A(nother) Dirty Secret About Creative People

Todd Brison

I didn’t want to do it, but the pull was irresistible.

“Just one more…”

My thumbs coasted across the screen, blazing through my notifications.

In the past, this behavior would have been in search of a band-aid on a wanting ego.

This time, I was looking for something different.

“You’re not as good as you think you are,” said The Bad Brain. “Let’s find someone who knows you are a fraud.”

The artist is predisposed to seek criticism.


Because we fear success.

Obscurity, failure, rejection — these things are familiar. Most of us expect to be misunderstood, so we set ourselves up to receive that feedback.

But success?

What do you do with that?

As self-absorbed as the artist can be, our insecurity often matches that. The Bad Brain gets loud the instant we realize we might not be terrible — Who are we to do great work? Who are we to impact lives? Why aren’t we selling our souls like the rest of our peers?

You can tell I’m struggling with a topic when I start using more question marks than periods. Do you have the answers? I don’t always. Sorry about that.

I only have a few things that help when I feel like a fraud:

Make More Art

Whenever I write a post that gets big attention, I immediately write another one.

Then I enjoy the descent back into obscurity.

(Note: this is getting harder as I’ve picked up more followers, which is why I have to resort to:)

Ignore All Comments

Comments, responses, upvotes, hearts, likes and shares often go ignored for at least 24 hours after I write something.

That full day gives me a chance to come back and look at criticism (or praise) objectively.

It is a strange thing being an artist — one moment your work is directly wired to your emotions. The next, it means nothing. It’s easier to do this when you die every day.

Encourage Others

I believe in you more than you believe in you. Actually, I might believe in you more than I believe in me.

Whenever you see me on Twitter responding to as many people as possible, take that as a sign I’m struggling to beat The Bad Brain. Maybe if I make others feel better, I will feel better too.

Micro Journal

Ideas make the world go round.

I left this daily habit for a while, even when I was recommending it to other people. My work suffered.

Journaling takes too much time and is obnoxious and I don’t like it. Besides, who wants to write paragraph after paragraph on their feelings? Yuck. Not for me.

Instead, I created Micro Journaling, which takes maybe 10 minutes.Here are the bullet points:

  • Write the day (because you only get one shot at it)
  • List 10ish things in one topic
  • Be grateful

More details and templates right here.

Play With My Dog

Because he doesn’t care how bad I am at writing.

Stream-of-Consciousness Write

In the latter months of 2016, this habit moved from a “nice to have” into a “must have.”

Every morning I sprint-write with the monitor off. Why do you need to look at what you’re writing anyway? You already know the words in your brain. Visual feedback is distracting.

The truth? I write 10x what you will ever see published. Most of it is garbage.

And that is okay. I give myself permission to be terrible.

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