How to Be a Creative Genius

I give up when the work I make sucks. When I hate it.

I give up when my failure stares right back at me telling me that I have wasted my time.

I give up when I am not seeing the results I was hoping for, soon enough.

I am impatient that way.

I give up, and try something new when I am frustrated more than I am pleased.

I make excuses when I lose more than I win.

I am done. I am out of here.

There’s no point staying with something I don’t like, right?

If there is one thing that the last twelve years as a ‘creative’ has taught me more than anything, it is this:

You need to be ok with making stuff you don’t like.

You need to be ok with worry, frustration, and bouts of bottled-in rage, not because you were destined to die a martyr, but because you have no choice.

When you decided to be an artist, you signed an invisible pact that said:

I ________________ hereby agree to a life of making cool things out of nothing. I am aware that the life of an artist is not all bliss, but largely comprised of making things I will not like, that others will also not like, and I must be ok with this, because only in creating plenty of junk will I find what works: my truth; my voice; my colour; my soul.

Did you forget?

How many pacts have you torn up and thrown away?

It’s easy to think that being creative is — and should be — ALL fun.

It should be about doing what you love; doing what you’re passionate about; doing what is fascinating, and beautiful and shiny, and from your soul.

Yes, it can be all of those things, but there is currency to pay to get these things:

Feeling like crap.

A lot of your creative experience will suck.

This isn’t even to mention the admin/marketing side of making a creative business work.

But knowing this, laughing at it all, and being at peace with it, will allow you to nourish your passion, let go of what hurts, and move forward.

You must expect it to be hard, but you must also push yourself to create more; to avoid the spiral of anger if you hate it; to keep going with a playful urgency.

Playful urgency.

Urgency will give you the momentum that makes it easier to bear the brunt of what hurts.

If you can’t fathom the idea that a lot of what you create will be mediocre, even though you do your best, you will be more inclined to stop and move on to the next thing or to stay still and stagnate.

But by doing that, you deny what could have been. You deny that crucial next step, which can only be an improvement on the one that came before.

You must stay with it.

You must start when it’s the last thing you want to do.

You must open your draft when you’d rather throw it out the window.

Most will not.

Be the outlier.

To discover your gold, you must dig through a mountain.

To find your genius, you must be willing to be and do the very opposite of a ‘genius.’

Just like how I made over three hundred bad illustrations before clients began to notice my work.

And how I wrote over three hundred poor articles before anyone started saying anything good about them.

To see what worked, I waded through what I and others didn’t like, and I built on this awareness.

When you can be ok with creating what you don’t like, you will move past it.

You will not get hung up on it, and you will have motion.

With motion, you will work loosely and calmly, and you will uncover your thing.

You will unearth your spark.

And those that matter will come to you.

Originally published on Red Lemon Club.

Alex Mathers
Alex Mathers


Alex Mathers is a writer and illustrator from London, based in Bangkok. He enjoys exploring ideas that help us be more confident and creative. His book: 'Joining the Dots: The A-Z Handbook for Making a Success of Your Creative Skills' is available for free, for a limited time.

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