My Advice: Conquering creative doubt

By Andrea McArthur CWC My Advice Creative Doubt Have you experienced the voice that creeps in – asking you: What if? What if it doesn't work out, what if people don't like what I've done, what if this is less than perfect? But what if you could be more courageous and positive, then you could accomplish your goals, be happier and even more creative. Today, we ask three CWC Members for their advice when it comes to conquering doubt in your creative work, projects and life.

Kate James, Career and Life Coach, Total Balance


Kate James

Every creative person I’ve ever worked with has told me they experience days filled with self-doubt. Ironically, it’s often the people with exceptional talent who are afflicted most.

When you’re going through a patch of creative doubt, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, it’s completely normal and it does pass. You just need to make sure it doesn’t become an excuse to sabotage your practice or give up on your dreams. Try these tips to help you over a creative hump.

Make space in your life Sometimes this is easier said than done, particularly if you’re balancing parenting with work. If possible, clear your diary for a day and give yourself time to rest and to breathe. Revisit your ‘to do’ list to work out your real priorities and give yourself time to recharge. A little bit of rest will do wonders for your creativity.

Move your body, get into nature Get away from your desk, your computer or your studio and out into nature. Take a walk, go for a swim or just lie on the grass and look up at the trees. Let your mind move away from your creative challenges and as best you can, be completely in the moment.

Stop comparing yourself It’s not helpful to look through Instagram and compare your life with the lives of others. It may look like people are doing way more interesting things than you but remember, even those who look enormously happy and successful from the outside have days of self-doubt too.

Keep at it Once you’ve given yourself some breathing space, get back to your craft as quickly as you can. Break your bigger goals into manageable little chunks so you can tick one thing off your list today. This will feel like an achievement in itself.

Don't let self-belief come second Self-belief is a by-product of behaviour, which means you don’t need to wait until you’re confident to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone - just keep doing and the confidence will eventually come.

Elizabeth Geddes, Creative Director and Copywriter, Chops for Tea


Liz Geddes

There's always an answer, and often it's right there in the [project] brief.

Perhaps your doubt comes from the feeling of wandering aimlessly with no direction because the brief is non-existent, woolly or too generic. A good brief gives you boundaries, a measuring stick and finish line all in one. When starting a project, at the very minimum get your brief in writing in an email from your client. Or, after a conversation, write the brief yourself, email it to the client and get them to acknowledge it. With a brief you can prove you have answered what the client has asked for. Plus, if you have no written contract with your client then the brief is justification for getting paid.

As for how creative the solution is depends on the creativity, aesthetics and bravery of you, the client, and people higher up the client's chain of command. Always make sure that the person giving the final approval has signed off on the brief (and the costs!) before you even start.

I'm about the idea first, execution second. You can put lipstick on a pig but that's not fooling anyone. So here's the crux: and it's something I heard Siimon Reynolds say on one of those Andrew Denton TV shows in the 80s. Siimon was a creative director (famously of Grey at only 21) and so dealt in advertising concepts. For a brief he would exhaust his well of ideas — say 100+ concepts. Then he'd dig some more. It's about getting all the expected stuff out of your head first so it doesn't rattle around, and allows the more obscure stuff to be mined.

Another thing Siimon said was use a dictionary (or any book really). Open a page, randomly take a word and build an appropriate concept around it. I still do this to this day. My favourite projects are naming jobs. A combination of the Macquarie dictionary, Roget's thesaurus, serendipity and diving head first down rabbit holes from the Google search results page always gets me the right answer, and the confidence I need to quash any doubts that I'm not on the right track.

Kate Taylor, Business Owner and Creator, Taylor and Cloth


Kate Taylor

Just create!

I find the best way to conquer creative doubt is to just create! I know that not everything I make will be good enough to blog about or sell, but that's not what it's about for me anyway. I love making things and using my creative brain. I enjoy actively trying to come up with ideas and then taking the time to nut them out. If the ideas work and I'm happy with the outcome, then great! If not, but I really want the idea to work, I'll talk to my Mum. She’s an old school maker! She crochets like a demon and we both get seriously excited about craft. So if the idea is good but it's not working out like I hoped, talking about it with her will always lead to an outcome, either we find a solution, create a better idea or we leave it! In which case I just put it away and try not to stress about it.

All creative ideas are relevant and more often than not they lead to others. For me its about the ideas that come while you are busy working on something. It can start off as one thing and then you have an idea that takes you in completely different direction and you love that idea so much more than the first.

To break it down my advice for conquering creative doubt is as follows:

1. The best way to conquer creative doubt is to just create! 2. Don't worry about the outcome, focus on the creative journey and watch one idea turn into more. 3. Surround yourself with creative people or find a creative person you can bounce ideas off. 4. Its ok to get feedback (read: personal cheer squad) as long as deep down you are happy with what you have created. 5. Make creating the goal rather than focusing on the outcome. 6. Above all, don’t forget to have fun.

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Thank you ladies for sharing your own experiences and tips for conquering creative self-doubt.

