Creative Freelancers: Get out of your head!
Working as a creative freelancer or indie developer can be incredibly rewarding. It's a chance to come up with ideas, build them out, and ship them out to the world.
It’s understandable to be afraid of what other people might think of our work. That work came from our inspiration, our ideas, our hard work, and so on. Our personalities, history, and ideas are baked right in. It's really easy to fear all the critics out there--what will people think of this? Unfortunately there's one critic that is the worst of them all, and it's the most important to silence.
When I first launched my app, I was terrified of negative reviews. They could throw me off for an entire day and put me in a tailspin. The positive reviews would also have way too much power— They elated me to no end. I had to be way more zen about the whole thing. Reviews had their place, but I couldn’t let what other people thought define me or my work. I know now that I can never create something that everyone is going to love. (Nor should I want to-- that's the equivalent of making motel art or muzak).
Having said all that, this isn’t about what to do about overcoming the fear of other people. I think that naturally comes with practice and experience. Like I said, I’m definitely a lot better today at dealing with negative or critical feedback than I was a few years ago. The one thing though that I’m still not great at is dealing with the worst critic of them all: myself.
Our inner critic and voice is worse than any random stranger on the Internet. It's worse than our friends or family (who are often way more supportive of you and your crazy ideas). Our inner critic has a direct plug into our brains and can quickly and effectively shut down any idea, even before it has a chance to be defined.
Get out of your head. It's the only way you'll know if you have something or not
The answer? Get out of your head. If you have an idea, talk it over with someone. Or write it down on paper. Or blog about it on Tumblr or Medium, or tweet about it. Just get it into the world. It’s cheap to do and you learn a lot. Even if people are critical, the best of people will be helpful in their criticisms. Usually your closest friends or advisors will be able to see the kernel of awesomeness hidden within, and help you develop it. (Or helpfully tell you that your idea really is a weird one and you should try again).
The other benefit to putting it out there or talking about it is that it forces you to make the idea more real and tangible. Many times our ideas appear more concrete in our mind than they really are. Having to speak them out loud or write them down on paper shows us how abstract and undefined they actually are—thus forcing us to put more thought into it. Suddenly that crazy abstract idea you had while driving starts to feel real and possible. The more you talk about it and the more you pitch it, the more concrete it becomes. Before you know it, you may have actually stumbled on something really awesome and worth building.
None of that can happen if you just listen to your inner critic and don't ever vocalize your idea. So if you're a creative freelancer, or you do any kind of creative work, do yourself a huge favor: Get out of your head! Don't let your inner critic silence your creativity.
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