There’s Only One Piece of Advice That Matters For Early Creators
The mentors ahead will all tell you the same thing: keep going
You’re making NYC vlogs on a Boosted Board. You’re writing long essays about Stoic philosophy. You’re building a gig delivery business. It’s all fun and games in the name of “stealing like an artist.” Austin Kleon approves.
But there’s this lingering thought in the back of your mind that you can’t shake — are you a phony? You’re imitating, not innovating. There’s an imposter inside of you waiting to be discovered. Let’s build a fortress.
Ira Glass tells you not to worry. This might just be the “taste gap.” He says, your job is to keep doing the work, closing the gap between your current work and your taste. You’ve got really good taste, he says. But you haven’t reached your potential (yet).
Oh, the sweet promise of potential. Is it real, or made up? I’m not sure. No one ever is. But will you allow yourself the space to find out? Will you allow yourself to start small, to stumble, to fall? The creative demons come at night. Anne Lamotte’s K’FKD is blasting in your ears. You realize you aren’t original. Are you even an artist? Do you even want to be?
A friend tells you about this old French philosopher, Rene Girard. The mentor to Peter Thiel. He’s got this theory of mimetic desire. He says, we want things strictly because other people have them. And because — looking at them all happy and shit — we think we could be too. If only…
So you start thinking maybe you shouldn’t be a YouTuber, maybe you’re destined to be a studio executive or an investment banker. You start dreaming of safety, comfort, something that looks a little more certain. But that voice, that subtle tug is still there.
It’s mind-bending, soul-crushing to imagine retreating from it. You have no idea if it’ll ever work, but you resolve not to care. To die in obscurity if you have to. No, no, no — you’re going to write your way out.
You listen to Cheryl Strayed. She tells you to just play the cards you’ve got. Stop questioning why you’ve got 10s instead of queens. Stop complaining about how bad your hand is, and just play your damn cards.
The creative path is an endless oscillation between highs and lows, self-doubts and big wins. There’s nothing more addicting than when it clicks, nothing more heartbreaking than when it seems seems so far away.
But that’s the point, my friend. Creativity isn’t just self-expression, it’s the expression of growth. It’s about sitting at the edges of your capabilities.
Luckily, on the hard days, you can look up and see: there are mentors ahead warning you of the “resistance” ahead, and promising of the beauty behind it.
Maybe you don’t yet believe it’s there, but someday you will.
The only way to find out is to: just keep going.