encouragement

positive

Whether you’re still holding strong to your New Years commitment, or you’re just trying to be a committed person in general, your attitude will have a major impact on the results.

Some say attitude is everything. I don’t think I’d go that far, but it is super important.

The way you feel about a thing or task has a big impact on how you treat it. If keeping to that low-carb diet seems impossible, you won’t do it. If you don’t think you can become a better pickleball player, you probably won’t. But if you look at such activities and habits with a hopeful, expectant attitude then you’ll likely stick to them and improve.

The sage words from Diamond Dallas Page in his yoga video series keep forcing their way in my thoughts,

“If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Just after that, the venerable DDP turns and looks straight into the camera (I mean, your soul) and says, “Come on, you can do this!”

You know what, he’s got a point, even if his coaching methods are a bit cheesy. Then again, he’s buff and healthy, so he probably knows what he’s talking about.

When it comes to animals and children, positive reinforcement has often shown to be a more effective training method than the negative version. It helps to catch them doing the right thing and heap on the praise and treats. 

Don’t bother with cats though, they just do whatever the heck they want. No amount of catnip can get them to dance Merengue. Trust me on this.

Rewards and encouragement are a solid path to good actions getting repeated. But how often do we shut ourselves down with our own negative self talk?

“It’s too hard”

“I’ll never get there”

“It’s not worth the effort”

“I’m just not good enough”

I’ve caught myself saying these more often than I’d like to admit. The problem is, these statements only become truthful because we repeat them until we believe them.

It’s time to replace such statements with something more helpful.

“It’s worth a try”

“I can only get better”

“At least I can give it my best”

“I can do this”

Can these statements enable us to do humanly impossible things like jump to the moon? Well, no. But wait … no, still no.

However, they can change our attitude toward what is possible and get us to jump higher and farther than we ever believed we could. You just can’t know your limits until you try and push them.

What creative effort have you talked yourself out of? Why not give yourself a little positive pep talk (and surround yourself with encouraging friends) then try again? Where will it take you? You’ll never know until you try. 

Come on, I’m positive you can do this!

comparison

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There’s a lyric from one of my favorite bands which goes, “I am haunted by my love for comparison, my fascination with a single common theme.”

Why is it we love to compare so much? Is it because it gives us a standard of judgement? Does it comfort us to look down on people we believe we are better than? Does it help us determine differences and similarities?

Yes, all those and more. But comparison can be a tricky thing, especially when we compare ourselves to others.

Comparison is like a cactus: juicy on the inside, but painful when handled without caution.

It can challenge us to try harder, but it can also weigh us down with impossible burdens. 

Just think about the woman who suffers from an eating disorder based on an obsession with her physical appearance. She believes her body must look like the ones on magazine covers (most of which are Photoshopped and fake) in order to be beautiful.

How about the guy who gets pumped up on steroids in so he can out-perform his peers or look more “manly” at the beach. Comparison can become a deadly trap, a spiral staircase winding down and down.

Parents are prone to compare their child to a sibling or neighbor kid, “Why can’t you be more like Susie or Jonny?” Such talk is more damaging than it is encouraging; it sends their child the message of inferiority, that there is something inherently wrong within them. Hardly motivational.

Comparison can also be a creativity killer.

If you feel you must produce work on par with the greats, you’re going to be sorely disappointed when your first attempts look a two year old’s Jackson Pollock food splatter and less like a Rembrandt. In fact, you may just give up before getting very far.

When it comes to feeding our hunger for comparison, the internet doesn't help either. 

The availability of so much high-level content can be great for inspiration, but a downer for competition. It's not hard to find a near endless supply of incredible photos, websites, outfits, designs, music, etc. that seem eons better than the content you're currently producing.

One of the problems with comparison is how unrealistic of an approach it can be. When I view someone else’s final outcome after years practice and learning, but believe I should be able to do the same kind of work instantly, I am deceived.

When I take a person with an exceptional quality, one which may only show up once in a generation, and believe anything less on my part is worthless, I give myself unhealthy expectations. 

Everyone simply can’t be as good as the best person out there. The best by definition is the only one on that level. 

The same can happen when I hold others to my own standards without understanding their particular challenges and abilities, I become proud and devalue them.

However, we can also use healthy comparison to drive ourselves to try harder and discover better practices. I can compare my own performances in order to beat my personal best. I can study from the methods of the best runners or most successful writers and learn how to improve my own techniques. 

Comparison either lifts up or pushes down.

The question to ask is, what result does the comparison produce? Does it bring encouragement, leading to improvement? Or does it cause me to desire something I am not and think less of myself or others?

progress

One key factor I’ve found in every game I’ve enjoyed is a sense of progress. As time passes, the player becomes stronger, better equipped, more resourceful, more capable, and just plain better. 

There is one game I can think of with an exception. In the mobile game Sword & Sworcery, your character actually loses total health points through the adventure, due to increased exhaustion. It’s an interesting twist, but even though your character, the Scythian, becomes weaker and more easily defeated, she still progresses in other ways such as learning songs, unlocking new areas of the map, and defeating powerful triangles (no joke).

