Saying “NO”. Why it’s so important to creative people.
Cake is in the Eye of the Beholder
The word “No”, in it’s most native form, is covered in gooey negativity.
“No, you can not have any cake.”
It is all about perspective and which side of the cake battle you are actually on. The cake handler knows you are diabetic and won’t let you have cake, it makes you sad but it’s good for you in the long run. Flipside, you are the cake handler and have only enough cake to give as a sacrifice to appease the Maker Gods, so clearly giving a slice out is unacceptable and would ruin future projects. Again, it’s all about perspective.2016 was my “Year of No”. It started literally at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve 2016 as I hit the final “update” button on my portfolio website. I was hunched over my keyboard thinking about how I could take my art to the next level. I decided that my skills and hard work would thrive even if I had to force them along, like zipping up a pair of jeans two sizes too small. A lot of epic adventures started this past year from saying no. I was in Hollywood, CA working with Frank Ippolito twice for various projects, I landed some sweet freelance gigs with respectable well-paying clients, and I even connected with some famous artists who love my style. Saying no has resulted in great successes and time better spent, but positive experiences from hearing “no” were not always well received. I had my fair share of upset clients, the end of several toxic friendships, and various other sacrifices to my social life. It was still the best choice I could have made for myself, my art, and my future.
Crippling Self Doubt –
Every maker, and by a maker I mean literally anyone who makes anything that didn’t previously exist in this world, experiences a lovely thing called CSD or “Crippling Self Doubt”. It delivers crushing blows to egos and devastates self-esteem. I said “NOPE! Fuck off CSD!” and started accepting my skills. Did it work every time? No, but the spans of time that I spent in the suckfest that was CSD did grow shorter and shorter with each pep talk. Every artist and every creator will compare themselves to someone of exponentially greater skill and there is nothing wrong with that, but you can’t take that comparison to heart. You must realize that one shouldn’t compare a chapter in their life with yours. What you are seeing is more than likely a beautifully curated portion of their career. What you do not see is their failures, missteps, and all the times they felt the sticky asshole of CSD pressing on their face.
Start to finish.
Start a project and finish a project.
Never starting means that you have dodged ever failing, but as creative people, we never grow if we never learn how to fail.
“Clients From Hell” said it best, Imposter Syndrome (IS) comes from pushing yourself to the very edge of your comfort zone. Stretching your muscles as a creator, all while teetering on the edge of your skill level, will possibly render you helpless to looming Imposter Syndrome. The ticker running through your brain keeps reading the same negativity you have been regurgitating for years: “You aren’t a professional. Why is someone paying you for this? Who put you in charge? You don’t know what you are doing!” Everyone has heard that internal dialog and we all have to learn that being pushed to the limits of your comfort zone and skill level is one of the best ways to learn how to grow.
This year I was asked to help design a truck wrap for Tested.com.
My instant internal dialog was “OMG what you are doing? You have no idea how to do, this you are a schmuck! You are not a graphic designer,” but I said “No. If you can design one thing, you can design anything”. Let me tell you… it was amazing. I said no to that internal voice telling me I couldn’t and I hiked up my big girl panties and did my homework and the outcome is by far one of my favorite projects to this day.
Know When to Hold Em’ Know When to Fold Em’
Let’s talk about working for free or, as it is more painfully labeled, “for exposure”. There is a time and a place to do work for free/exposure which can also be termed as “marketing and advertising”, but remember kids, you can die from exposure. Treading into this territory is like trying to thread a needle blindfolded on the back of a horse. Damn difficult. This is where saying no comes in pretty handy.
Two hours went by as I sat and wrote an in-depth proposal explaining in painful detail what I could do as a social media manager to help an upcoming convention. It was going to be a huge undertaking. At that time I wanted to run my own pop culture/geek convention in my home town, so why not get in an established convention’s good graces? If I had wanted to bill this convention company the price tag would have been well over $8,000. So, after I finished up the last bit of the report, I closed the file without saving and just shut my laptop. My time is valuable and this project was a shot in the dark as to whether it would actually benefit me. I weighed all my options, and in the end, I decided to turn it down.
I said no.
I knew better.
Three months later I was planning my own convention, and I know that it never would have happened if I had taken that other job. Instead, I would have been sucked into the time void it would have created, and missed the better opportunity.
Doing What’s Best for You
This year I burned the candle at both ends with a blowtorch, and to be honest, I haven’t stopped yet. I frequently work 18 hour days, and, as most everyone is painfully aware, there are only so many hours in the day. “No” isn’t always sunshine and unicorn farts. My year of “no” included having to make sacrifices that were not as enchanting as the rest of my exploits. Goals started becoming more clear and I start hewing out time to achieve them. This meant saying “no” to a lot: going out, trips, toxic relationships, and flippant choices.
I couldn’t dick around anymore.
I buckled down, kept working, and one day went…”whoa!”… as I realized my little potato empire was growing. I saw that the work I put into it was paying off. People were noticing. I wasn’t miserable anymore, even working every day all day. Don’t be scared to say “no” to people and situations that can be a nemesis to your creative processes and goals. When you do establish your downtime, which I encourage VERY much, make it quality time with quality people who want to see you thrive and achieve your goals. Surround yourself with people who support you and build you up, never ones who break you down.
Saying “no” is a way to fight the demons we all struggle with as a creative gaggle. The macro effect is even greater, raising the worth of creatives as a whole as we build each other up and fight what holds us back. Depression, CSD, Imposter Syndrome, toxic people, projects that don’t fit your path, and diminished self-worth are just a few epic battles we all fight.
Whichever way you decide to start battling all the negative internal and external influences in your life, just remember, you are worth it.
Sara | Wartooth Designs
Below are two really awesome videos you should watch.