Hate your work

If there is just one common thread that ties artists together, it’s not a beautiful intention or creative sensitivity or left-handedness. It’s hate. Specifically: hate towards your own creations.

Unlike our babies and possessions and loved-ones or -things, our artistic creations cause us the truest and deepest despise. Sounds extreme? Don’t worry – I’ve noticed a pattern. If you don’t hate your work, you probably aren’t doing it right.

It seems a self-perpetuating cycle when we’re in it.  We hate ourselves because we’re putting off our work, so we start making. Then we judge our inability to finish things, to innovate, to just get it done, to do something good. We wonder why we hate our work so much, and sometimes, we stop making it altogether, because it seems easier – less painful – not to. 

Christine Wu

Christine Wu

Why do we hate our work so much?

You already know this, I’m sure of it. Hate isn’t a pure emotion. Hate is just fear. Let’s face it: we’re scared of getting it wrong, doing it badly, being a failure. Fear manifests itself as hate because it’s stronger that way, because it knows it can get you right by the guts.

Your work is too important to you – to your heart – to get wrong. You judge it. You judge yourself. But there’s a trick: sigh, eat a bagel (this step is particularly important), and tell yourself: ok, judgement, you can stay there, but I’m going to carry on with this work until you go away. Stop fighting it, have a stake out with your work, and soon you stop hating it so much. Because it was never really you hating your own work in the first place, it was your fear.

creative-process

You may meet people who seem to be churning out marvellous work upon marvellous work: gleefully, pleasantly, wonderfully. They appear at those times when you’re having a block or three-quarters through something and crunchy with self-doubt. They’ll always be there. But they’re not you, and they don’t have your special and unique gift. They have their own to work on. And honestly? They probably have either a) spent many of their earlier years thinking their work sucked, b) think their work sucks in private, or c) aren’t really making the work their heart desires. Or – hopefully – secret answer d): they show up to do their work every single day. They’re unattached to the outcome because that is simply not their responsibility. In letting go of that burden, their creative ability is freed so their workflow and quality improves.

If you’re feeling trapped by doubt in your work or yourself, know this: it’s not yours to worry about. Almost everyone who makes anything is going to hate their work at some point or another. At those times, we just need to tell our critic to shuddup and get on with our work. There’s a muse somewhere that made you want to start in the first place. She’ll be back, but you need to make sure you’re ready when she arrives.

This topic was my first post for a reason. I’m feeling it right now, writing this, starting this blog. We all go through it. And we’ll come out the other side. Keep going. 

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