Wow. That is how I feel a lot.
I've worked in the creative field doing costumes my whole life. I've had the opportunity to get paid while I was learning, and it's taken me years to develop a personal sense of competency when it comes to sewing.
I've spent years working with some of the best costume technicians and designers in the field, and it's intimidating seeing how quickly they accomplish things, or how readily they come up with a solution to a perplexing quandary. I always told myself, "Hey, that's why they make the big bucks!"
But they really don't. No one makes "big bucks" in the costuming field. It's really difficult to make a living in theatre--regardless of whether you're doing costumes or acting (which is actually worse!). Locally here in San Diego, the stipend for designing costumes in a non-regional theatre is around $1000 give or take, depending on the size of the theatre company--and that includes building anything you can't buy or borrow, shopping, fittings, alterations on garments, and any notes that might happen in the rehearsal process. You supply your own equipment, and shop supplies either come out of the show budget or you make special arrangements. It can be a multi-month process when you add in design meetings, sketches, and attending some rehearsal run-throughs...
I don't even want to think about how much it breaks down to per hour... Way below minimum wage...
I got two college degrees in my field, and I was told one thing over and over again that didn't sink in until years later: "You have to do it because you can't not do it." It's a calling.
Why attempt anything creative when the learning curve is so vastly huge, and mastery is never guaranteed?
Every time I looked at what I was doing, I was spiritually crushed by all the wonderful work I saw on the internet, or in the shops I worked in, and knew I couldn't compete with their skill.
I was comparing myself out of my calling.
So I came up with a solution. Creative Blindness.
There is a fine line between being inspired and being intimidated. It is the easiest thing in the world to compare your own work with the work seen in a book or on another's blog. It is human nature. And sometimes we step away a bit depressed and deflated because we feel our work doesn't measure up.
The temptation is to go out and buy our way into artistic success. With the right supplies, we can make anything look beautiful! We can follow the guidelines in the beautiful books and we can emulate their work and either feel really happy with what we made or feel even more frustrated because we simply replicated their creativity. It's a double-edged sword.
But we still end up spending money on supplies, regardless of success.
I like to buy inspirational magazines as a placebo for feeling creatively fulfilled. I like to look at the beautiful pictures and feel "motivated". But I inevitably find myself at a table with a pile of supplies and nothing to show for it. And creatively stumped.
So my solution is to simply not look. To stop buying so many magazines. To stop going to the museums. To restrict my internet meanderings and force myself to guide my searches for specific input that I can use in the moment.
Because I know that somewhere there is someone out there that is "better" than me. And that's okay. I am in the process of discovering what it is that I can do that they can't. I have to accept that it will take time, and I have to take pride in my work as it progresses, relishing the discoveries others have already made. I am in the middle of a long journey that will never end--and if I pause to change paths because I see someone has already arrived at the destination I have set myself toward, I will never get anywhere.
Because I'm learning that my path leads to a destination that they can't get to. Because it's mine. I just have to keep moving forward, trusting that I'm getting closer, regardless of whether I can see the path under my feet. My goals may be very near where they ended up, but the closer I get to them I realize the angle of my trajectory shifts away. I'm not really going where they went after all.
And sometimes it's best to NOT compare and contrast. NOT let the inspiration slip into becoming a deterrent by simply taking it bit by bit at a controlled rate. Leading a less "plugged in" life, and accepting that it's okay to be "boring" or less social. Spend what time you have enjoying your process instead of feeding the advertising monster that is television, or even the craft supply business when it gets right down to it...
Do it because you can't not do it. Be a little selfish. And sacrifice what others might feel is sacrosanct.
And Live Life with Relish.
Top image by Andrew McClusky via Flickr. Creative Commons License.
Second image by Amy Loves Ya via Flickr. Creative Commons License.
Third image by Robynlou Kavanagh via Flickr. Creative Commons License.