If you’ve ever created anything, you know what it’s like to feel like it’s not good enough. As you’re outlining and typing, or taping and painting, or cutting and hammering, or chopping and measuring and mixing, or lining up the shot and checking the lighting, there’s a voice in the back of your head going through the list of everything that’s wrong with your creation. Look at this, it says. Look at all the things you did wrong here. Who’s going to want this piece of trash?
Then the voice raises the stakes. It brings to mind the craftsmen you admire, those you’ve seen effortlessly doing whatever you’re trying to do, and says They wouldn’t have done that. They would never make that mistake.
And if you keep working, if you ignore the criticisms and comparisons, the voice gets personal. It’s not good enough. Come to think of it, neither are you. You think you’ll ever call yourself a craftsman? You couldn’t even wash a craftsman’s socks. A six-year-old could do better. In fact, you know what? You suck. You might as well give up.
When the voice says that, you start to understand what it’s really after. It wants nothing less than for you to quit. Because quitting is easier than trying. Your lizard brain–that part of your mind that doesn’t think, doesn’t create, that knows nothing except how to avoid pain–is firing wildly, panicking because you are doing something hard, something that might not come out like you want it to. Something that might expose you to criticism and rejection and pain.
And there’s a point in every project where the voice is right. There’s a point in every project when you can look at your work and say wow. This sucks. Others might not even notice the flaws you see, or care if you point them out, but they’re there for you. And the voice, the lizard brain, goes crazy.
That’s when you have to make a choice: give up or keep going? Do you abandon your project to protect yourself from criticism, to keep others from knowing how badly you suck, or do you keep going, crafting the best you know how?
The choice is a moment of courage. If you quit, you can go back to your comfortable bubble, back to your TV, and avoid the pain of creating something. But you’ll never grow. If you keep going, you guarantee yourself pain–but you will grow as your creation does, and at the end something will exist that didn’t before, and you will have created it.
But to get there, you have to be willing to suck. Let the pain of growth and creation guide your hands, let them make your creation better. And the next one better than this one. And the next one better than that.
Every craftsman begins as an apprentice. Everyone sucks the first time they try to create. The master is the one who has endured more pain and created more work and sucked more than anyone else.
Give yourself permission to suck. Then keep working until your creation is complete. That’s how you get better.
And that’s the only way to make the world better.