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How creative people turn weaknesses into strengths

Sheila Chandra - Thursday, September 20, 2018

Many creative people are insanely talented and skilled, but their weaknesses trip them up. Are you good at thinking on your feet? But, hopeless at communicating with your audience? It’s time to get real about your weaknesses and transform them into strengths.

List the weaknesses and strengths in your creative life

Take a moment to reflect on your creative career up until now. Think about your successes, your failures and even your indifferences. What excites you about your chosen creative field? What annoys or frustrates you? What do others love (or hate) about your work? What can you improve on?

I want to prepare you for an exercise. You have to be crystal clear about what is and isn’t working. Make sure there are no distractions. Grab a pen and take two sheets of paper. One is for weaknesses and the other is for strengths. Write down statements of what you perceive as your creative weaknesses and strengths. Include compliments and feedback from your peers and the public. Your weaknesses might be “I’m bad at talking about my work” or “after playing a show I’m useless for the next 2 days”. Strengths might be “I work quickly and can produce 2 drawing per week” or “I only need 2 or 3 takes to record my guitar parts”. Your two lists can be short or long. Either is acceptable. There’s no right way to do this. Work with your self-awareness and be as honest as you can.

Creative people need confidence in their strengths

The previous exercise might leave you feeling emotional and vulnerable. Especially when listing your weaknesses. Consider taking a 5 minute break to refresh. Step back and dis-engage from that emotional place. We need to now shift gears and work with the logical part of your brain. It might be hard to swallow some compliments if you don’t truly believe them. Being unable to accept positive things about your creative skills and talents may reflect a high standard you’ve set for yourself. Maybe you can’t play the trumpet like Miles Davis. But, the fact that you play it pretty darn well makes it one of your strengths.

Further examine your creative weaknesses and strengths

Start with your strengths list. Next to each statement I want you to give at least 2 supporting reasons. Let’s say your creative field is working in theatre. On your strengths list you write “I always make a good impression at auditions.” Your 2 reasons could be “because I’m excited about prospective work” and “because I love meeting new people”. Move on to your weaknesses now. If you’ve written “I tend to over-act” your 2 reasons could be “because I’m not good at playing subtle, nuanced characters” and “my adrenaline is high when working”. Got the hang of it? You don’t need to know why. You just need to make observations.

Weaknesses that creative people can work with

It’s time to look at your weaknesses list. Go through this list and work with each of your statements. What can you change? Be specific. A weakness such as being late requires you to improve your time management skills. You’ve just identified what your task is. So, why’s it important to change? The advantage of being punctual is that people won’t dis-regard you for being flaky. It also means that you won’t miss out on opportunities. It’s important to define your motivation and write it down.

Your weaknesses list forms the basis of tasks you’ll work on in the near future. Now we move to the “how” part of improving your weaknesses. How can you improve? Who can you consult? Do you need to upgrade your tools? You might even need to take a month's sabbatical to strengthen a particular skill that you’ll need for your long-term career. Brainstorm over the next few days and talk to your creative friends. Make a plan and map out the baby steps you need to take. Make sure that you slot each step into your daily schedule. It may take a while, but working consistently towards eradicating weaknesses will make your career stronger in the long term.

Getting perspective on your creative weaknesses

What about the things you can’t change? Well, it’s worth re-thinking them. I want you to consider whether or not they’re really weaknesses? Let’s say that you’re a sculptor and you wrote “I work too slowly”. How do you deal with this? Maybe you’ve tried to rush in the past, but you cut corners and made mistakes. No matter what you do, you just can’t go faster. The way to approach this is to flip it around and look at it as a strength. Your statement now becomes “I am diligent and thorough” or “I allow my creative ideas to be fully realised”. The fact that you take such a long time can actually be a selling point for a gallery. It creates a higher demand for your work because you produce fewer pieces than other sculptors. Can you see how some perspective can turn your weakness into a strength? It just requires you to look at your creative work through the eyes of an outsider.

What’s the end goal of turning weaknesses into strengths?

Creative people can get set in their ways and become resistant to change. We restrict ourselves by not truly examining our strengths and weaknesses because it’s a scary task - which then limits our careers. But actually, it’s exciting that all your perceived weaknesses can become your future strengths if you’re prepared to spot them and work on them. Re-assess your strengths and weaknesses every year if you can. Your creativity will thrive as you get a better understanding of your limitations and your potential.

Is it time to strengthen your creative muscles? Organize your creative career by setting up systems that truly support you. And if you need one to one help, contact me at sheila@sheilachandra.com for a free coaching consultation.

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