Are you making these mistakes creatives make without even knowing it? Whether you're just starting out on your creative path or work full-time in a creative field, you need to read this list!

Nine Mistakes Creatives Make

Are you making these mistakes creatives make without even knowing it? Whether you’re just starting out on your creative path or work full-time in a creative field, you need to read this list!

One of the things I’ve noticed in my life is that it’s really easy to fall into the same traps over and over again. Maybe this is because the creative journey is just that — a journey. As you travel down this road, you begin to realize that each destination leads to the next one and so on. Even if you make it to your initial goal, you can easily slip back into bad habits.

These mistakes that creatives make can be made by anyone — whether you’re just starting out or you own a successful business. The key is to notice and course-correct when you veer into these mistakes or see them starting to become a pattern in your life.

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The Top Nine Mistakes Creatives Make

1. Compare Your Beginning with Someone Else’s Middle.

I first heard about this concept from Jon Acuff and constantly quote it to myself. When I start looking around with a mental measuring stick and use that as a way to measure the success of my projects (or worse, myself), I’m setting myself up for failure. A friend of Acuff’s once told him what else can happen:

“Don’t compare yourself to other people. If you’re ahead of them, you’ll get too prideful and be tempted to coast. If you’re behind them, you’ll get depressed and want to give up. Just write your own paper.”

You have your own story. Own it.

2. Don’t Champion Others.

It can be easy to be working so hard on your project that you forget the world around you. If this is a momentary thing, aka, you’re in “the zone”, that’s fine, but if this is your lifestyle . . . you need to re-assess. Look for ways to promote the work of other people, especially those who are just starting out. If you’re a blogger, make it a habit to promote other bloggers. You can even do this secretly by pinning and sharing content in your newsletters. It’s the 2015 version of sending an encouraging note to someone.

List five ways you’ll promote others this week, and then do it.

3. Take Criticism Personally.

Yuck. Who likes criticism? I would venture to guess, absolutely no one. Still, it’s a fact of life, and if you’re in a creative field, you’re going to have to learn to handle it well. My husband went to design school and realized quickly that he would have to learn how to separate himself from his work.

I asked him for some advice for this tip and he said,

People are going to have opinions about what you make. Sometimes something is wrong with the design and sometimes it’s just their opinion. You have to separate yourself from your work. You need to learn to process feedback in a way that benefits the client or the work itself rather than feeding your own ego.

Words of wisdom. I love how he always sees the big picture for his projects and is focused on creating great products and experiences for his clients.

Take notes if someone is critiquing your work. This has a way of separating you from the project and will help you to look at it objectively.

4. Isolate Yourself.

Though the word, “artist” tends to conjure up images of someone working alone in a studio, one of the worst things you can do is isolate yourself. Most people don’t think of community and collaboration when they think of artists, but that is such a key element of a creative life.

Yes, there are definitely times when you need to work alone, and that’s fine. But you will benefit greatly by sharing your work and being open to other people’s ideas. This one is particularly difficult if you’re an introvert like me–it’s really easy to make things in a bubble–but gradually taking steps to share and to move out of the bubble is so incredibly healthy. Promise.

How could you share your work with someone else this week?

5. Try To Be Perfect.

Um, yeah. Have you ever started a project and everything was going well until you were nearly finished? So you tweaked a few things and then another few things until it became The Project That Wouldn’t Die?

I am not talking about:

  • Projects that naturally take a long time to complete,
  • Skipping revision rounds and taking all of your original ideas to the finish line,
  • Throwing quality out the window, or
  • Ignoring your gut that is telling you to PLEASE STOP this project because it’s getting you nowhere.

I am talking about:

  • Needing to ditch the perfectionism at the door. Your project will never be perfect. There, I said it. I hate to admit it as much as you, but it’s true.
  • Remembering that your clients are looking for expertise and help from a real person. They want you to be professional and offer quality, of course, but they also realize they’re not dealing with a robot. That’s a good thing.

