“It’s always your turn!
It’s always your turn!
Why have you chosen to live this half-lived life of quiet desperation?
Yes, it’s you, it’s you,
it’s always been you!
IT’S ALWAYS YOUR TURN!”
– Jill Bernard, Jill Bernard’s Small Cute Book of Improv
Let’s say you’ve ventured into a new creative medium – perhaps you’re delving into painting, music, writing, dancing, improvising, or other sources of joy and expression. This is great news! Good on you.
However, because creativity isn’t always fun and flowing, I thought I’d write a little guide to get you through the three stages of a creative venture: starting, working through, and presenting.
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
– Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, work, and the will to lead
Congratulations! You have decided to take up a cool new thing. A thing that promises inspiration, expression, mindfulness, and good work being produced. For the inexperienced in a creative hobby, starting is both the scariest aspect and the easiest aspect. Why is it scary? Well, obviously it can be a bit scary going to your first class of anything. If your anxiety has the potential to hold you back with these kinds of things, push through it. I know that sounds easier said than done (because it is!). However, I’ve been in that anxious state, and there have been so many times where I have just wanted to bail right before going into a first class, but I stuck with it and I always came out of those sessions wishing they hadn’t ended.
Why is beginning sometimes the “easiest” aspect? Well, starting has very few real expectations, as well as a fresh mind. There’s also less grunt work in “starting”, because so much of it is about letting ideas flow without judgement and making first drafts. A lot of artists and creatives will often “start” new projects in the middle of a tough project they’re already working on, just so they can feel that kind of progress again.
Here’s what you have to tell yourself to START:
Walk through that door, dammit!
This means go to that class, or finish that registration, or whatever it is that possesses the key enabling you to begin your creative journey. Please just START. I believe in you!
You’re not going to be THE BEST yet.
Even if you’re a natural talent at whatever you have started, you’re still not at your peak. You may have a certain first-timers energy that’s irreplaceable, but you have so much yet to accomplish in this creative task. Keep going
You might not be very good at all…
This is a good thing! Keep asking questions, getting feedback and PRACTICING. Nothing beats practice. You can be all loaded up on the best theory, but you still need to make mistakes. Which leads me to
Make mistakes! Make all of the mistakes!
For a lot of us, mistakes can be hard to purposefully make on the quest for perfection. Get “perfection” out of you head. My favourite improv quote is “it’s not fun when it works, it works when it’s fun”. Remember that, and go do some bold things! Creative outlets don’t have rights or wrongs. Follow the joy, and you’ll do something good. I promise.
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap… For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good.
It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.
And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.”
– Ira Glass, This American Life
Kudos to you! You’ve come this far in your new creative venture, and now you’re in the thick of it. You’re working through it. Perhaps you’ve advanced a level in your class, or you’re writing more drafts of your piece.
I bet the dazzling shine is starting to fade on this new thing for you, eh? (If it’s not, that’s awesome! Keep going!) If it is, congratulations – this is a good place to be in. This is a REAL place, where you’re thinking more critically about your work, honing your skills, and you ARE getting better. If you feel like you’re getting worse, YOU’RE NOT – you’ve progressed to a higher level, or you’re pushing yourself harder, instead of getting pats on the back all the time when you were just starting out. You’re getting so much better. Which leads me to…
Don’t let your negative thoughts prevent you from pursuing this outlet. Keep going even when you want to start a newer, shinier thing. Remember, that new shine fades, and then the real good work begins. KEEP. GOING. You’re doing so well!
Get feedback, take it on board.
The feedback you’ll receive at this level will be more specific, and the person giving this feedback may now expect more from you. Again, this is a good thing, but it might feel a little deflating. Mute your ego for a second and take notes on board, give them a go, and see how they fit. And don’t argue with feedback until you’ve tried what they’re saying.
Give your work to fellow collaborators if you can.
You may start doubting your work and progress. This is when you have to let a trusted peer have a look at your work to tell you it is GOOD. Because your brain might tell you otherwise.
Your brain is lying. KEEP GOING!
“You’re looking at me and you tell me I’m blessed,
I calculated my steps, my heart, my breath.
Breathe in lungs of a victory and vividly,
you see me when I’m at my best.”
– Kendrick Lamar, ‘Now or Never’ from good kid, m.A.A.d city
Alright! You’ve done the work, now it’s time to let people see it/read it/hear it.
Why is this so important? You are so deep into your project that you probably can’t see just how great it is anymore, which is why it’s so heckin’ important to show your friends, family, fellow creatives, cool dogs on the street, WHOEVER. Just show it off.
The benefits? You’ll get positive reactions where you thought there was nothing to react to, and you’ll hear interpretations you never thought existed in your work. Presenting your work also gives you a deadline and a goal to work towards.
Only good things can come from presenting your work, even if – at a bare minimum – it’s learning from mistakes or feedback. This is all great stuff. I’m so proud of you for getting to this stage! Have some champagne.
C’mon, you deserve this. Let people into your beautiful mind.