Ego and Excuses

We sit down at a keyboard to compose a piece of music or a poem. Or we face an empty canvas or a lump of clay.

And often, we discover our attempts don’t sound or look quite as we’d imagined. Not as good as the work of the composers or writers or painters or sculptors we admire. And not as good as the work we imagined in our heads.

It’s easy to give up.

Many would-be creatives are so afraid of imperfection, they don’t even go so far as to try.

It’s much easier to say “I’d be a great composer if I had more time.” “I’d be a great writer if I could afford a writer’s retreat.” “I’d be a great painter if I had an art degree.” “I’d be a great sculptor if I had better tools”.

And of course, I’d be a better creative if I lived there or then.

These are all ‘life lies‘. Excuses. Stories we tell ourselves, to comfort our egos.

‘Just one thing keeps ego around – comfort. Pursuing great work – whether it is in sports or art or business – is often terrifying. Ego soothes that fear. It’s a salve to that insecurity. Replacing the rational and aware parts of our psyche with bluster and self-absorption, ego tells us what we want to hear, when we want to hear it. But it is a short-term fix with a long-term consequence.’

Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy

The Taste/Talent Gap

Ira Glass describes the ‘Taste/Talent Gap’ which traps so many creatives. We want to create because we have good taste. But there is a gap, which may last for several years. During this time, you make things that don’t live up to your taste. It is during this period, says Holiday, that our ego seems comforting.

We prefer the imagined, genius in our head, over the flawed, productive self of reality.

And that is dangerous. Because if we listen too much to our ego, and invent too many excuses, our ego will eventually kill our creative self.

To be creative, you must create. A composer composes. A writer writes. A painter paints. A sculptor sculpts.

Sitting there fantasizing about painting in Paris or blogging in Bali only makes you a daydreamer.

Beware the silent ego

Many creatives let ego and excuses get in their way.

‘That’s not me!’ you might say. ‘If anything, I’m too insecure!’

Yet ego doesn’t necessarily mean you go around telling everyone you’re the best. Sure, some creatives do. But quiet, private egotism is just as deadly.

If you keep telling yourself you’re brilliant, you can become afraid to attempt anything that might expose the fact (to yourself) that you’re not quite there yet. That’s ego hurting you.

Of course, it’s not just our own judgements of our work we have to contend with. There’s the judgements of others, too. Find out how you can develop intellectual and emotional creative confidence.

Leave a Reply