Perfectionism actually leads to the next mistake creatives make. Because when you let perfectionism rule, it’s likely you will start to procrastinate.

If perfectionism is your bane, try giving yourself clear due dates, even if it is for personal projects.

6. Procrastinate.

Have you ever noticed that you can procrastinate JOY?

I realized this a few weeks ago when my husband all but pushed me out the door to go on a creative retreat for the morning. It had been penciled in on the calendar for several weeks so I knew it was coming, and I really wanted to go because creative retreats are AWESOME, but when it came down to me actually leaving, I procrastinated. I literally was refolding the t-shirts in my dresser (what?!) when he walked in and asked me if I was going to go. Um, yeah. I just need to organize my sock drawer and then . . .

He didn’t let me finish which was incredibly nice of him. Later on that morning, I was journaling and wrote the question, “Why do I procrastinate joy in my life?” I know I need time to create and process, and yet I put it off. Making creative retreats a regular practice in my life has helped keep the procrastination at bay.

Are you pushing aside creative pursuits you love to do? Are you making time for creativity on a regular basis?

7. Stay in Your Safe Zone.

This is a tricky one and so easy to slip into. The truth is, you have talent, and you’re living it. You’re actually making money doing something you love. Or maybe you don’t do your creativity thing for the money; maybe you’re spending your afternoons teaching your kids craft projects (which, by the way, hats off to you and why do you make it look so easy?)

Whatever it is, you’re using your skills. But then this weird thing happens. Your creativity starts to stagnate. It might even start to–dare I say it?—get boring. A quick fix for this is to step out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Learn. Don’t ever get to the place where you think you’ve “arrived”, and you’ll be good to go.

What are some activities you could try or books you could read that would challenge you to take a step out of your safe zone?

9 Mistakes Creatives Make - Are you making these mistakes without even knowing it? Whether you're just starting out on your creative path or work full-time in a creative field, you need to read this list! @

8. Don’t Practice.

When I was in elementary school I took piano lessons from Mrs. Vaughn. I really wanted to learn how to play the piano but wasn’t too excited about practicing scales and songs that only used three notes. What always surprised me was she could tell when I didn’t practice. She would sit there quietly and listen to me struggle through Three Blind Mice and then say, “You didn’t practice, did you?” Ah, man, you got me.

You see, I wanted the skill without having to work for it. Isn’t that the secret desire of all of us? Yes, I want to learn how to take better photographs! Sign me up! Oh, wait, I have to take how many pictures?

And P.S., all of you arteests know this, but you won’t ever get to the point where you don’t need to practice anymore. Keep learning and honing your craft, whatever it is.

9. Forget that Creativity IS life.

Sometimes we compartmentalize areas of our life that would do better to flow into everything else. Creativity is one of those things. In a strange way, you stifle yourself when you make rules about when creativity is “allowed.” You also set yourself back when your definition of creativity is extremely narrow.

Here are a few examples of creative acts that wouldn’t normally be thought of as such:

  • The mom who comes up with a meal plan for the week for her family
  • The babysitter who makes up stories for the kids before naptime
  • The woman who leaves a kind note on a table at a coffee shop

Wherever you are, be all there. -Jim Elliot

Train yourself to notice this crazy, beautiful life you’ve been given. Live your life. You’ll soon see that creativity doesn’t stop when you leave the art studio or the office. Maybe that’s where it starts.

Think of a couple new places you could allow your creativity to spill into this week.

P.S. I believe in retreats so much, I ended up writing a book about DIYing your own personal retreats throughout the year. 🙂 Check it out here.

Learn how to DIY your own personal retreats all year long! This workbook shows how you don't have to spend a lot of money OR time to make time for creativity in your life. It's SO worth it!

