Fear of One Hit Wonder Syndrome


You know that favorite piece of yours–that one you love like crazy and feel most proud of?

Are you secretly afraid you can’t beat it? Or that it was just a happy accident?

I mean, you know you made it, but it feels like the exception and not the rule, and maybe you’ve decide that it doesn’t count?

Or you feel like you’ve mysteriously managed to trick Fate and slip one by him as he dozed off on his 24 hour shift at the Dickensian Don’t Get Too Big for Your Britches accounting desk in the sky?

Maybe you’ve even made something you love so much that now it’s paralyzing you from making more work because you think none of it will ever measure up to that piece again.

And if it’s been a while since you’ve made anything and you feel rusty, these worries can bring on a full-blown bout of extreme self-censorship and anxiety about ever trying again.

Listen, you’re not alone. Almost every artist, crafter, writer or designer I know secretly harbors these thoughts or has done at some point in their creative life.

Thing thing is, it’s total garbage. You made it once and you can make it again–or do something better.

Your best work is there to remind you what you’re capable of and the incredible possibilities that lie before you. You’re not a One Hit Wonder, over the hill and past your prime.

No one is.

Even One Hit Wonders. Because their singular “hit” was about the market and has nothing to do with the music.

You have a lifetime of creativity and possibility in front of you. And in that lifetime, sometimes you’re going to make crap–it’s inevitable.

And those of you who push yourselves out of your comfort zone most often will make more crap than the others.

But you will also make more great stuff too.

The great stuff and the…. “wadders” as we say in the sewing world, are like a yin yang inevitability–each is necessary for the other, and together they make your path.

The “wadders” are not mistakes, and the time you took to make them was not wasted. They’re paving stones on your path to better work. The real trick is to enjoy and honor them.

And the more you create, the easier this is to do because…the more you create, the more you own your process.

The more you create, the more you realize you are not your stuff. You are, in fact, a many splendor-ed thing!

The more you create, the more you embrace the evolution of your own artistic journey and the less you care what others think about what you do.

The more you create, the more okay you are with your mistakes, side trips, and risk-taking.

The key is to commit to yourself and your particular creative path regardless of the “success” of the work you make. Why? Because you’re already in it for the long haul–whether you realize it or not.

You could get hit by a bus tomorrow, but you”ll probably live to a ripe old age and you’ll still be drawn to creativity and creating–whether you’re making anything or not–just like you are now.

How are you going to spend those years from now til then?

Are you going to get to the end of your life having protected yourself from bad feelings and occasionally looking silly, or will you include yourself in the creative experience simply because you want to, because you enjoy it, because it makes you feel like yourself, fully connected to being alive?

Will you give yourself challenges? Will you make things you have no idea how they will turn out? Will you immerse yourself and go to your particular edge?

Will you live your life like the artist you are–creating, looking, thinking, noticing, reveling, marveling, appreciating and making-making-making–unwilling to rob yourself of your particular creative experience, your particular creative path?

What will you choose?

Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

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  1. paula lewis says:

    Even One Hit Wonders. Because their singular “hit” was about the market and has nothing to do with the music.

    Sarah, this was a perfect turn of phrase to remind us that we are artists because we make things, NOT because we sell things. Thanks for reminding the muse to stop whining!

  2. Terri Pike says:

    “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally.” That is the old saying that I liken myself to… it feels like I just “got lucky” if something turned out good.

    I even named my Etsy shop BlindSquirrel because of it. I feel so hit or miss about any success I have.

  3. Debera Dowell says:

    Thanks Sarah for yet another timely message of hope and inspiration. I have been out of my studio for about 5 weeks and have gone through some ice-cream therapy in the process of avoiding creating. I just got back to it a couple days ago and it feels good to be creating again. I think I just got out of the habit of creating because some important obligations took me away from it for a couple of weeks then I became kind of paralyzed by the committee that likes to hold meetings in my head when I am not creating.
    The funny thing is the committee shows up whether I am creating or not but the meetings last forever when I stop creating and these opinions that bounce around in my head can put me in a real funk.
    However when I am creating it seems like I get so involved in the process that I forget to listen to the negative voices and I really do enjoy it . and in these moments it is pure bliss, I don’t care if I sell the work or give it away or keep it for myself because the real joy is in simply creating.
    I have learned to not get too stumped on where to go with something if I can’t figure it out right away because I always have more than one project in process so I just walk away and work on something else and eventually the answers will come and I can finish whatever I was stumped by.
    It also helps that I work with several mediums and so I can change it up with some things that are less challenging when I feel out of my league with my paintings. I have so much to learn and sometimes my little pea brain just needs a little rest.
    and a note to you Terri; loved the blind squirrel saying( me too) and I saved your etsy store, saving up for some of your work IT IS AMAZING!!!!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE IT.

  4. Sarah says:

    Wow, great comments!-
    @Paula, so glad it resonated because the making and the commitment to making is truly what makes us artists–what sells is just what sells.
    @Terri–I don’t think it’s luck as much as you do–I think it’s your willingness to show up and create–and because of that, you’re aware of your own confusions and “wadders”, but we all see what great work you make on your etsy site–that ain’t no accident!
    @Deb–Ah, Ben and Jerry have helped me through tough times very often as well!–I think you have such great self-care, self support skills to keep your committee at bay. And I too love working on several things at once–it’s a great cure for not getting stumped!
    Thanks for sharing, it means a lot to me!

  5. Gilliauna says:

    “Even One Hit Wonders. Because their singular “hit” was about the market and has nothing to do with the music”

    I have to agree with Paula, this is a terrific quote. So many people forget that beauty is relative. What one person likes another will hate and vice versa. A “hit” has nothing to do with a person’s creativity beyond that they created the item. It has to do with market and “trends” of fashion, etc.

    Be proud of your work, no matter what it is. Creativity is an exploration in experimentation, after all. You find what makes you happy and what feels right to -you- and go with it.

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