Yesterday, when I promised to write about this topic, I thought I would be rarin’ to go. I’m amazed how insidious that self-doubt can be. I’ll do anything to avoid getting my butt in the seat and doing the work. I’ll walk the dog, I’ll meditate (again). I’ll drink more water. By themselves, these things aren’t bad for me. In fact, they are all worthwhile ways to spend my time. But, if any part of me is using them to avoid the work, then I’m letting terror win.
It’s a dire-sounding statement, but I can’t argue against its validity. If we are at all scared to start, to take that step, and we act out of that fear, we are working against our self-interests. Let me back up. Can we agree that creating, doing, starting, making whatever it is we want to create is good for us? Can we nod our heads to, “My art is worthwhile,” or “I deserve to take the time to make X.” If we are on the same page there, then let’s continue.
Here’s the next idea. Whenever we use something as an excuse not to begin, right now, we are giving into terror. I wish a less sizable word felt like it applied. But, no, it’s not just fear. I think it goes beyond fear. It is terror, pure and simple. We are terrified of creating our work. To paraphrase Steven Pressfield, the more terrified we are, the more important it is to start, right this second. And here’s the thing. The beginning does not have to be auspicious. It does not have to be a deafening declaration that resounds across the land and echoes in the canyons. It can be a tiny movement forward. For the writer, it can be as simple as hitting command N, creating the document, and typing the words, “With this sentence, I have started writing my book.” That certainly won’t end up being the first sentence, but it serves as a beginning. It means you showed up. For the painter, it might mean, putting a canvas on an easel, or going to the art store and caressing the tubes of ocher and cobalt blue paints as you feed your soul to get ideas for your next work. For the musician, it might mean putting the guitar, in its case, on your side of the bed so that before you go to sleep it reminds you it’s there and that you might want to take it out of its case and tune it. If you do any of these, you are one giant leap closer than someone who did none of them.
When you do any of these first steps, take a moment and fill your mind with the possibility of actually working on your art or craft. Imagine what it would be like to type, or to draw a brush across the tiny hills and valleys of a canvas, or to strum the strings and hear those vibrations and harmonics. And most of all, don’t judge any of it! Refrain from judging what you have done or what you haven’t yet done or what you might do. The key to creating is never to edit. The second you start second-guessing what you are creating, you have one foot out the door.
Creating and editing take two different skill sets. The creator’s job is to show up, to start, to do something. The editor takes over later. But remember, the editor will have nothing to edit if the work never gets started.
So, that’s the key to the mystery, my loves. The key to moving beyond terror is to start and then to keep going. You start small. You take a tiny step. You create the document. You write a nonsense word. You save and close and you go away. But, you show up tomorrow. And you write a second word or sentence. You draw another color on the canvas. You strum a different chord. But, you show up.
Go slowly, if you need to do that. Go at your own pace but show up. And show up every day. Within a little while, perhaps without you knowing it, the terror will have grumbled into the back seat, and even though it might still try to drive from back there, it will no longer be directing where you travel.
More tomorrow on specific ways to keep the terror at bay.
Sending you all of my love.