Curb the urge to procrastinate; dare to create before you’re ready
A thought experiment: Imagine you get tagged out. You die — suddenly (let’s imagine immediately and painlessly). Everything that was due, all that was unfinished like laundry, bills, projects… nothing you can do about them.
You’re not thinking about those things anyway, are you?
Your thoughts are about those you love. And probably those ideas — the things you want to give birth to — that only you could have expressed in the ways you imagined.
Maybe you didn’t have enough time to love those people or give birth to those ideas. Yet the 21st century (so far) reveals no signs of slowing. The flywheel called progress keeps accelerating at an inconceivable speed. And wishing it would wind down to a friendlier, saner pace is like wishing death away.
As Ferris Bueller once said,
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Making The Relevant Choice
I’ve always loved to write and secretly wanted to learn how to make art. I kept promising to make more room for both. Sort of like a never-ending resolution.
When I had (another) big birthday this year, I realized and accepted five things:
- If all goes swimmingly, I have about 25–30 years left (actuarily speaking).
- What I want to create won’t create itself.
- Social media other shiny distractions will not make me a better creator.
- One of my biggest fears is being considered irrelevant, given my age in a youth-obsessed culture.
- My (and my art’s) relevance need only matter to me.
Learning a Little Magic
As most good things happen, learning about Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast came from love. My husband asked me to listen to one or two episodes and within two weeks, I’d listened to two full seasons. I also had to buy her book, Big Magic — both for me and for our eldest granddaughter who is headed for an interview at University of North Carolina School of the Arts as I write this.
Whether you read or listen to Liz Gilbert (highly recommended), I’ll share some corollaries that may resonate, whether you’re 17 or 71 or older:
- You are the only person who gets to choose your identity as a writer, artist, performer, dancer, musician, photographer, comedian, actor, or maker.
- Rejections are necessary and important. Why? Because you are doing this new and creative thing out of love — a commitment to curiosity and creativity. Love is not about validation or some expert’s stamp of approval.
- Get over your delusions of not being good enough. Set your own standards. If you are competitive by nature (guilty!), compete against your earlier work. Get better, practice. Nothing — nothing — is ever perfect.
- Do it before you’re ready. Whether it’s stand up, submitting a story or poem or film, put it out there. Yes, put it out there, knowing it’s not perfect.
- At some point, you will make a choice: Do you want to fit in and risk being unpopular or criticized, or say f*ck it with a smile? Choose who you are and live that way.
“You can recognize the people who live for others by the haunted look on the faces of the others.” — Katherine Whitehorn
As one of my dearest, most creative friends told me almost 30 years ago, “It’s already inside you.” It includes intuition, bravery, creativity, and the deep magic that comes with shushing fears that we might be thinking too big, that we may be better off just sticking to the industrialized model of working 8–12 hours a day at a job we don’t like for the illusion of security. Security may someday lead to happiness, right?
The good news is that you don’t have to quit your day (or night) job in order to live a more creative life. You just need to stop thinking maybe, someday and simply begin. Somewhere.
Creativity doesn’t magically attach itself to the chosen. As humans, we are all creators. The magic happens when we make room for it.