How to Stop Attaching Your Entire Self-Worth to Your Creative Output
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Intro

At the time of writing, I’m 27 years old. At around age 13, I picked up a pencil and started writing Naruto fanfiction just for the sake of turning my ideas into works. I have, somehow, never stopped writing things ever since.

I, like many other creators, struggled and still struggle with attaching too much self-worth to my creative output. The quality, the quantity, the positive reception, the view counts, so many things to worry about! However, slowly but surely, I’ve been able to attach less of my self-worth to my creative output. It’s made me happier, made me love the process of creating more, and made me love my final creations more.

But how, pray tell, do you do this? Many of the things here are going to be easier said than done. A lot of things are!

Give It Time

The most necessary part that you also unfortunately have zero control over is time. You need to be patient, and trust me, I am one deeply impatient bastard when it comes to making things. Every single thing I say here will require time. Time to adjust, time to think, time to slow down, time to regroup, just time in general is the most important part. If you don’t give it time, and I mean time time, not “a week or so” time, things will not work.

But ghostchibi, that sucks! Yes, it does. I hate it too. For better or for worse, time is something we can’t control here. Thankfully, there are other things we can and should control to help ourselves.

Adjusting Your Mindset

Attaching too much of your self-worth to your creative output is a problem of the mind, so obviously the most direct way to change that is to change your mindset, right?

Yes, but also oh god, does this really take work.

You need to help yourself out here. Learning how to stop worrying about things is hard, so you need to help yourself avoid the things that you’re worrying too much about. Find as many ways as possible to hide metrics on your works. Install an extension that hides the rating module on Wikidot (don’t remove the rating modules from your pages, that’s against the rules). On other websites where you post your works, hide things like views, likes, comments, and anything else that counts the metrics of interactions. Make it so that you are seeing as few numbers attached to your works as possible. Use an extension to hide follower counts from yourself on social media accounts you use exclusively or heavily for posting your creative output. If you think it will help, hide all of these from yourself with extensions for other people’s accounts and works as well.

How does this help? Removing something that feels objective in judging your work will help you stop judging your work by numbers. Numbers going up is nice, but they don’t particularly help you unless you’re specifically looking to see what things make the numbers go up. This is not a metric of “goodness”, but rather a metric of “what makes numbers go up”. Useful for marketing, not so much for us as creators trying to judge quality, so let’s not use it to measure quality.

You Cannot Only Create Good Things

Don’t try to create only “good” quality works. You will be miserable and angry when you inevitably make “bad” quality work, even though that’s how things are made. Let’s say you have a tank of water, where you’ve tossed in a cup of salt and a cup of sugar and given the whole thing a big stir. Once you turn on the hose, all of the water in the tank will come out. You can’t keep the salt water in and make only the sugar water come out.

You need to create “bad” quality works in order to get “good” quality works. Sometimes you’ll make “bad” work and toss it, and sometimes you’ll keep it around and be able to make it into something good. You don’t need to show all of your work, either. If you don’t want to show anyone your “bad” quality works, you don’t need to do that. Keep it in an “unused ideas” folder somewhere on your computer instead, and hold onto it for future endeavors.

Quality is subjective. “Bad” quality and “good” quality depends on the situation as well. Something that seems “bad” can be charming or whimsical, and something that seems “good” could feel very out of place and unnatural. You won’t know how something will turn out unless you make it, so you’ll just need to… well, make it.

Take a Break, Take Many Breaks

Related to “Give It Time”, but it’s a good skill to learn how to take a break.

Yes, learn how to take a break. Taking a break but feeling terrible about not creating anything is not taking a break, that’s stressing yourself out. A need to be constantly creating is damaging to your health and your enjoyment of creating. Creating should be fun and enjoyable. If you feel like you’re required to make something every day, in every moment of free time you have, you’re treating it like a job you don’t get paid for.

Not creating something constantly or regularly doesn’t take away your Official Creator Card. There is no such thing as an Official Creator Card dependent on how many Creations you output. You are allowed to take as many breaks or as long of a break as you’d like.

Create What You Want

Chasing popular topics will garner you attention and upvotes, but unless you genuinely enjoy that topic, you won’t enjoy the process of creation. Some things are niche interests with a smaller number of people who enjoy that. Popularity is not a metric of “goodness”, simply a measure of what a lot of people enjoy. If you want to chase popularity, that’s your decision, but unless you also like what’s popular, you won’t have fun.

Conversely, what’s popular is not “basic” or “dumb”. If you write something that is popular, and you enjoy it, you will help yourself as a writer far more than attempting to write “smart” or “cool” niche topics that you don’t have genuine enthusiasm for. Don’t try to be clever for the sake of being clever, not because it’s a mortal sin but because you won’t have much fun. Unless you like being clever for the sake of being clever, in which case I hope you have a blast with it.

Consume Other Content

Output is good, but so is input. Take in other people’s creations in equal amounts as you output. Not only will this bring you enjoyment (I hope!), you get a moment to take in new ideas or different takes. Your brain will get enrichment from the new content. Don’t look at the ratings of the content you take in. This will prevent you from comparing numbers against numbers. Don’t compare the quality of your work and the work you take in while you do this. Again, much easier said than done, but if you focus on the work you’re taking in without comparing it against other works (including your own), you’ll train your brain to adjust to that mindset.

Understand How to Take Criticism

Criticism on your writing’s quality is not an attack on you. Writing poorly is not evil, and you should not take criticism of your writing as an indication that someone hates you, thinks you’re annoying, or wants you to shut up and die. Conversely, criticism should not be wrapped up with personal attacks. “Your writing is bad” and “I think you’re stupid” should not go hand-in-hand when making constructive criticism. Learning to identify when criticism is constructive and when it’s mean-spirited or excessive is important.

Put an end to treating constructive criticism as “dramatic” or “being sent through the wringer”, even as a joke. Making that joke over and over again will put the idea in your mind (and other people’s minds too!) that the criticism process is an awful, excruciating process of people telling you how terrible you are and how awful your work is. That’s not what criticism should be! Criticism is an opportunity for improvement. Actively changing your mindset to thinking about it that way will make you less afraid of criticism and less likely to feel personally hurt by it.

Not all criticism is correct for what you’re trying to make, either. You can ignore criticism that you feel isn’t helping you or your work, even if it’s not bad criticism. Criticism that fundamentally won’t work for what you’re making can be ignored if you feel like it’s not going to help the final product. Being able to sift through the criticism you receive and make decisions on what is useful and what isn’t will help you in future creations as well.

Keep At It

As you work on changing your mindset and your process, your brain will learn to adjust. Just as you adjust to the climate of a place as you live there or gain muscle memory as you repeat the same task, your brain will slowly begin to change the way it thinks. As time goes on, you’ll pay less attention to numbers, obsess less over constantly creating more works, be less afraid of criticism, and find a process that you enjoy. This is the part that will require the most time and consistency. It may take a while, even years, but you will get there as long as you keep at it.

None of This Is New Advice!!

I’m sure that you’ve heard a lot of these things already, but the tragedy of it all is that these were exactly what worked for me. I turned off visible metrics where I could, and after a while I stopped caring how small the numbers were and started appreciating the works for what they were. I stopped comparing my works to other people’s works, and found that I liked my works all the more for it. I learned how to let go of worrying about not being the best or “good” at what I do, and found that it made me love the process of creating as well as the final product. By being able to distance my self-worth from the quality of my works, I’m able to have a healthier, non-antagonistic approach toward taking constructive criticism. And because I could take criticism more easily, my writing became what I love.

It’s possible, I promise! Making this change will take time and effort, but so does the act of creating anything.


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