Praise Your Own Work

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Updated November 3, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Creative Doing, by Herbert Lui. 75 practical techniques to unlock creative potential in your work, hobby, or next career. Purchase now for instant, lifetime access to the book.

What would you think about your work if you didn’t know your own intentions or disappointments?

Too often, our uncertainty of our work leads us to be critical of ourselves. We say things to or about ourselves that we never would accept other people saying to us, nor that we would say about others. “I believe that unless combated, self-hate is easy to develop and nearly impossible to shed,” writes Donda West in her book Raising Kanye.

However, we also have the ability to choose and take action. We can flip that tendency on its head. Be your own greatest supporter.

This prompt isn’t just about making ourselves feel good, it’s about nurturing and developing your own talent, recognizing progress, understanding what’s working in what you do, and identifying where you excel. When you do this, you can then focus on improving other aspects of your craft, or drawing out what’s truly special about your talent.

Look at a completed version of your work and write down five things that are working well. Here are some potential starting points:

  • If you have been practicing or developing a certain technique, analyze your development and how it contributes to the piece. (For example, if you’d been practicing crosshatching—did it improve in this piece? For me, maybe I’ve been practicing writing headlines—does this headline pique my own curiosity, more so than the ones I’d written previously?)

  • Reflect on your process. If you set out to work consistently, did you meet your goal? If you’re setting out to explore new or groundbreaking subject matter, are you getting closer to that?

  • What did you learn from this week’s work sessions? Are there lessons you’ve learned outside your creative process that you can apply to it?

  • What would a supportive friend say about this? What would an imaginary biggest fan say? What would a family member say?

  • How do the lessons you’ve learned and your current work set you up for the future? What are some directions it can take you in, towards where you want to go?

This encouragement is a foundation for continued action. You can throw grandiose admiration onto your work, loudly praising yourself for it. Or perhaps quietly appreciate it. After all, it takes support to nurture and continue on a mission and to keep the main thing the main thing.

Accept Imperfection

One powerful antidote to over-obsession is accepting that imperfection is the essence of nature itself. The Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi embodies this theme. Author Beth Kempton translates the two words in her book, Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life: “Wabi is about finding beauty in simplicity, and a spiritual richness and serenity in detaching from the material world. Sabi is more concerned with the passage of time, with the way that all things grow and decay and how aging alters the visual nature of those things.”

With the understanding of the etymology, Kempton describes the concept the two words convey:

Wabi sabi is an intuitive response to beauty that reflects the true nature of life.

Wabi sabi is an acceptance and appreciation of the impermanent, imperfect, and incomplete nature of everything.

Wabi sabi is a recognition of the gifts of simple, slow, and natural living.

Wabi sabi is a state of the heart. It is a deep in-breath and a slow exhale. It is felt in a moment of real appreciation—a perfect moment in an imperfect world.

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