Andrea McArthur (www.andyjane.com) has a passion for all things visual and works as an Art Director and Designer for the Brisbane Festival. Design is her true love and she goes weak at the knees over strategic branding. You’ll find her sharing on Instagram @andyjanemc.

My Advice: The biggest lesson from 2014…

my-advice-lessons-from-2014-andrea-mcarthur-creative-womens-circle By Andrea McArthur

Now that we are well into 2015, I thought I'd ask three creatives - Heleena Arabatzis, Textile Print Artist of Ulterior Motif; Bec Mutch, Coworking space founder of The Cowork Collective; and Ilona Topolcsanyi, Ceramic Artist of Cone 11 - for their ultiamte piece of  business advice based on what they experienced and learned in 2014.

Heleena Arabatzis, textile print artist, Ulterior Motif


Heleena Arabatzis Upon reflection, 2014 was certainly a lesson-filled year. My top lesson learned was one surrounding ‘working life’. Like most creative’s starting out, the path is pebbled usually in the same pattern: graduate, intern, full time gig, do what you really love on the side, juggle both roles, hope that your talents are taken seriously enough you can ditch the 'PAYG job' and focus on the 'love job' for the rest of your days.

Finding the core thing that I actually wanted to do for the rest of my life, and realising that I wasn’t fit for the ‘common’ path was simultaneously liberating & daunting… as was revealing this to my family, partner & boss.

[I surmised] my career intents are not based on world domination, the masses, the high-rise climb, the trends etc, [and this] manifested an honest search for answers to restore feeling where numbness unwilling resided. After several quiet moments, I effortlessly refined it to three elements: Motherhood, Travel and Creation. The first two are still works in progress but getting back to practising the act & art of creating happened to be a swifter one. I left my textile art-room assistant PAYG job to jet off. As a way of procuring extra savings, I went to market with my Ulterior Motif designs, all made as part my graduation showcase. To my complete amazement, Ulterior Motif products were ver well received by local audiences! It truly is the height of satisfaction interacting with others and just exploring an artistic spin on the world (even if it is just displayed on a cushion). [This experience] has ultimately grounded my feet… for now…

Finally, with a new found view on (working) life, I plan on having the most fruitful creative year in 2015!

Bec Mutch, founder of The Cowork Collective


Bec Mutch

It’s funny, when you start something new, naivety can be your greatest friend. That boundless positivity it delivers, helping you block out all the naysayers, gloss over the doubts and the voices in your head that whisper of disaster. Without it I’m not sure many of us would launch new projects at all. And so we start, we plan and take steps and commit, and our positivity and naivety feeding us along the way.

At some point though our vision generally gets a battering, and we are faced with a reality that we may not like and a choice to give up or keep going. I distinctly remember sitting alone at 421 Lygon St on a day when I thought we might need to give up the lease and walk away. I was filled with anger and frustration that my grand vision [of a unique coworking space] was imploding. I wondered what I’d do next if it did all fall apart, and knew that nothing had changed. I still wanted to create a space that felt positive, inspiring and supportive that blended together the best elements of working from home, a corporate office and a creative studio.

So I kept going, and my family and friends kept offering their support, and I began meeting amazing people whose ideas and encouragement gave me reasons to believe it might all be worth it. The doors opened on December 1st 2014, six months after the lease was signed and the renovation budget had tripled. Although there were times when the adventure felt like a relentless chore, I still knew I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Giving myself permission to do something I really wanted to do was one thing. Sticking with it when things got ugly was a revelation. Now I want to shout from the rooftops that it’s so worth it. That even though the roadblocks and challenges along the way may leave you drowning in waves of doubt, if you keep going you’ll end up in a place far better than the one you first imagined.

If you’ve got the dream, you’ve got what it takes to bring it to life. Just keep going…

Ilona Topolcsanyi, Ceramic Artist of Cone 11


Ilona Topolcsanyi

For Cone 11 ceramics, 2014 was a year of great beginnings as we developed relationships with some of Australia’s most passionate and renowned chefs. Early in the year we were asked to make an exclusive collection of one-off plates for the Harvest Festival curated by The Gallery of Modern Art, where top chefs including Peter Gilmore, Josh Lopez, James Viles, Dan Hunter and Ryan Squires used our tableware to plate up their amazing creations. From this arose a series of major collaborations that would see us developing tableware for restaurants across Australia. The most significant of these (I’m chuffed to say…) was the making of 250 pieces for the G20 working party dinner at the Gallery Of Modern Art in QLD. Yes - Barack Obama himself has eaten dinner off my plate!

It was an exciting and prosperous year for us and many of these projects are gently flowing on into 2015. With the excitement of these commissions comes a little stress, a lot of hard work, many failures but an even greater number of successes with many valuable lessons learnt along the way. The most important for me were learning about setting some limits, knowing when to say 'no', understanding my boundaries and estimating how much work can realistically be taken on without burning out. Above all I developed a new appreciation for leaving time for a little personal creative play – keeping myself in touch with the love of what I do and the passion that drove me into this creative practice in the first place.

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Andrea McArthur (www.andyjane.com) has a passion for all things visual and works as an Art Director and Designer in Brisbane. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over strategic design. You’ll find her sharing on Instagram @andyjanemc.