Welcome to Thrive! A weekly advice column for creatives and the generally confused.
I recently had some work published in a lit mag and I was so excited! But ever since then I’m having trouble creating anything new. Was that my one great success? Am I all dried up now?
I am so sorry you’re feeling dried up, but I am really happy you’ve asked this question. There are so many pieces out there about finding motivation after a failure that I think we all forget that success can be crippling too. Because after success there is the great unknown, a white canvas, an empty journal and that is always daunting, especially once you begin to tell yourself that you’re already past your prime!
I get it. Achieving a goal feels amazing but once reality comes back you realize you must do it all again and potentially better than last time. There are “people” (those nameless, faceless beings we assign to our own insecurities) out there waiting for something great. All of that pressure is definitely enough to make us want to quit while we’re ahead.
But, what would happen if Stephen King decided that his first published book was it? That he could never do better and he should just quit now? How many books would we be without and how many successes would he never have? (And don’t for a second say “But it’s STEPHEN KING”, he is still a human with his own set of issues. I promise.)
The best way to get motivated again after a great success is to take some time off. I know it seems counter intuitive, you want to strike while the iron is hot, but you need a chance to let the voice of the old project move out of your head and it’s blood out of your veins. Go to museums, read books about completely different subjects, take up a new workout routine– anything to switch up your brain and body.
Once you’ve taken time away from the easel/desk/camera, step back into it with a silly project. Have you always wanted to write a collection of limericks? Or do a photo series where you let your 5-year-old take photos of you with a disposable camera? You now have time and permission to try whatever crazy idea you once brushed off. It will cleanse your palate… and who knows? Maybe it’s your next great success.