In putting together my talk for this week's ALT Summit, I've been thinking a lot about the relationship between creativity and vulnerability -- in essence, that creativity, true creativity, requires a healthy dose of vulnerability. I mean, it's a scary thing to come up with an original idea, completely on your own, and put it out there in the world. Come to think of it, this is true anytime you're embarking on anything new: it can feel terrifying to start a new project, new workout regime, new job, new life. The gremlins (both real and imagined) seem only too ready witness your failure.
But I figure you gotta do it anyway. The upside is just too great.
Which, you know, great counsel -- "do it anyway" -- but when fear's keeping you from doing it in the first place, it's pretty useless advice. Fear can be pretty paralyzing. So here's what I do, when I'm really afraid (or simply don't feel like doing something that I know it would be good for me to to do):
I dare myself to take a really baby step.
Afraid to try my hand at painting, because I think I'll produce something laughable? I dare myself to buy paints. That's easy enough, right? And then once I have paints, I might dare myself to make a mark on the page. Just one mark. And then, another, and another until ... suddenly I'm painting. The result may be laughable, but hey, at least I did it. And I learned something in the process. And the next time, I'll be better, as I will the next time. And the next.
Don't feel like working out? I dare myself to put on workout clothes before taking Alex to school. Then once she's dropped off, I dare myself to drive to the gym. If, once I'm there and parked, I still don't feel like working out, I give myself permission to go home. But usually, once I'm sitting in that parked car in front of that gym, the guilt associated with turning around is too great -- so off I go, into the gym.
Scared of making a career leap? The first thing I do is dare myself to make a list of everything I'd need to do to make it happen ... and then I dare myself to do the easiest thing on the list. And then the next. And then the next. Until suddenly, I'm doing it.
My friend Jenny, who was afraid of doing the audio recording for her first book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened (a great book, by the way), received some wonderful advice from her friend, author Neil Gaiman: he told her to pretend to be someone who's good at it. It was great counsel, and his words got her through her fear -- she pretended she was someone who does audio books all the time, and she walked into that recording studio and read her book (beautifully, I might add -- absolutely no one could've done it better). Daring yourself to take a baby step is similar, in a way: just pretend to be someone who isn't afraid to start. Really believe yourself to be this person.
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Song: Blackbird, as performed by Sarah MacLachlan
Don't forget -- registration for the Light & Colour A/V Journaling Course will be open for only just over a week -- so if you haven't signed up, now would be a great time to do it (go on, dare yourself). Also, if you're in Salt Lake City at the ALT Summit this week, please tap me on the shoulder and say hi. I'd love to meet you.