This semester, I am finally beginning to produce work that I both like and feel proud of. FINALLY.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit to you my confidence has been rather unstable lately, bending and wavering with the biting winds of this cold, soul-crushing winter. As I attempt to rectify my inexperienced design skills with a curly head filled with big ideas and a taste level that doesn’t quite rise to the level of my work, I get frustrated. Excruciatingly frustrated. Sometimes I force myself to watch E! True Hollywood Story to realize I am being overdramatic ( shocking, I know ) and need to let that shit go. You can always count on Lindsay Lohan to set a girl straight.
On the cusp of 30, I am coming to know that I am not defined by the work I do, even though we live in a world that tends to act otherwise ( What’s your name? Holly. And what do you do? Well, I’m glad you asked because the total sum of my life’s actions can be encompassed by my job title ). Obsessing about the outcome of my work only takes away from the joy of the creative process and the reason why I do work at all. To create. The fact is sometimes my shit will be great. Sometimes my shit will suck. Other times, perhaps most times, my shit will be good enough.
Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
Real truth from the lovely Dear Sugar.
But I’m never getting to great if I don’t keep doing the work. Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity puts it far more eloquently than I, “If you want it to be better, then you’ve got to show up and do your part of the deal. OK. But if you don’t do that, you know what, the hell with it. I’m going to keep writing anyway because that’s my job. And I would please like the record to reflect today that I showed up for my part of the job.”
Throughout this semester, I’ve committed myself to showing up. To working without pretense, to engaging in the design process, and to learning and exploring new mediums and techniques. One of my recent experiments has been with gouache, a watercolor-like paint that’s both ethereal and gritty, depending on how you work with it. For one of my classes, I am developing an entire brand for a vegan restaurant ( !!! ) using black gouache. The two images above are both part of the restaurant’s new look.
It may be great. It may totally suck. Or it may be just good enough. Either way, I am going to be proud of myself.
And something tells me Lindsay Lohan will be too.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
― Ira Glass