April 12, 2018 -

As told to Ida C. Benedetto, 536 words.

Tags: Design, Failure, Inspiration.

What to watch to keep believing in yourself

For TCI x Are.na's Library of Practical and Conceptual Resources, Ida C. Benedetto shares a list of talks she revisits when feeling creatively stuck.


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One thing I do when I feel like a failure or have stopped believing in myself is watch inspirational talks. Even though I call myself a designer rather than an artist, I still pour a lot of myself into my work. Often, whatever is happening with my work can feel like it’s happening to me on a personal level. I don’t know if this is unhealthy or just the way to make work that matters. Whatever it is, there are times when the creative process can get me down and all I want to do is run away, or give up altogether.

Damian Kulash for the Future of StoryTelling 2012

But over the years, I’ve found that listening to a good talk ensures that I don’t hide or flail forever. I’ve been gathering this list of talks for a few years at this point, and can say with certainty that they pretty reliably keep me from bottoming out. Some of the talks are inspirational, some are reassuring, and some are tactical. They come from pretty obvious sources: commencement speeches, TEDx talks, School of Life videos. Honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing to share them publicly, since they feel so hokey when viewed all together out there in the open!

The talks roughly fall into these four categories:

▸ Reminders that the ideas I deeply feel, believe in, and love are the most rewarding things to pursue (Brene Brown, Yancey Stickler, Damian Kulash, Debbie Millman, and Ira Glass).

▸ Lessons on putting your life in perspective, and seeing beyond any one achievement or low point (Bronnie Ware and Carrie Mae Weems).

▸ Insight into the differences I embody, the struggles that come with those differences, and how to value these differences as strengths (Jessica McCabe and Dr. Brock Eide).

▸ Tactics on how to maneuver through the present moment (Neil Gaiman, Maria Bamford, Deborah Gruenfeld, Chen Lizra, and The School of Life videos).

Carrie Mae Weems: School of Visual Arts 2016 commencement address

Sometimes I forget that I’m a creative person. In the daily and weekly flow of it all, other things can feel more worthy of my attention: strategy, smarts, money, friendships, status, love, diversions. But at the base of who I am, being creative isn’t a choice for me—it’s a hard-wired default, and I’m all too familiar with the downsides that the trait of creativity can present. The videos I’m sharing with you today have helped me cope with the downsides.

Yancey Strickler: Resist & Thrive

Maybe someday I’ll wear these talks out, like a beloved album that I’ve listened to too many times for it to feel magical anymore. But the list isn’t static. I add things and take things off. As a dynamic source of support, it keeps working. So if you struggle with the downsides of being a creative person too, maybe some of these talks will help you, just as they’ve helped me.