The Creative Cringe

Date: 02.Dec 2013 | Reading Time: 2 minutes, 20 seconds

I’m reading Shawn Blanc’s wonderful book Delight is in the Details and this one chapter rings especially true with me. It’s about what I like to call the creative cringe, the feeling everyone of us gets when we see our work and are not satisfied with it or where we see all the little and not so little flaws that make us cringe.

Shawn is quoting Ira Glass:

„All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone[…]“

I’m very much afflicted by this phenomenon. Not that my work is anything special, but I get the cringing feeling almost every time, especially on client projects, where budgets usually are the restricting factor and not the—mythical— perfect end result.

But it is important to not let yourself get dragged down and to see this feeling as a sign that there is still some great work hidden inside yourself and that you need to keep working on your skills so you can eventually bring it forth.

Or as Shawn puts it:

„If, one day, we feel as if we’ve reached a point where we can create work that will never make us cringe again, then what we’re saying is that what we do today will be just as good as what we do next month, next year, and 10 years from now. And, well, that’s just not fair to our future selves.“

Now go and do yourself a favor and get reading Shawn’s book as long as it is still 25% off.