Riding the creative rollercoaster

As you hurtle around the track of a rollercoaster, your body is thrown all over the place, your eyes are squashed into the back of your skull, and your stomach feels like it’s about to climb out of your throat.

And beyond a certain point, it gets hard to breathe too.

Your body instinctively tenses up to prevent too much blood leaving your brain.


As a creative person, you’ll know these feelings all too well…

The start of a project is easy. You’re exhilarated by the blank canvas in front of you, and can’t wait to splash paint all over it: This is awesome.

But as you start painting, you have to apply yourself. Now you’re actually concentrating quite hard on the task in hand: This is tricky.

Fuck. Things aren’t panning out as you’d imagined. It’s much harder than you expected to get this right: This is shit.

Now you’re starting to doubt yourself. What’s wrong with you today? Can you really do this? Work grinds to a halt as you start to think: I am shit.

Cut to several hours, maybe even several days later. You’ve worked through the tough patch and come out the other side again. And without really knowing how, you’ve created something you like: This might be ok

And now after sleeping on it, you’re looking back at what’ve you’ve done, and it looks ok. Maybe more than that: Oh wait…

Stop the press. It’s better than ok. Yes! You’ve made something you really fucking like. And it solves the brief too. You can’t wait to show your work to the world: This is awesome…


Let’s zoom out and look at the creative rollercoaster as a whole:

  • This is awesome
  • This is tricky
  • This is shit
  • I am shit
  • This might be ok
  • Oh wait…
  • This is awesome…

Notice anything about the sequence?

(Other than the danger of thinking that if your work is shit, you are too).

The creative rollercoaster is a circular loop

You don’t ride the creative rollercoaster to get somewhere, like you ride the bus.

You ride the rollercoaster for the sheer thrill of it.

There’s something equally important to remember…

The creative rollercoaster ride is a controlled experience

Everyone freaks out to some extent on a rollercoaster: wonders if they are strapped in properly, or if they’re going to pass out, or puke up, or worse.

Self-doubt is an integral part of the creative process.

So these feelings won’t go away.

But you can learn to ride them out.

To enjoy the g-forces acting on your body.

Because ultimately, you’ll step safely off the rollercoaster with a huge grin on your face… (albeit with your heart beating a little faster than usual).

Then you’ll wait a few minutes for your lunch to settle in your stomach, and get straight back in the queue to ride the rollercoaster again.

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