These are the three problems with creative work.
The first is that when we begin, we’re not that good. This is a fact. The breakthrough for anyone on this journey is adding the word “yet.”
It doesn’t pay to pretend that we’ve figured it out before we have. It’s counterproductive to adopt a brittle attitude in the face of criticism. In fact, during this stage, “you’re not that good,” is precisely what we need to hear, because it might be followed with insight on how to get better.
The second is that once we start to build skills and offer something of value, some people are going to persist in believing that we’re not that good. Fine. They’ve told us something about themselves and what they want and need. This is a clue to offer our leadership and contribution to someone else, someone who gets what we’re doing and wants it. The smallest viable audience isn’t a compromise, it’s a path forward. Find the folks who are enrolled and open and eager. Serve them instead.
The danger is that when you hear rejection during this stage, you might come to believe that you’ve accomplished nothing, as opposed to realizing that you might simply be talking to the wrong people.
And the third comes full circle. Because it’s possible that in fact, we’re not that good yet, and there aren’t enough people who want what we’ve got. We’re simply not good enough for this part of the market. So we embrace that truth and begin at the beginning. We’re not good enough yet. We haven’t practiced enough, found enough empathy, understood the genre well enough and figured out how to contribute. Yet. At least for this audience.
And then we get better.
Sooner or later, these three problems become three milestones on the road to making a difference and doing work we’re proud of.