About this episode
Tips for embracing your individuality as a creative, and all the benefits it brings to your art, your life and your soul! All part of being a positive creative!
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There’s a quote I love to hate. You might have heard it. No one is you and that is your superpower. I want to talk about that and how to embrace your individuality on today’s episode of The Positive Creatives!
Hello hello creative person of the world! Welcome to this episode of The Positive Creatives! It’s great to have you here… if you’re new then a big welcome, and I hope you enjoy this episode and dive into a few others when you’re done. If you’re back for more, you rule!
No one is you and that is your superpower.
It’s a quote that floats around the internet in various forms and I’ve seen it thousands of times, maybe even millions.
But it was only when I sat down to write some notes for this episode I thought I wonder who actually said that and it turns out it was one of my favourite people – Dave Grohl. If you don’t know who Dave Grohl is, you should, he’s the Foo Fighters front man and used to be in Nirvana. He’s ace, and I recommended a documentary of his back I think in episode one – Sound City, which I’m still recommending you check out if you haven’t already!
I wanted to do an episode about individuality and that quote was the first thing that came to mind.
I said earlier I love to hate it. So why is that.
Well like almost every single motivational quote in the world it’s easier said than done.
It’s very easy for someone to say ‘you’re unique’, ‘nobody else is you’ blah blah blah and for you to be like, well yeah but I hate my work and nobody wants to commission me for everything so what, do I just keep being me even though it’s clearly not working?!
Yeah we’ve all been there.
I mentioned I think in an earlier episode about how early on in my career I spent all my time and energy trying to emulate the successful people in my industry, and it was a miserable existence. I wasn’t making work anywhere near as good as theirs and I was having no fun either.
It wasn’t until I started to just focus on me and what I liked and what I was capable of that I started enjoying my work more, and no that didn’t result in instant fame and fortune, but over time my work improved, and I got to know myself as an artist and my style started to show…
But is it that easy.
Do you just decide to be yourself and everything falls into place? Well no, it takes a conscious concerted effort and I’m going to share with you my tips for how to do that today.
How to embrace individuality in your creativity.
So tip number one – you need to know and accept that this is your path to creative and artistic fulfilment.
Doing it your way, unapologetically and without the need for peer or industry recognition, will lead to long term fulfilment.
I’m going to do a separate episode soon when I’m brave enough talking about industry recognition and awards because I’ve had a good dose of both during my time as a photographer, but for the purposes of this episode just hear me when I say neither brings anything but the creative equivalent of a sugar rush…
Weirdly, it takes a commitment to be yourself as a creative. I hope the next few tips will help you with that commitment.
Tip two is to look to yourself for inspiration.
I’ve mentored a few photographers over the years, and the thing I’ve always told them is you need to be your own biggest fan. Initially when I say that it sounds egotistical or narcissistic but I don’t mean it that way. I mean you have to love your work.
You have to be your biggest fan, but also you need to be your biggest inspiration.
How much time do you spend looking at other people’s work for inspiration?
I’d guess quite a bit. I’m equally guilty of it but these days I’m better. There was a time I’d spend hours looking at the work of other photographers who I thought were better than me just before I was due to be on a shoot of my own. My head would be filled with their work, which I had no idea how they made, and the pressure of trying to emulate them.
I realised I never spent time looking at my own work for inspiration. And I mean truly looking at it.
See with our own past creations, we were there, we know how we did it, we’re able to really critique it and work out how we could’ve improved it or how we could tweak it for something new.
And the more we look at our own work this way, and using it for inspiration, the more our own style starts to become more and more apparent.
Our instincts start to be based on our own work and our own style and that’s a great thing and…
Tip number three is trust your instincts… even if there’s a negative judgemental voice in your head telling you ‘that’s not the way we do things around here’.
Your industry doesn’t want you to stray from the script.
You may think your clients don’t want you to stray from the script.
And yeah if you’re in the habit of doing your client work ‘the way it’s supposed to be done’ there may need to be a period of transition if you’re keen to adopt a style that feels more true to yourself.
If you go with your instincts and create work that just seems to come from your creative soul, then even if it doesn’t work, you’ll feel good about it, and you’ll learn so much about yourself.
And over time your work will evolve into something that is truly you.
And I fully believe this – clients will want you more when you start doing it your way, because they’ll see you’re the only one doing it that way and they can’t get it from anyone else that way.