Without progress, I imagine a game would get dull quickly, since you'd just be doing the same thing over and over with little change. It’s like getting stuck in a grind.

Progress is the evidence that our efforts produce results.

Ok, we’ve talked about games, now back to the Bat Cave, umm, I mean, creativity

What does progress look like for the creative? It’s a steady shift toward improvement. It could be getting better at a skill, like painting or playing piano. It may be gaining further understanding of how something works, such as a circuitboard, or building a connection with another creative person of influence. It might be learning more about a problem, such as why a town’s water source has become contaminated.

Anything that allows you more opportunity to practice creativity is progress.

But here’s the rub (is it just me, or are we both thinking of a delicious dry-rub on some tender barbecue meats right now? Oh, it’s just me, right) progress can be slow. Sometimes it can feel like you’ve put in many, many hours into a particular creative pursuit, like balloon animals, and you still only know how to make a wiener dog. All the while, the bunny remains hopelessly out of your grasp (in a very real sense).

Yes, it can be frustrating when progress is slow and you feel no better today than yesterday or even last week, but I’ve found as long as you stick to a goal with determination, you will eventually get there. It’s only when you stop trying that progress (and that elusive bunny balloon) becomes unobtainable. There is something valuable I've learned about progress:

Slow progress beats no progress every time.

Much like the Scythian from Sword & Sworcery, we are faced with setbacks and weakness, such as sickness or the effects of aging, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to make creative progress. I urge you, press onward and, at last, that bunny of progress will be yours. Then you can move on to something like this. That may be a very high bar to reach for. Hey, just take it one step (or balloon) at a time.

 

Creatively yours,

A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, have you been frustrated by a lack of progress? What was your response? Let us know in the comments below.

 

set and forget

Here is some advice I’ve been giving myself lately (side-note, do you ever do that, give yourself advice because you know it’s good but you’re not great at implementing it?): set it and forget it.

Following the launch of this site, I’ve been more active on social media. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I sense a few dangers from such platforms. It’s very easy to fall into a trap of constantly checking posts and the like in search of validation, looking for approval from every like and comment to follow. This can get unhealthy fast, regardless of how well-received your offering is.

I’m often reminded of the very end of the movie, “The Social Network” where we leave a movie version of Mark Zuckerberg as he is constantly hitting refresh on his Facebook page in hopes of a reply from an old flame. The sad irony is, he’s become a slave of his own invention, he’s just like the rest of us.

My other unfortunate habit is to obsess over something before putting it out there for the world to see. Yes, I'm a recovering perfectionist. The thing about perfection and wanting to appear perfect is it gets in the way of completion. As copywriter Ray Edwards puts it:

"Done is better than perfect because perfect never gets done."

Besides that, a perfection obsession can lead us to a place where we aren't being real anymore but instead just trying to make ourselves look good. We convey to the world a false image of who we really are. But people can't get to know and care about a fake you (well, they can, but they won't know the real you this way).

So, my solution is simple: set it and forget it. When you post anything, just let it be for a while. Turn off the notifications and just let it sit out there, riding the high waves of the interwebs (or however it works). Give the world a chance to take it in instead of smothering it with even more time and attention.

I’ve found this practice helpful beyond social media. In a broader respect:

Let your creative work go.

Don’t cling so tightly to your inventions that you are unwilling to release them to the world. And when you do release your creative doves from their creative coops, don’t let your concern for other’s reactions cloud your experience. Like the witch from Oz, you must cry, “fly my pretties, fly!” and then, without another blink, turn your back on them.

This is not always easy. After all, those babies were ours. We raised them, nurtured them, cared for them from the nest, and now must we release them into the cold, cruel world? But yes, it must needs be so (or is it needs must, help me out here Shakespeare).

When it comes down to it, there are two things I’m most scared of when I put something on the internet:

  1. No one will see it
  2. Everyone will see it

The first terrifies me because I fear what I’m doing doesn’t matter, that it will go ignored and unnoticed. No one really cares what I have to say. The second, because I worry people will finally see the real me and not accept me for who I am. The struggle is real, people. And I know I’m not alone in this.

So I encourage you, keep making, keep doing new things and when it’s time to release them to the public, let them stand or fall on their own feet (or fly on their own wings). Let your validation come from the quality you put into the work itself. Get your advice from the people closest to you, the ones you don’t have to prove yourself to, not from any random Joe or Sally who knows how to type words on the internet.

If you don’t have people like those in your life (mentors and friends), it’s time to start creatively building a few deep and real relationships with people who are willing to spend the time it takes to know you. It’s time to find a tight group of like-minded folks who have your back. And if you just need a little encouragement, I’d be glad to give it. I’m proud of you people and I want to know about every little creative project you’ve got in store, because if it’s creative, it matters. If it’s important to you, it’s important to me.

 

Creatively yours,
A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, do you ever have a hard time letting your creativity go? What have you done to overcome the struggle? Let us know in the comments below.