[Images via Pinterest; original sources unknown]
With freelance design and indie business projects, the hardest part for me is simply getting started. While I do have faith in myself and in the creative talents that God has (oh so generously) blessed me with, the perfectionist in me is constantly fearful. Fearful that the ideas won’t come. Fearful that what I create won’t meet up to my clients’ desires and expectations. Fearful that I’m inadequate as an artist. Fearful that when push comes to shove, I won’t be able to create anything worthwhile. Fearful that I will try – and fail.
Growing up, I was very fortunate to be on the receiving end of a lot of praise from my supportive parents (thanks Mom and Dad!) about my art and my singing. And while it delights me to no end that my family and friends have always been genuinely supportive of my life, my work, and my art, it has ironically caused crippling perfectionism and fear of failure in me. What should have empowered me has actually paralyzed me – they believe in me so much that I don’t want to do anything to let them down! So, instead of trying and failing (failure feels like just about the worst option possible for me), my default setting is just not to try. And as someone who leans towards introversion, I’m also “in my head” so much thinking about all the possibilities of what might happen, which is absolutely exhausting because before I’ve lifted a finger, I’ve gone through the process several times in my mind! And by that time, just starting a project feels near impossible. (Sidenote: I struggled with severe stage fright for years, and I swear that it’s only by facing my fears and with God’s grace that I can actually get on stage and perform today. For most of my life, I was so terrified of putting myself out there that I didn’t sing. Ever. And it’s something that I truly love.)
So, if you struggle with a similar fear of failure, what’s the secret to getting started?
It’s simple – just open the box.
Here’s what I mean. My art supplies are all kept in a closet in our hallway. Everything I need is right there, brimming with potential. And yet, the hardest part of any creative project for me is getting over my fears and simply opening those boxes. I’m overwhelmed by the potential options inside, so it feels safer to keep them closed. But when I finally get the courage to open the boxes and start a project (usually because of a close deadline!), something powerful happens. Taking them down from the shelves and exploring the papers, stickers, paints, and ephemera that I’ve collected over time somehow releases my fears, because suddenly I can see an actual solution to my design conundrum. I open those boxes for each collage art project, and ideas come. Art flows. EVERY TIME. The fear of the unknown, the fear of not being able to create seems to fade. Sure, there might be moments of struggle and resistance while working it all out, but there’s something magical that happens when you put yourself in a posture of openness to the creative process, instead of remaining closed off in your mind. Even if you don’t feel ready, just opening the boxes with the intent to start can often be the springboard to creative success.
And while it is a simple tip, I fully acknowledge that taking action on it is not that simple. It takes courage to push aside fears of failure, self-doubt, and the myriad of other excuses that make it easier and safer to not try, rather than trying and failing.
So what does “opening the box” look like for you? Is it physically opening a box of supplies? Is it sitting down at the computer and opening Photoshop? Is it grabbing your guitar and a pad of paper? Is it heading to the library to browse reference books?
Even as I’m writing these words, it’s still tough for me to actually take them to heart and take action. I’m the first to admit that I read all kinds of design advice, but have a hard time putting it in to practice. However, knowledge is nothing without action. I hope that this knowledge will empower you to take that action, even if you’re afraid. After all, courage doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. Courage means that you feel the fear, and do it anyway. Go open the box, baby.
Do you struggle with a similar fear of failure or creative block when a new creative project is on the table? What’s your secret to getting started?
Happy Wednesday! Go kick some creative ass.