And if money is your thing, you can also charge more if your style stands out from the crowd.
So where are we…
Tip number one was understand that embracing your individuality as a creative, as an artist is the path to long term fulfilment.
Tip two was to be your own inspiration. Find inspiration in your own past work first, and other creatives work second.
Tip three was trust your instincts, go with your gut.
One of my favourite stories about individuality is about the beginning of Elvis Presley’s career.
He showed up one day at Sun Studio in Memphis, asked if he could audition for Sam Phillips and Sam’s assistant Marion Keisker asked Elvis who he sounded like…
His response was “ma’am I don’t sound like nobody”.
But in his first few auditions he kind of did sound like everyone else. Because that’s what he thought he needed to do if he wanted to appeal to Sam Phillips and get a record deal. He had to sound like the other stuff and the other people on the radio.
It wasn’t until after an audition and he didn’t think he was being recorded that Elvis let his own personality and his own sound out, and well the rest is history.
I know what you’re thinking – I’m not Elvis, and I know, sadly it’s true, we’re not Elvis.
But Elvis, by trying to sound like what he thought other people wanted him to sound like, was on the verge of being rejected by Sam Phillips and the world may never have heard of him.
It wasn’t until that moment he let his guard down and let his uniqueness show that Sam Phillips saw what Elvis saw in himself.
Elvis might not be the best example for you. And don’t get me wrong I’m not talking about world fame or epic fortunes here. Elvis at the beginning simply wanted to be a recording artist.
The other benefit of going after individuality is that as time passes you’ll believe you’re different.
I’m not talking here about putting your work side by side with someone else’s. It’s more of a feeling.
And once you get that feeling of individuality, you’ll grow in confidence. If you create for clients, they’ll feel it like I said before and they’ll keep coming back.
Not because you’re competitively priced or have great customer service but because they know they can’t get what they get from you, from any other artist.
One final point on clients actually. Maybe this is too much of a tangent and I should do it as its own episode I don’t know, but I know that to create my best work for my clients, I have to be creating for myself.
I have to be creating work for myself that I love. If I do that, they will love it. I believe that.
Of course you need to be mindful of what they’ve asked you to do for them, but I always truly believe they want what they want, but they want it with your spin on it.
So the big final tip I have for embracing your artistic individuality before I finish is make sure, as much and as often as possible do work for no reason other than to do it.
People call it personal projects. And sure, if you struggle to do work just for yourself, give it a project. That actually works better for me when it’s framed by a project, but I know some other people work better when they’re just free to create.
True story, I was sitting on the sofa today and the sun was streaming in through the windows and it was incredibly bright. And – go with me here it’s a bit random – I thought the chair legs around my dining table looked really cool in the sunlight. And I thought you know what I’ll take a photo of that. And then I thought wouldn’t it be funny to do a project which is just photos of non-human legs. And the more I looked the more legs I saw and I realised I’d never really looked at all these legs before! So I might do that as a mini-project this week.
Even if those photos never go anywhere and I never do anything with them, there’s something magical about having a random idea and just doing it. It’ll do something in your creative mind and it’ll find its way into your future work.
So the tips were
1 – Embracing your individuality is the key to long term creative fulfilment
2 – Be your own inspiration, look to your own work first to inspire you
3 – Trust your instincts, hone them, and let them rule
4 – Do as much work just for yourself and for the fun of it as possible
Do this and over time you’ll feel a stronger and stronger connection to your own work – personal and commercial – you’ll grow in confidence and clients will want you more than ever.
Because no one is you and that is your super power.
Dave Grohl said it so it must be true.
Here’s your listen, read, watch recommendations for this week:
Listen – it’s an episode of a podcast called “How to Fail” and the guest is Mo Gawdat. A really interesting guy who thinks it’s possible for everyone to be happy and he’s got a formula. Give it a listen. I’ll link it in the show notes on the website.
Read – it’s not really about creativity but it’s one of my favourite books. It’s called The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman and it’s great.
Watch – a great documentary you’ll find on Amazon prime called Laurel Canyon. It’s an amazing insight into the music scene in California in the 60s and 70s and apart from making you wish you were there, it’s an incredible story of the power of collaboration and spending time with other artists.
Right then that’s your lot for this episode. Stay a while and check out some of my other episodes or come back next week for more! See you then on The Positive Creatives.