Creative Success & How To Relax if You’re Not There Yet


This success chart by Demetri Martin, like most truly funny things, is completely accurate. You may be saying to yourself, yep, that looks like the story of my life. Because, when you’re doing creative work, the path to success is never an easy, straight upward climb. It’s a circuitous and messy process, and it takes a TON of work before you start making the kind of work you want to make. At least, that’s been (and continues to be) my experience.

I know I’m getting closer to my goals every day, even if it’s just in small ways: developing a more consistent writing habit, reading at least one book a month (my current pick—I’m obsessed with this lady), discovering a near-perfect beet+arugula+goat cheese sandwich (yum!). And I trust that, among other things, in a year I’ll have put together an essay collection for my MFA thesis that I’ll be proud of. When I hit creative obstacles, I’ll just picture this chart.

In some ways, it’s hard to think about all the work that is still ahead of me, but in another respect it’s comforting. Creativity isn’t just an “either you have talent or you don’t” proposition. And it takes a lot of pressure off to be reminded that success doesn’t happen overnight. Like rice—stick with me here—the slow-cooking variety of success is way better than the instant stuff.

Or as Ira Glass puts it:

These words remind me to think of success as a process (setbacks and detours included), not an endpoint. Everyone, even some of the most famously successful people, failed at first. Be patient.

What have been the WTF moments in your career? Do you worry about your creative work falling short, or are you content to enjoy your own creative process?


One thought on “Creative Success & How To Relax if You’re Not There Yet

  1. If I have a really great idea, the first draft always falls short of my expectations. Setting a goal to consistently work at it, as you mention, is the best way I know to overcome these setbacks!

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