Sometimes our own experience is the worst enemy of our art. It’s not a great secret or mystery: a couple of bad experiences and most humans will steer clear of whatever they didn’t like.
How many times have you procrastinated on a long-dreamed-of creative project (a story, a painting, whatever) because you just knew that it wouldn’t live up to the glowing apparition treasured in your imagination’s eye? How many times have you started an enthusiastic description of your dream idea, only to find you don’t have the right words to stop those puzzled or doubtful looks that, like an arrow, pierce your fragile inspiration beyond repair?
And so you conclude that the idea wouldn’t fly anyway, even if you tried.
Perhaps your entire life has been one long, intermittent, exercise in such procrastination. No? Maybe that’s just me.
But no more! That time of my life is over! I’ve crossed the line from wanna be to I am.
Along the way, I smashed this lifelong anti-creative wall. All to pieces.
Nobody in this world can create what you see in your imagination like you would.
You are unique.
Even if you find others doing something similar, or find five books on the shelf with the same storyline, it doesn’t matter. No two people will write the exact same story the exact same way. Creative writing classes prove it: you can give 20 people the same assignment, and you’ll get 20 totally different things. And if you enjoy what you create, then I can guarantee that there’s someone else out there in the world who will enjoy it, too.
Regardless of your experience, if your dream idea is vivid and captivating and beautiful, then it is worthy of pursuit. It doesn’t matter if everyone you know mocks your idea any time you mention it. They don’t have to believe in your dream. Not a single person in this world needs to believe in it before it is created — except you.
And you mustn’t entertain a single doubt.
Not even one.
When doubts come calling, tell them nobody’s home! If you’ve already opened the door to them and they’re eating chips on your couch out of your own bowl, then it’s time to kick ’em out.
Just say no to doubt.
You gotta believe.
If you don’t, no one else will.
You don’t have to make a big deal about it (although that sometimes helps). But you do need to make a decision.
And stick with it.
“Maybe someday” doesn’t work.
“Definitely someday” is a step in the right direction.
“Absolutely today” is what makes it happen.
Baby steps really work
“What about Bob” was right. Baby steps help.
I’m a very visual person. Seeing reminders all over my house makes a huge difference for me. Make the decision that you’re going to do the project, and then paper the walls with sticky notes about it. Break it down into baby steps and do one at a time.
“Find the melody”
“Print out reference photos”
“Write a scene, any scene”
Trust your audience
When faced with the doom-and-gloom, despair-inducing thought that I could never create something as glorious as what’s in my mind, I must remember an essential truth of artistic endeavor:
The creative process doesn’t end when I complete my part. The audience provides the finishing touches.
Every person who reads a book creates a different movie in their heads — all from the same words. Each person who views a work of art brings their own interpretation and preferences to the viewing experience. A song rings true to others who are on the same wavelength, often reminding them of the past or capturing a present moment forever to be remembered with that song.
Never underestimate the imaginations of those who will see, hear or otherwise enjoy your art. They are your partners in the creative process. Their brains finish what you begin.
But how do I find my audience?
Come on! You’re reading this blog, aren’t you? So you already know one easy way to publish yourself.
I’ve seen people who rarely go beyond pencil sketches create successful web comics that never got “inked” or “colored” in the traditional comic book sense. And now they’re published in book form and in my local library! The craziest styles of art get published; there’s nothing too messy, too cutesy, too stylized, too angled, too dark or too uncomfortably real. And these days, even stuff that traditional publishers don’t believe in can gain a huge audience via the wonders of the world-wide web. Yay for dub-dub-dub!
So trust me! There’s a home for whatever you create. And there’s an audience out there who will appreciate what you do. Somewhere. (Just don’t think too much about that part yet. First focus on getting it done.)
Nike says: just do it
The ancient wisdom is still true: Anything is possible for those who believe.
So stop procrastinating. Don’t believe the lie. What you create may not measure up to what’s in your imagination at first. But if you keep trying, keep practicing, keep pushing the envelope and never give up: it will.
Anything is possible.
If you believe.
So, just do it.
And when you’ve done it, tell me about it. Show me. I wanna know!