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36 responses to “Nine Mistakes Creatives Make”

  1. Emily @ Two Purple Couches Avatar
    Emily @ Two Purple Couches

    I think you may have written this post for me because I found myself nodding along to every single point. I don’t always give my creativity enough room to be and to breathe. I am learning, and making a more conscious effort to give it space and fuel it with the time and attention it needs. I think I may pull your mistakes into a list that I can hang on my wall and reference when I start slipping back into old habits! But maybe that’s just part of the creative cycle 😉

    I love that you’ve written your Creative Retreat workbook to help give people the space and encouragement to let their creativity shine!

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Thanks so much, Emily! Believe me, I’ve done every single one of these too–how else could I write about it, haha? 🙂 🙂 That’s such a great idea to make the mistakes into a list…got me thinking about a printable now. 🙂 Have a wonderful day! 🙂

  2. Melanie Redd Avatar
    Melanie Redd

    Hey Jennie,

    I came over on Favorite Things today, and I’m glad to find your site. I liked it so much that I followed you by email, on Twitter, and on Pinterest!

    This is a great blog today! I must be a creative because I can relate to every item you shared! I really hate constructive criticism especially. Words are so powerful, and it is hard to separate our work from our selves!

    You’ve given me many great things to think on today~
    Hope you have a blessed day,

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Ah Melanie, you just made my day! 🙂 I’m so glad you found your way here–welcome! 🙂 Oo, the constructive criticism is difficult, isn’t it? I’m still learning to separate myself from it; sometimes it feels like criticism towards a project is towards me because the project has become a part of me. My husband has taught me a LOT about how to listen well in this area since his job revolves around creating projects for clients. Thanks so much for your sweet comment–hope you have a wonderful day too! 🙂

  3. Claire Avatar

    I can identify with all these points especially procrastination. I’m a very skilled procrastinator if I spent as much time on my craft as I did pro casting I would be at least twice as productive.

    1. Jennie Avatar

      I hear you, Claire! Oh my goodness, sometimes I have to ask myself, “Why am I procrastinating this? Am I afraid?” Sometimes I have to admit that I’ve been afraid of success as much as I’ve been afraid of failure. Go ahead and allow yourself to do your creative thing. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Have a great day!

  4. Cathy Avatar

    I identify with all those mistakes…woe is me! Have a grand day!

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Believe me, I do too–hence, the LONG post, haha. But hey, we’re not dead yet so we can still grow, right? 🙂 🙂 Hope you’re having a lovely day, Cathy!

  5. Suzy Mae @ a soulful life Avatar
    Suzy Mae @ a soulful life

    Excellent post. Will bookmark 🙂

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Thanks so much! Have a great weekend! 🙂

  6. Hannah@SeeingtheLovely Avatar

    What great insights, Jennie! You’ve really nailed it, we creatives do all of these at some point or another. No. 8 sticks out to me, as a pianist and piano teacher, I completely identify with wanting the result without the practice, and yet I have to remind my students all of the time that it doesn’t work that way! Thanks for the great tips!

    1. Jennie Avatar

      You’re so welcome, Hannah. 🙂 I have to admit sometimes I wish there was an easy button for learning how to do things that didn’t require practice, haha…but it IS pretty amazing what consistent practice does for you. Thanks so much for your comment!

  7. Kim Cunningham Avatar
    Kim Cunningham

    These are superb tips and chocked full of creative wisdom!

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Thanks so much, Kim! Lessons learned by living them, that’s for sure!

  8. Carla Chadwick Avatar
    Carla Chadwick

    All great points that apply to me . Thanks for putting together such a well-thought-out post.

    I found you at the Weekend Retreat Party, by the way, and I followed you on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. 🙂

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Thanks so much, Carla! Goodness, I really appreciate your kindness. 🙂 (And yes, these all apply to me too!)

  9. Theresa @DearCreatives Avatar
    Theresa @DearCreatives

    Pinned & shared thanks for linking up at the party & sharing your lovely post with us. Hope to see you again soon.

