The Myth of “Making it” in the Creative World

By: Ruisi Liu

It seems like every creative millennial is either on their way to “making it,” or is already “making it.” They have TikTok pages with thousands of followers, an active social media presence, and maybe a semi-famous YouTube account. Suddenly, every VSCO girl you knew is being sponsored by something, and every suit-and-tie youth has launched their bright, innovative startup company. The best/worst part is, they’re just like you; late teens to twenty-somethings living in Toronto. Hell, did you know even Mena Massoud, the actor who starred in the live-action Aladdin film graduated from Ryerson? I cannot imagine Mena Massoud just casually strolling the smelly streets on Dundas as we all do on our way to those sleepy 9:00 a.m. classes. However, he most likely did. Just like us, yet not like us, since most of us don’t have a net worth of $2 million. 

If Toronto is the brewing centre for a flourishing creativity industry and fresh ingenuity, why do I feel like a sack of potatoes? How come all I see on my Instagram feed is people releasing new things? Cool new media edits, music beats, dance videos, getting studio jobs, and making award-winning films, all while living like ordinary people? I swing between deeply inspired but also heavily discouraged; I love their creative passion, but it puts my own meagre efforts to shame. To put it lightly, I feel like my creations are getting worse every time I compare myself - almost to the point I avoid things that interest me because I’m scared of it not working out, and that’ll be a massive blow to my ego.

However, according to Psychology Today, failure is equivalent to learning. When we succeed at something, the next time we do it, we repeat the same method because it proved to be efficient. It’s part of the way mammalian brains function.

“If a lab rat no longer gets rewarded for pressing a lever that had yielded food pellets before, it gets visibly upset. As its frantic efforts fail, it resorts to all manner of strange, or novel, reactions from grooming itself to biting the lever or leaping into the air. It is learning that the world has changed and its brain is getting rewired, so to speak,” writes writer at Psychology Today, Nigel Barber.

This apparent rewiring of the brain is crucial. “When one combines emotionalism with originality, that is fairly close to what most people think of as artistic creativity. Artists are not necessarily frustrated people but tend to be dissatisfied with what they have accomplished previously and try to do something better, or something new,” he writes

Now, that last sentence struck a chord with me. Maybe the problem is not that I suck at what I do, but I'm just trying to rewire my brain all the time to create something better. The mind’s desperate urge to become “better” can mislabel our current efforts as a failure. By continually breaking ourselves outside of our comfort zones, we can eventually feel the art we once loved to do no longer serves comfort, so we lose interest and instead procrastinate. Besides, what’s the point of doing something that stresses us out so much?

Truth is, failure is just as mythical as Aladdin’s made-up land of Agrabah. We put so much pressure on ourselves to master a skill or to achieve a goal, and this pressure burns us out because we cannot meet our own expectations. It’s always the loudest thunderstorms that finish the fastest while light drizzles reign supreme the whole day. It is best to pace ourselves and take the trials and tribulations of learning lightly with a grain of salt. 

In short: yes, go do that thing you wanted to do. I will too. Whatever your merits are, go make that video, write more poems, lyrics, or stories. Sketch more eyeballs, watch that dance tutorial, and pitch that film idea. But don’t do it out of obligation or you will fear failure. Do it with curiosity, clumsiness, and with naïvety. Learn to love it slowly, without rushing. For love is patient, and so is passion. Explore it with your soul, unconstrained by internalized deadlines. 

Yes, you will make it. 

Yes, it takes time, but don’t let time scare you out of experiencing authentic newness.