Believe All Your Work is Great. Then, Make it Greater

Photo by Kayla Mendez

I love this quote by Ernest Hemingway:

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

What he meant to say is no one starts out as a master of their craft.

Even when we have no idea what we’re doing, it’s so important to believe in our ability to create and to learn to know what we’re doing. Usually, our great ideas are accompanied by very little knowledge on how to turn them into tangible things. That said, our first inklings of creativity are, almost always, complete crap.

That’s where real world experience of doing it comes in. We all start out producing crap and thinking it’s great, but persistence is what turns it into work that’s actually great. Practice and repetition, along with being open to trying new things, make us better artists.

In order to produce anything we have to believe in ourselves.

The process of creating anything is a weird concept. Creativity is the ability to take elements from this world and build a new world from them. Ideally, the result (our work) is functional, and communicates our ideas to our audience in an efficient and beautiful way.

It’d be impossible to do that if we didn’t believe in ourselves and our ability to produce such work.

Winston Churchill said that success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. Even when we’re not seeing the results we want, we have to keep creating with a vision of how our work will end up. Giving up does nothing but set failure into stone. If we keep pushing forward, it means we’re still on our way to the light at the end of the tunnel, to bigger and brighter things.

Ready. Fire. Aim.

That’s the only way to keep moving. Overthinking paralyzes us and keeps us from doing anything. A lot of what we produce will probably be stupid, but we have to be willing to believe our heart was in the right place when we created it.

And then keep creating.

Like Hemingway, plenty of famous artists have owned the fact that their early work was garbage, but the underlying sentiment is that the crap was necessary in order to produce great things later on. Even if it’s ugly on the outside, we have to believe the bones are good and the features are capable of being changed into their ideal versions.

This is what it means to believe your work is great.

Once you have that down, believe it can be greater.

We should never let our heads get so full that we think we’ve mastered our craft. In nature, stillness means death. There’s always something to learn.

Between my bachelor’s degree in journalism and through the writing program at Second City, I’ve been in a lot of writing workshops. In those classrooms it’s not uncommon to hear a writer say they hate their work. Hate.

And every time I hear it, I roll my eyes a little bit.

Because they don’t actually hate it. If they did, they wouldn’t be sharing it, and they definitely wouldn’t be trying to make it better.

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