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Thanks so much, Theresa! 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  10. All that's Jas Avatar
    All that’s Jas

    So true….and thank you for those great tips! Thanks for linking up with us at Thursday Favorite Things!

    1. Jennie Avatar

      You’re so welcome! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  11. jenni Avatar

    Great post. I’m particularly bad at working hard on ideas and planning things out and then procrastinating when it actually comes to the creation and completion of said ideas. Speaking of… heading to work on the current idea now!

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Oh my goodness, Jenni, I do that all the time. I don’t know what it is–I put all of this work into planning and then lose motivation when I actually get to do the thing. This might sound funny but something that has helped is giving myself permission to work on these projects and setting the timer to work on them for 20 minutes. Sometimes I get in a groove after the 20 minutes is over, sometimes not, but one thing is for sure–I’ve made progress. 🙂 Hope you have fun on your new project! 🙂

  12. Meredith @ The Palette Muse Avatar
    Meredith @ The Palette Muse

    These are so good! I think I’m guilty of every single one, but especially procrastination and perfection. I guess we’re all a work in progress… 🙂

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Yes, we are all definitely works in progress, Meredith! 🙂

  13. Christine Avatar

    This is very insightful. I used to work with a bunch of digital scrapbook designers and witnessed a lot of these things side-tracking people or slowing their growth.

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Thanks so much for your comment, Christine. What an interesting front-row seat you had in a creative industry. I bet you could add several things to this list!

  14. Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai Avatar
    Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai

    Excellent advice! Being creative is a gift indeed. Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty – we love partying with you! Hope to see you next Friday. 🙂

    Life With Lorelai

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Thanks so much, Lorelai! 🙂

  15. Kitty @ Avatar
    Kitty @

    OMG! I think I pretty much make every singe mistake :S I always put the bar very high and when I don’t succeed I feel like a total failure (even though it might have been because it was way to hard for me). Besides I’m hardly ever happy with what I produce *sigh* I’m working on it ^_^

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Don’t give up, Kitty! I’ve definitely made all these mistakes–why do you think I could write so much about them, haha…:/ I think the most important thing is to keep on trying. We’re always going to make mistakes as creative people but let those mistakes teach you a lesson (next time I’ll do this instead) and you’re on your way to growing and getting better. 🙂 Thanks for your comment, and have a great day!

  16. Carmen Whitehead Avatar
    Carmen Whitehead

    Great advice Jennie! I found myself saying “I really need to stop doing that!” to a few of them. Looking forward to following you and getting some more advice!

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Thanks so much, Carmen! I hear you–I think we’ve all made some (or most!) of these mistakes, right? 🙂 Hope you’re having a great week!

  17. Lalaith Avatar

    Thanks for this post! I make constantly all of them… A perfectionalist here! Sometimes I don’t even start becouse I’m affraid that the result won’t be as good as I would like. 🙁 So I practice less, I don’t improve much and then I’m frustrated with the results. And the circle goes on. Hope I’ll manage my perfection craving better…

  18. Pandora Avatar

    Thank you for sharing! the list is so helpful, though I am afraid I am going to keep making these mistakes over and over again!

    Spreading the word here >


  19. Angela @ Mary Angela's Blog Avatar

    Yup, I pretty much make most of these and I’m starting the New Year with a new goal in mind – let go of perfectionism. I isolate myself for months on end in my house and my husband has to literally drag me out of our office just to have a little meal outdoors. It’s really hard to break away from work, when your whole life is built on it and you enjoy it so much. Your husband is a very wise man. I loved all these tops Jennie. You’re extremely insightful and I just love this post! <3

    1. Jennie Avatar

      Thanks so much for your comment, Angela. Yes, perfectionism IS a tough one. Just take it little by little. It takes a while to break old habits and sometimes we don’t give our minds and bodies long enough to adapt. 🙂 I hope this is a wonderful weekend for you!

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