CREATE. Such a magical word.
For nearly three months the one thing that has stopped me from starting this blog has been… me. That’s it. Sure, I can come up with supposedly-external excuses (and I did), but now I’ve realized that far from being the locked doors, every excuse I used was a key. What I thought were excuses outside of my control were in fact me telling myself exactly how I was getting in my own way. Just the act of starting this blog has given me insights into the ways that, as a creator, I get in my own way. And here are those excuses – bundled into three heaps of valid, but ultimately ridiculous, myths – and the insights they’ve given me.
Creating is a state of being.
The First Excuse Bundle: I’m not actually putting words on the paper. I’m not doing anything. Therefore I’ve failed. I don’t have anything to show for it. How can I call myself a writer? I’m a fraud.
I have come to realize that the act of creation doesn’t occur at specific times or in specific places. Sure, actually sitting before the proverbial blank canvas – the actual moment when the whispers in your head and heart become paint strokes on the page – is important, but so much has already gone on behind the curtain, in the magical mixing pot of the mind and the heart. Just because I am not putting words on a page doesn’t mean I’m not creating; after all, I’ve probably been writing in my head all day.
To be a creator is to be in the act of creating, in all its shapes and forms. So if you’re a writer and you haven’t written today, that doesn’t mean you haven’t created that day. If you’re anything like me, I bet at the end of the day, even if you haven’t written a single word on the page, you can still tell me at least one idea you had about your work. And you know what that is? Creating. Congrats! You’ve succeeded! And this leads me to the second insight I’ve gleaned…
Baby Steps! Every part of the process is important.
The Second Excuse Bundle: I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to start. I don’t have anything to work with. I’m overwhelmed. It’s too much. This idea is too big. Who wants to read about how everything is going anyway?
I’ve internalized this strange notion that only the finished product matters. Therefore, I’ve only ever felt comfortable sharing the end result of my work, as though every piece that came before the end is not beautiful in and of itself. As though to let others see the ups and downs and struggles it took to get there is a sign of weakness, or an indication that surprise! I’m not actually the creator I claim to be.
What. Utter. Nonsense.
Unformed gold is still gold. And just because that idea you had today didn’t make it onto the paper or the canvas doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. And just because the writing you did today doesn’t end up in the finished product doesn’t mean it’s bad/ugly/useless/insert-negative-word-here. It all counts! I guarantee you that anyone who creates something always starts with nothing more than a nugget, whether it comes from their head or their heart, conscious or subconscious.
And here’s the secret: every single person has those nuggets. I do. And yes, you do too. We all do. The hardest part is believing in that nugget and running with it!
Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that any step a baby takes is important, especially the first. That first baby step is the hardest, a leap into the unknown with nothing more than a gut belief they can do it! Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen an adult who doesn’t know how to walk because they fell over learning how when they were a child. You? I had to learn how to walk and now it’s second nature. The same is true for any way that we want to ‘be’. The more I create, the easier it will be to create. (And the best way I’ve found to do this is the third insight.)
So whenever I get overwhelmed by the thought of polishing that little nugget of an idea into a beautiful gemstone, I always fall back on the immortal mantra of my paternal parental: Baby steps! (Thanks, Dad!)
Get lost in the joy of creating; don’t dwell on how it will all turn out. That’s not the point anyway, and deep down you know it.
The Third Excuse Bundle: There’s no way this idea will become a book. Who will want to read this anyway? What if all this work is for nothing?
Whenever I forget that creating is the process, it leaves me (and possibly many others) afraid to forge ahead on that creative journey, because how can such a beautiful creation have ever started as this little lumpy nugget I see and feel? Well, here’s how:
If you stay present to the joy you experience when you’re in the act of creating, the result will be amazing. I promise. I don’t know much else, (I’m learning as I go along), but I know this. How?
Because a funny thing happens to me whenever I simply give in to the process and dive headfirst off the diving board. Suddenly the worries, fears, and doubts all vanish as quickly as the cold water banishes the sweltering heat of the summer. At the end of the day I don’t look at what I’ve written and say “wow, what is this drivel?” (Drivel? See Insight Two.) At the end of the day what I remember most is the utter joy I experienced while fully immersed in the world of my creation, talking to my characters, embodying them, listening to music that reminds me of a certain character or theme or setting. And isn’t this the whole reason we want to create in the first place? It is for me.
My take-away: When I give myself excuses, I’m really telling myself how I’ve locked the door and how to open it.
What excuses have you been telling yourself? I’d love to hear them!