Updated: Apr 8, 2020
You are your own worst critic
The standards we set for ourselves are always far greater than that which we expect from others. Perhaps it connects to our judgements, and our innate fears of being judged by others? Like it or not, you are a judgemental person; so am I. To a certain degree, I feel that those who are so uptight about criticising people who are judgemental, are those who do not accept that it's OK to be judgemental, that it's a natural human quality that simply cannot be avoided, and that truthfully, they have judgemental thoughts about others all the fucking time. We love the artists we love because we think they're exceptional at what they do, they please us with their work and their ability to create and produce. So when we create things ourselves, we use these external influences as a sort of benchmark for quality...Our influences inspire us, but also set the bar for what we need to achieve, readily forgetting all the trial and error that got them there in the first place. I remember when I was a kid, I used to doodle, like all kids...Randomly, I remember drawing a picture of 'space' on the kitchen counter one day. I drew some basic stars, and coloured the rest of the page black...Probably depleting the ink in my felt tip. My brother walked past, and I said "What do you think of this?" "It's really good!" he says, being the naturally supportive older brother... "Really?" "Yeah!" "But is it though?" "...Yeah?" "Are you being honest?" "...Yes!" "What do you really think?" "I don't know, it's shit, what do you want me to say?!" ...I knew it was shit, he knew it was shit, but we encourage those we care about, because we want them to succeed. I mean clearly I was just being an obnoxious kid, but there you go. When it comes to creation, we want to be good enough to make others happy. It's not enough to satisfy our own passions, other people need to enjoy it too to sate our ego. Thinking about influence and inspiration, there's a certain level of jealousy that comes with those we admire. We like them, and the things we do, and we want to be like them. Creation and influence comes in part from replication, taking the things we like and enjoy, and adapting them upon our own machinations.
But there's always something missing...
We want to be better!
All those things we think and feel when we watch our favourite film, or listen to our favourite song, or read our favourite book...That's what we want to achieve in others when we create. So the bar is set unreasonably high, that it needs to be better than something, or someone, else. The problem is, we will never know if we incur those feelings upon others with the things we manifest...So, unconsciously, we being to expect to feel those things from the things we create ourselves.
Stands to reason, that this can become a difficult blocker to overcome. We'll start projects, songs, maybe write a chapter or two towards a book idea...Maybe write a script, or start filming some video with a view to edit, and either never finish, or never publish.
"I want to do it, but I want it to be really fucking good."
Of course you do, you want to be proud of what you've accomplished, but you have to remember that the only person who truly needs to be proud of it, is yourself. If you're starting out, you're probably gonna be bad...There will inevitably be a lot of things wrong, missed, or not as refined in the first few attempts. A lot of people will tell you, at least when it comes to developing music, that collaboration is important. When you work together with other artists, you instinctively know that they're on a similar psychological wavelength, and it becomes easier to trust in their suggestions for improvement towards a unified project.
Though, that doesn't work for everyone, you want your project to not only be great, but yours, so you exclude everyone, and work in solitary until you create that masterpiece that you're certain exists somewhere inside of you.
Without a realistic view of quality, inclusive of the acceptance that early projects will always be subject to improvement, you'll probably never improve. Feedback and review is important when it comes to development of your abilities and your creations.
Gordon Ramsey didn't get good at cooking by trial and error in his own kitchen.
It stands to reason, that when we create in our own space, we might stop and think "Shit, that's good." But we might be unprepared to publish it, or when we do, and receive a lack of perceptively positive feedback, that something is wrong with it...But without knowing what, you could very well end up in a hamster wheel. Creating content of an equivalent calibre to our previous attempts, except with each iteration, we actually consider ourselves to be either getting worse, or perhaps that our work is the same as before. Collaboration is not essential, or necessary. It's a tool that has the potential to create better work, and also provide a buffer to our own notions of quality, but it comes with compromise, and you won't be able to do it until you are able to think more realistically about your own work. I'm speculating, but I reckon there's a lot of famous artists out there who aren't happy with some of the things they've done, or think there are things they could have done better...The difference between you and them is that they have people behind them who can view their work more objectively. You will never do anything if you want to be hot shit...In your own eyes, you and your work will never be good enough. When a song lyric is a metaphor for your true feelings, it's not your true feeling, and therefore, not good enough. Lower the bar...Understand that there is always room for improvement. Publish your work and be happy and proud that you simply did it. It's out there. Somebody, somewhere, will enjoy it, and if it has any sort of impact on at least one person, then allow yourself to agree that it's worth it. Accept that one piece of writing, music, video, hell even this blog post, might make someone else feel those things you feel about your influences and inspirations, and that from that point, you can also improve. You are not perfect, you never will be, and if you attempt your creative endeavours with the aspirations of perfection, you will inevitably fail. Perfection leaves no room for improvement...So instead, think of your work as stepping stones.
Create ---> Evaluate ---> Improve