By Alan Watt
Creativity is our birthright. This is not just for some people; it’s for everyone. We often get stuck in our routine, and when we even bother to think about that gazpacho recipe we want to try, or that book we plan to write “some day”, we tend to find excuses that prevent us from taking the first step.
These excuses are often vague, because if we were to hold them up to the light, we might see that they don’t actually make a lot of sense. Often the real reason we hesitate is simply because we are afraid of the unknown.
Here are ten steps that I hope will demystify the process and help you get started on making that gazpacho, building that deck, or writing your first novel.
1) Start today. We often think that we’re not ready, that we don’t know enough, that we need to do more research, that we don’t have enough time, that we aren’t yet qualified. These are all great excuses to prevent us from taking the first step. Ask yourself two questions: 1) What do I want to create? 2) What is the first step in creating it? You may discover that the first step is going to the store to buy wood, or digging up that gazpacho recipe you’ve been dying to make.
2) Let go of the result. Sure, this might be easier said than done, but if you can make the thrill of creation its own reward, you will likely be surprised by the result. We can’t expect ourselves to be brilliant right out of the gate. If we set the bar too high, we’ll never get started.
3) Be willing to fail. This doesn’t mean that you will, but if you’re willing to do it imperfectly, you might actually have some fun. What we do consistently, we improve at. Your first attempts at gazpacho, novel writing, or table tennis may be humble. If you had to do it perfectly, you wouldn’t experience the thrill of improving.
4) Share your creation with people you feel safe with. It’s important to receive positive reinforcement at the beginning. Everyone can use a mentor, someone who has walked this path before us. Just because you’re married to someone, doesn’t mean they’re going to understand what you’re doing. As crazy as it might sound, our families and friends are not necessarily always the best people to share our initial forays with. It’s not that they don’t love us, but it’s possible that they might feel jealous or threatened. “Why are you making gazpacho? I thought we were having pot roast?”
5) Have fun. Remember, this is a choice. Make it a game, not a chore.
6) Make it a habit. The simple act of creating a little bit each day will activate your subconscious, and the channel will begin to open. Before you know it, your writing sessions will lengthen, and your gazpacho will be such a hit that you’ll be signing up for salsa dancing classes.
7) Keep it simple: It’s better to write for five minutes a day, than it is to write for three hours ever few months.
8) Build a community. Find your tribe. If you can find people who share your interests and are willing to support you, it can go a long way to keeping you on track. My seventy-eight year-old father-in-law has been jogging for the past forty-five years. Five mornings a week, he rolls out of bed at five a.m. and runs with the same group of guys through rain and sleet. There is no way he is going to let his buddies down.
9) Forgive yourself. Drop the old story that you should have done this sooner. This is your time. Remember, you are uniquely qualified to create whatever it is you want to create. If you don’t do it, it won’t exist; whether you’re making gazpacho, or writing a book. Use your fears and anxieties as a way into your story. Inquire into their nature. When you experience self-doubt, rather than making meaning out it, just ask yourself, “I wonder where this experience lives in my story?” Notice that a character will appear that will be struggling with similar feelings. Your doubts and fears do not need to be overcome, but rather inquired into. This is what makes your work universal and relatable.
10) Reward yourself. Creativity is hard work. It’s important to acknowledge this and reward yourself for it. When you complete a goal or meet a deadline, give yourself a treat. Take yourself to dinner. Go on a hike. Buy yourself some socks. When we treat our unconscious with kindness, it rewards us with new adventures.
Now go create!
Alan Watt is author of the bestselling novel, “Diamond Dogs,” and the bestselling book on writing, “The 90-Day Novel. “ Visit him online at www.lawwriterslab.com.