The Circularity of Time, AKA Thinking You Suck Is Kind Of Integral To Being Creative (Sorry)

So I was going through my inbox the other day, theoretically Doing Important Culling And Filing (but actually we know I was totally just procrastinating–procrastifiling?), and I stumbled on an amusing trend. Liana and I email each other a fair bit (though heaven knows her emails are generally more sensible than mine, she being the kind of soul who actually premeditates these things, me being the kind of soul who fires off seven single sentence emails in an hour) and in cleaning out my inbox (massively overdue since Hospital, Surgery, etc) I realised that approximately once a month, Liana and I have an almost identical conversation. The only thing that tends to change, other than minor details, is the role that each of us plays. Generally speaking, it goes like this:

L (or A, depending on the month): Woe! WOE! I am writing things, and THEY ARE AWFUL!

A (or L, depending on the month): No! NO! You are writing things, and they are AWEFUL!

L (let us assume it is her month for a breakdown): But you don’t UNDERSTAND! I have DEADLINES! And TERROR! And I AM A HACK!

A (because it’s her turn to console): But I DO! You have DEADLINES! And TERROR! And THIS IS ALL TOTALLY NORMAL.

L: Wait, what?

A: Seriously. Do you WANT me to pull out the email conversation we had about this last month? Because my inbox is in a state of epic disarray, meaning I have, like, every email sent to me ever since 2010 stored here, and I totally can if you like.

 

Now, what can we learn from this? Other than the fact that Amy really needs to learn to use the delete key, and both of us could stand to be a fraction less melodramatic about writing at times, and maybe the fact that we ought to just collate the best emails and print them out and leave them where we can see them, and…. *ahem* Look. There’s a Point In Here For All Of Us, okay? And it’s this:

ALL creative work involves risk taking. Being creative is risky; putting that creative work out there for other people to see is even riskier. So you know what? Some degree of angst (*TERROR!*) is normal. It’s okay. It’s actually perfectly fine to be terrified that you’re writing the book wrong, or that people will laugh at your picture, or that maybe people will think a tone-deaf monkey wrote your song. That fear? IT’S OKAY. We live in a culture where it’s trendy to be all, “Fear? I have no fear! I am Fearless McNoFear! Watch now I as I dive from an aeroplane sans parachute off a cliff into a shallow sea of scorpions behind held aloft by snakes NAKED WHILE OTHER PLANES SKYWRITE MY BIGGEST EMBARRASSMENTS ACROSS THE VAST BLUE YONDER FOR ALL TO SEE!” But actually, this is quackery. Fear is normal. Fear, to a certain extent, is healthy. You don’t actually have to purge yourself of all fear in order to survive.

What you DO have to do is learn how fear fits into your creative process. Learn to recognise what this specific fear (as opposed to your fear of spiders, or skydiving, or rabid mouldy cheese) feels like, smells like, sounds like, so that when it inevitably rears its head when you’re creating your next piece of awesome, you can sit back, pat it on the head, and go, “You know what fear? I hear you. What we are doing here is scary. We are making ourselves vulnerable. We might not succeed at what we’re trying to do. It might be hard. It might be exhausting. People might hate it when we’re done. But you know what? I know you. You show up every time, at this stage of the game, and that’s okay. I don’t mind you being here. But you’re not going to stop me from creating something I love. Because I’ve done this before, and I know something you don’t know: finishing my creation makes it all worthwhile in the end.”

Fear is an integral, if uncomfortable, part of the creative process – and that’s okay. So get yourself a good support buddy with whom you can have the same conversation every single month, swapping roles as necessary. Save the good conversations, the hearty and uplifting bits, stick ’em up somewhere you won’t forget them, and have faith: Fear is part of the process, which means it comes, but it also goes.

Go make something awesome. You totally got this.

Go on. I dare you.

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