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How to Love Your Creative Work When You Think It's Ugly

Creativity coach Nefeli Soteriou provides top tips on the creative life.

Eric Maisel
Creativity Coaches on Creativity
Source: Eric Maisel

While we’re working on a creative project, we may be far from happy with it. We may doubt its look, its potential, even its reason for being. One way this doubt manifests is that our work looks ugly to us. That’s the theme of today’s post from creativity coach Nefeli Soteriou called “How to love your creative work when you think it’s ugly.”

Nefeli explained:

Claire is a photographer. She sought coaching after a series of repetitive incidents that blocked her from completing her creative work. “Claire, will you explain in more detail what you mean when you say your work is ugly?” I asked.

“I can’t stand to look at it,” Claire responded. “My head starts spinning and my heart pounds in my chest. I become restless to the point that I leave the studio. Even if I want to try to stay put on the computer and edit the photographs, I can’t help it; all I can think about is that the work is ugly and what poor decisions I made when I was out taking pictures.”

“And when did you manage to go back to the studio?” I asked.

“I haven’t,” Claire said. "I love what I do and don’t want to ruin it!”

If you run into similar issues in your creative process, whether you’re a photographer, a filmmaker, an animator, a designer, or a painter, know that you are not alone. Claire faces a common thinking issue. In believing that her art is ugly, she creates a response with anxious physical symptoms. As a result, she feels discouraged and gives up.

A little over 6,000 thoughts enter the average human brain on a daily basis, experts most recently pointed out in a study carried out by psychologists and published in the journal Nature Communications. You can be more selective about which thoughts to concentrate on. Strive to learn to observe them. Keepers are those that empower you to succeed in your endeavors. Question those that cultivate doubt. Better yet, practice the following visualization exercise and use it when anxious thoughts start to affect your physiology.

Imagine all hindering thoughts as thin air that quickly dissolves from your brain. Be patient and kind to yourself. In days of intense overwhelm, you can learn to focus on deep breathing to naturally calm your body down. Inhale and hold a breath for four seconds, then exhale. Repeat for five minutes. That’s just one easy mindfulness technique to try out. Work on this a few minutes a day and especially every time a dreadful thought starts to affect your physiology. Be patient and kind to yourself as you guide your body to return to balance.

Try out any new approach you can think of to help yourself stay on track with your artistic goals. Understand that it takes real courage to seek further assistance and to march forth to embracing change. Always remember, your dreams are too important to put on hold. Know why you produce the creative work you do, feel the fear, and pursue it anyway!


You can visit Nefeli Soteriou at

You can visit Eric Maisel at

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