Deciding and diving

To be a writer you simply need to write. That’s the hard part for most people.

Similarly, you can’t be a painter without painting. To hang your photos in a gallery, you must first take the photos and then send them to galleries for consideration. If you want to be a musician, write the music or play the instrument and do it where someone can hear you.

Why, then, do so many of us get caught-up trying to take that first step to accomplishing our creative goal? Where do we get hung up?

Fear, I would argue, is the culprit.Fear of failing, fear that we’re making the wrong choice, fear that this isn’t our best work, fear that we’ll be found out as a fake or phony (which is a topic for another day).

These fears we face whenever we pursue any creative endeavor are certainly real, but that doesn’t make them valid or worthy of hindering our progress. More-importantly: the fears we face are often merely fabrications of our imagination, to the point where we are nearly always (I’d like to argue that it is actually always) better off ignoring the fears and doing the work anyway.

If you want to be a famed novelist, for example, you have to first write the words (it doesn’t really matter what words, only that you write them). If those mix of words don’t workout all that great, then guess what: you can try again with new words.

The same goes for painting, starting a business, creating a fashion line, photography, designing architecture, becoming a musician, and nearly anything else in life.

Even if you don’t sell a dozen copies or hear from a dozen fans, even if the work doesn’t make your career, even if you feel like you could have done more or better, you’ve done two things that are immensely valuable.

The first thing you’ve done by accomplishing the work is something very few people do: the work. You’ve overcome the fear, you’ve pushed past boundaries, you made something happen. That’s remarkable, by the way. Put that on your resume or portfolio.

The second thing is you’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work. Maybe you don’t even realize it. But by tackling the work – by writing the book, by publishing your songs, by contacting the museum curator – you’ve got that experience under your belt. You should now know that you can do it, firstly, and that you can try something a little differently next time.

You can’t discover what’s possible and learn what to do the next time around if you let fear stand in your way.

To be creative successful – to achieve our creative goals – we have to first decide what it is we want to do, we have to decide a course of action to take, and we have to believe that it’ll be worthwhile to follow-through even in the face of failure.

No excuses, decide what you want to do (it doesn’t have to be perfect either, just pick something) and do it.

As long as you’re not jumping out of an airplane without a parachute or tempting rabid dogs with your bare skin, you’ll be fine.

One way I’ve found for defeating the fear associated with creative work (or really any work) is to just dive-in, leap without thinking. For most of the work you want to do there will be no repercussions you can’t recover from. If you wait too long, if you think too much, fear will grow until you can’t move. You have to leap before your brilliant brain has a chance to develop those fears.

Don’t wait for the fear to get a hold of you, start now. Take that first step toward accomplishing your vision, however small that step may be.


Seth Godin on getting rid of fear

Everything is easier once you start

Starting and the fear of breaking things

Photo by Thomas Quine.