Recently I finished a project called 100 happy days. The challenge is to post a photo everyday in a row for 100 days of something that makes you happy. The idea is that we spend so much time rushing around through our lives that we never set aside time to appreciate the simple things in life that make us happy. I completed the challenge and found that there was way more things and moments in my life to feel positive about than I previously thought.
How does this relate to being creative at all? Over my three years of college, I learned very quickly how important it is to be positive and happy when creating. I remember my very first critique… not such a good memory. I had just recovered from pneumonia, and I was feeling really negative about everything I had created. I got demolished in critique, and felt completely defeated. I didn’t even want to keep trying to make it better. Even the couple critiques I had after the first, I still felt down and unhappy with what I was making. Eventually, I learned to separate myself from my work, which helped a lot in staying positive. That was my first step in becoming a more positive creative.
Throughout my years in college, I faced lots of stress (as most students do) and some awful anxiety. At times, it became incredible hard to focus on creating because my mind was clouded with negativity. When you’re a designer, you have a job to do for someone else. It’s very rare that you’re making something for yourself, especially in school, so you’ve got standards and deadlines to meet. When your mind isn’t in the right place, it’s hard to feel good about anything you’re making, which makes the whole process miserable. To design well, you have to put yourself in a happy place.
Not all creating is this way. Some art is based solely on emotion. Some of the poetry I’ve written comes from a dark, sad place and it’s some of my best because of how real it is. There’s also some fine art and paintings that come from a deep sadness that truly become what they are because of what the artist is feeling. But when you’re a designer or an illustrator or have an obligation to create something for someone else, you have to learn to separate your emotions from your work.
To be a happy creative, I believe you have to focus on two things. One, being a happy person in general. Focusing on your mental/physical health, getting enough sleep, and doing positive projects such as the 100 days of happy to really focus your mind on staying positive. There’s so many ways to learn to calm your mind and become more optimistic about life. Two, being happy with your work. I know many people who struggle with this, and I still do as well. I’ve had loads of advice given to me about how to stay positive about your work, but only a few bits really stuck with me.
A very big one that most people get stuck on is comparing themselves to others. To really be happy with yourself, you need to stop looking at other work thinking “I’ll never be as good as that” and instead think “I can be that good.” Instead of it letting you down, let it inspire you and push you to try harder. After you get past that, it’s so much easier to be positive about what you’re creating. Another bit of advice I was given to stay happy as a creative, is to do something for yourself every once in awhile. We’ve all got commitments and not so fun work to do, so when you start to doubt why you’re even in your field, remind yourself. Create something awesome just because you want to. Try something new, draw something badass, take a photo you’ve been thinking about for ages. It’s important to continue to inspire yourself and remember why you love what you’re doing, even if it gets rough sometimes.
I know sometimes it’s hard to remain happy, especially in the rough world of being a creative, but I hope you can all learn to live positively. If you’re feeling down in the dumps about your work, try doing an awesome project like 100 happy days. Or make your own happy project. Do something for you, and rediscover why it’s so important to be happy while creating.