Some authors, artists, and entrepreneurs present a shiny front, their websites look like there are wizards with WordPress, their multiple landing pages make me feel like an incapable idiot, and their success stories make me wonder why the heck I haven’t figured out how to be so “put together”.
It’s as if they were born with supernormal abilities and never struggled. If you read the blogs and newsletters of the successful authors and entrepreneurs, it can be quite discouraging. “Why can they do it, and I have such a hard time?”
Then there are other authors and entrepreneurs. They are vulnerable and share their struggles. One of my favorite related blog posts was by Tim Grahl. He featured an interview with an author who hated his job, got depressed, couldn’t get his groove on as a writer, and decided that perhaps it was a good move to jump off a bridge. I felt so incredibly understood that I was in tears. Not that I recommend jumping off a bridge – someone will have to clean up the mess, and it’s so inconsiderate to leave the clean up to someone who probably earns only minimum wage.
But the creatives who share their struggles validate everyone else’s experience. We, who haven’t figured it all out, who don’t impress their landlord by paying the rent six months in advance with their 6-figure royalties until they fire the landlord and buy property.
The creative process is messy. We put forth a lot of work and there is no guarantee it will ever lead to anything to be proud of. There is no laid-out path to follow and achieve success, as there is with a university degree and a fancy internship. Earning a Master’s degree is a walk on the beach (not park), compared to self-publishing a book.
Starting on a project-of-the-heart can be daunting, and procrastination can almost seem like self-preservation because if we start, we might fail. But if you read the blogs of vulnerable creatives, you’ll find that the real process wasn’t easy. They embarked on their dream anyway, because betraying your dream may just kill your spirit.
This doesn’t just apply to artists. A creative is anyone who has a vision and embarks on creating it. The fear is the same.
I once stayed at a house of an incredibly kind and generous person, after I lost my home and the contact with my husband, and I couldn’t compete in the cut-throat Los Angeles rental market. One night, a group of artists gathered on a magnificent balcony that overlooked the lights of LA. I felt like the oddball and wanna-be among a screenwriter from Universal and an internationally traveling artist who had just returned from a visit with his friend, David Lynch. The conversation after a few glasses of white wine was staggering. The screenwriter asked me just how the hell do I finish my self-published novels since I don’t even have a deadline. David Lynch began painting fine art and worried that he wasn’t good enough. The wine continued flowing, and general consent suggested that perhaps, we should collectively jump off that balcony. I, the practical German I was raised to be, said that you don’t jump off such a magnificent balcony. Suicide spoils the view. Besides, we would have landed in the flower beds of the tenants below and knocked down the flower buds.
So, if a screenwriter who gets paid for his writing by Universal has trouble finishing his novel, and David Lynch thinks he might be anything less than a genius, then it is permissible for us mere mortals to experience fear. Everyone does. Creation is messy, it’s scary, and the higher your aspirations, the more afraid you will be.
Maybe David Lynch sucks at painting. Or maybe he is such a genius that he creates magnificent beauty.
If they can do it, we can also face our fears. No one starts out feeling invincible unless they suffer narcissistic personality disorder.
Listen to the voice that nags you about what you should be doing with your life. Make it permissible that you’ll be scared out of your wits, feel like a fraud, and that you might come up with endless tactics to talk yourself out of doing it. If you heroically slew your dragons and you did what you felt called to do, but you still wish to judge yourself as a failure despite your act of brazen courage, you can still join the famous when they jump into flower beds after too much wine. They’re everywhere, hiding under exteriors that look shiny and perfect, but they are still as messy as everyone else.