Letter Zero.48
Dear <<First Name>>, 

The hardest question you can ask is, “Does this deserve to exist?” It hurts to even type those words. The new year inevitably slaps me in the face with that question, throwing me into an existential crisis. Is my work good enough? Why am I doing what I am doing? What am I getting out of this? 

Every year I manage to pull out of the spiral, but it is always harder than I want to admit. February is when it hits me hardest, that’s when I traditionally host an internal pity party, mope around, wallow in the winter doldrums feeling sorry for myself. Today I want to share some ideas for how to survive the “Does this deserve to exist” question in case you struggle with it, too.

The fangs hidden in the “deserve to exist” question hang on the word deserve. You don’t deserve anything. Your existence is a gift. Your ability to create is a gift. So the first step is to strip your ego out of the scenario. You can do this by replacing the word deserve with the idea of permission. Give yourself permission to exist. Give your art permission to exist. Can you feel the weight lifting off you as you absorb this reframing technique?

This reframe works because it is much easier to exist when you are in a mindset of humility and gratitude. It takes the pressure off you because you don’t have to live up to whatever expectations that come with trying to claim what’s rightfully yours. It eliminates the shame and anger that result from feeling perpetually short changed. And it makes you easier to be around because If you think you deserve to be the president of every room you enter, everyone else will be looking for the exits. 

You’ll also find that this mindset can remove creative blocks because it puts you in a mental space where you can enjoy things as they are, flaws and all. You will see flaws as an opportunity, not an insult punishable by death. Being the judge, jury, and executioner deciding whether or not something should exist is exhausting. Instead, think of yourself as a boy scout leaving every camp site better than when he arrived. You aren’t an executioner, you are a collaborator with your surroundings. Accept and enjoy things for what they are and then take pleasure in improving what you can. 

With the new year I have been toying with ending the life of Letter Zero. Does it deserve to exist? Instead of killing it, I am giving myself permission to experiment. I don’t exactly know what that means, but don’t be surprised if I re-mix things in future emails. Thanks for giving my words permission to survive in your inbox another week. I’ll write again soon. Stay creative.

Your friend,
Copyright © 2021 Adrian Hanft, All rights reserved.

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