Creator Diary: All the ways I've failed and felt worthless

Things aren't always rosy. Don't let the "highlight reel" of what people reveal publicly fool you into thinking creative success is a straight line, because it sure as hell isn't.

Apr 17, 2023
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When you’re a creator, you are your own cheer squad. If you don’t believe in you, there’s often nobody who believes in you. Failure to maintain the enthusiasm of that “internal cheer squad” is why so many people keep give up. It’s why so many would-be creators keep their art inside them. It’s why so many people never try.

When I was brand new and struggling, I understood those things. And so, to bolster my enthusiasm and belief, I spent a lot of time looking for role models. I wanted to see the complete path from end to end, and see with my own eyes that someone before me had successfully traveled that path. The path needed to be realistic and believable. It needed to look, in other words, like the often-rough path — replete with ups and downs — that I faced every day.

With that in mind, I sought out stories of people who’d ended up doing the same creative things I wanted to do, but who’d gone through shitty times along the way. Stories like that were hard to find. Most people want to show only the good parts when the spotlight is on them … so when they talk about what they do, they tend to gloss over the rough spots we all hit along the way.

I call that kind of thing “the highlight reel phenomenon.” When you watch a sport’s highlight reel, you don’t see all the missed passes and botched plays. You only see what went right, not what went wrong.

It’s kind of dangerous — especially if the people who see that highlight reel don’t truly understand that it is a highlight reel. I used to listen to interviews with successful writers to inspire myself to become one, but those interviews usually just made me feel like I should give up. Because after all, the person being interviewed never had problems like I did … or so it seemed, based on the highlights they shared.

What I never understood consciously back then was that those people did have problems. They did have low points. They did suffer from writer’s block, or a total lack of flow, or a feeling that maybe they were worthless and trite and should really give up already.

Watch enough highlight-reel interviews, though, and you’ll start to think that’s not true. You’ll start to subconsciously believe that “always doing well and feeling great and making headway” is the norm … and hence that you, with your natural human setbacks, really are the weird one who will never reach your goals and should give up already.

That’s why I recorded the video above: to give you an uncut, unedited, very-much-not-just-the-highlights view of my own creative path, with the ironic hope that my failure can help inspire you. Enjoy.

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