copying meant fitting in safely. People expected, liked and rewarded it. Until today, it works like a charm: Someone sets me a goal and all I have to do is to run and fulfil it. “Please create the following thing that meets those twenty criteria.” The more impossible it seems, the more excited I get to tackle it. And I’m brilliant at it.
And yet, turns out I pay dearly for the skill. To copy perfectly, I had to bury what’s actually me. Deeply. So when my desire grew to create something on my own, I ran into a serious problem: I couldn’t. I failed, over and over. I would write, draw, talk – again and again, and hate it. Vary the style, the audience, the amount of facts, opinions and story in it, the additional cartoon/graphic/video. Everything. Not enough.
… Or I would look for inspiration to find out what was missing. Read someone brilliant’s text. Love it and think THAT’s the thing I’d been looking for. I’d set out to write my own – and of course, it sounds like this other person’s text. And all I found within myself was resistance, disgust and disappointment. It doesn’t sound like me. It sounds like her. Neat, but devoid of my personality. Hello, Mister Creative Block, nice to see you again?!
I went through creative hell. I really, deeply started to doubt I’d be able to create at all. How come I could do pretty much any sort or style of text/video/graphic, but I always hated it?
The (un)expected solution: Who I am is how I write.
Last year, I got the gift of an incredible coaching intensive. I gave the guys the perfect performance – of course – and they asked the one question I needed: “Now, that was too easy. What’s behind it?” I had a breakdown. I think I realised for the first time I hadn’t allowed myself to be myself in countless areas. My humour is a bit eccentric. Remove. My ideas are wild. Kill. My wit is scary. Delete. Equalise. Copy!
While I might not quite be able to pass on this very experience, I can and will still share my insights that finally lead me to fall in love with my own work.
1. Find YOUR language. (Hint: This is hard!)
I’m not necessarily talking words here. It can be a brush type, a style of videoing, whatever. Go crazy and allow yourself to experiment. Be unattached to the outcome! Look at it as if it was meant to be a really weird result. Celebrate the weirdo in you (YES, we all have it!!). Then, keep the things you liked, discard the rest. If it seems edgy to own, you’re getting closer. Do not act as if someone else is going to see it ever. Use swear words, just because. Make up words! And never EVER read any advice about how “the perfectly performing blogpost/video/…” is supposed to look like. It’ll fuck you up, 100% promise.
Also: It took me forever to find my own language, because I didn’t realise it’s been there all along. It’s not spectacular (as you might have realised by now). But it’s me. It’s a mix of weird humour, straightforwardness, smartassery (is that a word? Speaking of it à), probably add some incorrect English, embarrassingly revealing the non-native. Some talk about myself and some about you. Some genuine deep desire to pass what’s going on over here, because it might serve over there. Which brings me to number two:
2. Find YOUR story. (Hint: This is even harder!)
For a long time, I hated everything I produced. Even when the language got better, I still thought the content was shit! Imagine producing something, giving all you have, then you turn around, look at it and all you feel is deep, helpless disgust. Ugh! The crucial thing there. I’d always done it for my audience. AND (ok, two crucial things): I’d not tell a story or “be me” because I thought this had any innate value. Rather I’d always set out to prove a point. Look for ways to spread all the knowledge crammed in my head.
Not adding value. Not me. Just “one more piece about xyz” with a bit of flavour. I often asked myself how I could think my texts or videos to be somewhat egomaniac AND sounding like coming from someone with severe helper’s syndrome the same time. Today I’ve got the answer: I wasn’t ever truly vulnerable, e.g. sharing stuff I didn’t quite have the answer for. Or being really honest about potentially unpopular stuff, like how much of what I know about great leadership I owe my animals. And instead of passing on my experiences and insights, and let people figure out their own solution, I’d push a solution on them.
Ultimately, it’s not so unlike the language part: Live and tell your story as if no one is going to see or hear it ever.
3. It’s a gradual, slow and sneaky thing.
In hindsight I really wish I’d known this, because one of the very hardest thing for me was that I never seemed to get it. I thought I’d finally got it, I’d finally progressed beyond the threshold. I’d finally be able to create without this enormous amount of pain and fear underneath. The fear of my own disgust – again! No one was there to tell me: Yes, you do have got an important piece now, but you may need to keep going for quite a while longer until you’ll love what you create. And you might never love all of it. Or it changes. You change. And that’s okay! And normal!
If I’d been able to look at my texts free of emotion and expectations, I’d probably gotten it months ago, if not years: What was it that repulsed me again? What exactly? Let’s work it out, improve the bit and continue.
So, if there’s any advice I’d love to shove on you, it’s the following: If you’re anything like me, with this crazy idea in your head that you want to fall in love with what you create: It’s hard, it sucks, and all you can do is to give it (lots of) time, never give up and – most of all – be okay with repeatedly sucking, not getting it, starting over. Part of the process. Part of life.
Who knows, this might be my first article I won’t unpublish again! Thanks for reading – and let me know if you are embarking on that quest on finding YOUR creative voice, I’d love to hear about it!