Well creative friends, it’s been an emotional week. We had midterms at my university, and that meant a series of critiques as well as one-on-one meetings with each of my students. I had two full days of meetings, and I don’t think I was fully prepared for the emotions that surfaced.

I had multiple students display stress and discomfort during the meetings. On reflection, I realized that a lot of them are shocked by college because they are used to art coming naturally to them. They may have been the best in their classes in high school, but college raises the stakes and requires them to push past real difficulty in their creative pursuits. 

I see some students and clients paralyzed by the stress of creative work and the effort they think it requires. It can be tempting to take refuge in natural talent, thinking that this exempts you from hard work. The mindset is “I am the exception,” and “I have natural talent, so this should be easy for me.” 

This is actually a very damaging way to think, because it keeps you from ever growing beyond a basic level of intrinsic skill. Creatives may have natural ability, but if  they are never challenged to develop skills beyond that, they stagnate. 

As a creative coach, I see this as well. When working with artists who are trying to take creative steps forward, I am surprised that some are very apologetic about their current skill level or (perceived) lack thereof. 

Colorful poster with tips to "retrain your brain" for the creative processI hear all the time “I’m not a technology person,” “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not confident enough to do [insert new skill here].” As a professional in this area, I am not concerned about lack of knowledge! I am happy to meet each client where they are and we can build on what they know together—this is my favorite part of the process!

All of this makes me think of a poster that I had in my classroom when I taught at a local elementary school. At the top it said “RETRAIN YOUR BRAIN!” Underneath, in colorful letters it says, “I can’t do it...” and on the other side, “I can’t do it YET!” 

There is no need to be ashamed about trying something that you might fail at, especially as an artist. It is actually the job of creative people to do something new and different because that is what art is! This is not a straight-forward path that we have chosen, and we’re all making it up as we go. 

On the other side of things, creatives can also overwhelm themselves with the magnitude of the work they have set out to do, and/or try to accomplish all of it at once. This leads to burn out, and another form of paralysis (from exhaustion). 

So what is the right balance in all of this? I would say that the key is to take your natural interest and drive and pair it with hard work. I discussed this more fully in the video I made on talent vs. hustle

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Your mindset for creativity could go something like this:

  • Work hard, but give yourself room to enjoy what you love
  • Have a mindset of “I can,” but also give yourself grace when you need it
  • Know that no one can get far without challenging themselves, and this will include failure
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself...remember that a little bit consistently is better than burning out, and is certainly better than doing nothing at all!

I would love to help you on this journey as you find the best mindset for you. We can work together to develop a plan that allows you to work hard while still really enjoying what you do. Just enroll in my Free Training to learn more about the skills you will need...can’t wait to work with you!


Work one-on-one with me from the comfort of your home to grow your art & design skills to build your creative business. Rely on my 11 years of commercial graphic design experience and 6 years of teaching expertise to work through your biggest creative challenges.



Learn more about boosting your creative business and reaching your creative goals with me, Stephanie O. on YouTube! I can help with all kinds of creative topics, including working with creative software, running a creative e-commerce website, and improving your art & design skills. Subscribe to my channel for the latest tips, with new videos every week :) Thanks for watching 🌿