Image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Creativity and vulnerability. Unfortunately, they often come as a pair. And, by the way, life itself is a creative undertaking. Hence, we can spend a lot of time feeling exposed and vulnerable. We risk becoming victims of the “buts.”
You know how it works. You have a great idea. And before it’s fully formed in your mind, along comes a big “but.” Dragging along with it all of the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t do it. Hey, you might fail. Or surely enough people have already done this or written this.
The excuses come flying out of thin air, propelled by fear, chasing you out of the creative chambers of your mind. And your heart. You go slinking out of the room.
Wait! Come back!
Consider an idea recently shared in an email from the author, Todd Henry. He posed the question “What would you do if fear had no power over you, and failure was an option? (His emphasis on ‘was’.) He attributes this question to commercial photographer and “creative mad scientist”, Jonbob Willis.
Let’s face it, failure is always a possibility. Not an option we’d usually choose but it’s always somewhere on the table. But at times we can conveniently forget. Remember the first time you learned to ride a bike, play the piano, or attempt sports? Did you approach them differently?
Perhaps these experiences weren’t immediately categorized as “creative.” When looking around in the creative world everyone else seems so freaking amazing, right? They’re all overnight successes. They didn’t have to face failure. Go ahead, roll your eyes. We know it’s not true and yet we go there at times.
Returning to the initial idea of the “but” statement, what if we substituted “and”? I’d like to try this creative thing and, hey, I might fail.”
Here’s what I do when I sit down to write, an arena rife with vulnerability. Feel free to apply it anywhere in life’s creative journey.
- I GET CURIOUS: Even before I sit down at my desk, I notice what’s coming up for me. There might be a quote, something I heard or read; an idea that emerged as I wrote in my journal, themes coming from multiple directions. I stay tuned in and watch for the synchronicities that keep me inspired.
- I MAKE A MESS: I make a mess on the page. Just the way you might pour paint onto a canvas, or take everything out of the fridge to conjure up a meal. The way a brainstorming session can go in an office meeting. Make a mess. While messes can be disturbing, they can also be a place for the unexpected to show up. Let it be a breeding ground for curiosity.
- I WALK AWAY: I step away from it. For those who have deadlines, can you take a five-minute break? Once in a while, I’ll switch tasks, do something more analytical. Or perhaps pay some bills, do mindless administrivia. I let the ideas percolate.
- I TAKE THE IDEA ON A WALK (OR INTO THE SHOWER): This isn’t a new idea. For example, Thoreau explored the connection between walking and creativity. I’m sure Socrates or Aristotle had something to say about it. I do this often. My body goes on auto-pilot and my mind is freed to roam. You’ve probably experienced this phenomenon as you take a shower, do the dishes, drive a familiar route. Ideas flow. How will you capture them? (For instance, I once sent a client bathtub crayons so she didn’t have to wait until she’d toweled off to capture her great ideas.)
- I RETURN: I return to the project and look at it with fresh eyes. What stands out? What inspires more ideas? Is there a thread to pick and follow. I find that when I come back to a writing project a lot of what’s there gets edited out. Sometimes I start from scratch. But – and this is the most important part – I have found an entry point. I can continue from there, even if it’s on a fresh page.
- I RINSE AND REPEAT: Lastly, repeat as needed. Even this post had breaks. Instead of laboring over it, I took a lunch break, let it settle overnight, read a good book. I came back with curiosity, made things a bit messier. I might walk away again. Or it might be good enough.
This is the creative process. Whether on the page, on a canvas, in the office, or in your life. It’s never a straight line and in the end it’s worth your time.
Let me know how it goes. Contact me and we’ll have a coffee chat about our “buts”.
Be vulnerable. You’ll survive. Now, go do awesome stuff!