About this episode
A big discussion about having new ideas and starting working on them, with some encouragement to think back to the very beginning of your journey as a creative and tap into those feelings again.
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I think as creatives we’re great at two things – the first thing is coming up with cool creative ideas. The second thing, unfortunately, is self-talking those ideas straight into the bin. Let’s talk about that today on this episode of The Positive Creatives!
Oh hi! Welcome back! It’s good to see you!
Loads of lovely feedback since last week’s episode on the meaty subject of Impostor Syndrome. Thanks as always for your messages, and your comments on my instagram posts. I’m really enjoying this deep dive into the creative mind but today I thought I’d go a bit lighter and a bit less psychological!
So before I get into this week’s episode I wanted to talk about a quote I’ve always loved, and why.
Has anyone ever said this to you?
“Remember when you wished for what you have now?”
If you’ve not heard that, let it sink in…
“Remember when you wished for what you have now?”
I mean the cool thing about this quote is it’s to focus your mind on gratitude, which is always ALWAYS a good thing. And it doesn’t have to only apply to your creative life either but I don’t want to get too deep, so let’s stick to talking about it in a creative sense.
So do you remember when you wished for what you have now? Probably not, right? And that’s kind of the point of the quote… the question…
We forget. Things become normal. Our creative businesses, our creative outlets, over time it just becomes what we do. And we forget when we sat there staring into space longing to be able to do what we do now and live some kind of creative life and have our creativity be a huge part of our life.
So it’s a great quote in the way that it makes you practice gratitude for the present, even though the present may not be everything you dream of RIGHT NOW, it’s everything you dreamt of at one time. And you need to appreciate that.
So if you’ve not spent any time being grateful for what you have right now lately, make that a priority.
And I’m not talking about specifics here. I’m just talking about the fact you are doing the thing you wanted to do. It happened, you dreamt it and you made it happen.
The other amazing thing I love about this quote, this question – “remember when you wished for what you have now” – is that it connects you back to how you felt at the start of your journey.
When I realised I wanted to talk about this quote this week, I started thinking back to my early days of becoming obsessed with photography and dreaming about having it as my full time job. I was obsessed with everything about photography – I was constantly taking photos and researching and experimenting and making mistakes and practicing and…
I don’t do that any more. Why is that?
I remember the first time I bought an expensive camera lens. I would show it to everyone as if it was a trophy. They didn’t need to say ‘hey show us your fancy new camera lens’ I’d just be like here look at this, feel how much it weighs. I wasn’t even showing them photos I’d taken with the lens, I just felt like I’d achieved a professional piece of equipment, but also it was a sign to me personally that I was gonna go for this. I was really going to try and be a photographer.
This was before the workshop I mentioned on last week’s episode by the way. So I definitely didn’t see myself as a photographer at this point.
So as well as practicing gratitude for the position you’re in right now and how this is something you once wished for, or in actual fact something WAY beyond something you once wished for…
As well as practicing that gratitude, take yourself back and try and reconnect with who you were, what you cared about and what you felt right back at the start of your journey.
A vivid memory I have for some reason is that I remember the winter before my first year of working as a photographer. I’d decided in the September of 2009 that I was going to go for it and become a photographer. The winter after was incredibly cold, even for the UK. We were seeing temperatures below minus ten celsius and I used to get the train to work in Manchester. This one morning I remember it was minus seventeen at 7am as I stood on the train station platform waiting for the train to come as it became clear it was going to be very difficult to get to work that day as one train after another was cancelled, cancelled, cancelled.
But I had to stand there. I had no choice but to attempt to get to the office. So I stood there in the minus 17 for about two hours before a train eventually came and we all squeezed in.
Just before I got to the office I slipped on the ice. I don’t remember being hurt but I remember someone laughing. I got up and then I did one of those comedy half falls where you somehow summon up the superhuman strength to stay upright even though your feet are slipping underneath you…
Anyway, I arrived at work almost three hours late knowing I’d have to work back the three hours.
I sat down in my slightly broken office chair, turned on my underpowered computer and went to make a cup of tea. Except the kettle was broken, so I couldn’t.
I sat down in my crappy office chair again and I wished so hard that at that moment that I’d make it as a photographer and have enough control over my own life that I’d never have to stand for hours on an arctic train station platform to get to an office to do a job that was just a job.
Not being able to have a cup of tea was the straw that broke the camels back!!
But yeah – I remember when I wished for half of what I have now. And I’ve sat in my nice warm house caring for my family for the duration of a pandemic supported by a creative business that I’ve spent the last decade nurturing.
That’s some special sauce.
So do that this week – spend some time asking yourself ‘do I remember when I wished for what I have now?’ – practice gratitude for the present but also remember how you felt right at the beginning and the enthusiasm you had and try to find that again.
Wow that feels like a long intro but it’s more than an intro and because this week I wanted to talk about starting stuff, it felt really relevant to think about the stuff we’ve already started.
But when you’re talking about starting something new obviously it’s as simple as this…
You have an idea! And it’s a great idea! It’s maybe the best idea you’ve had in ages. You bounce around, you think about that idea all the time, and for a while it just seems so perfect as it rattles around in your head.
So you decide yeah, I’m gonna do that. It’s a great idea. I’m probably a genius. And this is probably the thing that’s gonna bring me inner peace, fame, fortune, or whatever it is your own goals are…
So you do the thing.
And you finish the thing.
And then you put the thing out into the world.
But sadly it’s just NOT. THAT. EASY. is it? But why isn’t it that easy?
Dunning-Kruger – especially if your idea involves skills you don’t yet have, will trick you into thinking you’re already great, before plunging you into the depths of reality when you realise how much there is to learn.
Impostor Syndrome – and this is the one I experienced most when starting this podcast – will have to questioning who the heck you think you are to think you can do this thing.
So a lot of that is psychological, and is the result of us discussing the idea with ourselves in our heads…
And if you’re anything like me when you have a new idea that actually makes it into your conscious mind, you’ll do your absolute best to talk yourself out of it.
The first thing I do – and it turns out this is common – is I’ll think of the most negative person I know and I tell myself they wouldn’t like it. And then I come up with all the reasons why they wouldn’t like it.
And somehow I convince myself that if this negative person won’t like it, probably nobody will like it. So in my own head I’ve talked myself down from hero to zero. I like to tell myself it’s because I’m a deep thinker and I don’t like to go into things with blind enthusiasm, but it turns out we do this because we want an easy way out, and there’s no easier way out than to quit before we’ve started.
Apparently this is more true of introverts than extroverts, but I won’t tangent off into introversion and extroversion on this episode as I want to do an episode about that all by itself soon.
So anyway, if an idea makes it past this stage of your brain trying to give you an easy way out it’s definitely a good idea.
So what do you do next?
Well again, if you’re anything like me you tell a close friend about it.
I find at this stage you’ll get one of three reactions:
The first is over-enthusiasm. They LOVE the idea. They think it’s amazing and they just can’t stop telling you how much they love it.
Of course you convince yourself they’re biased and so you talk them down and tell them all the reasons it could be rubbish.
The second common reaction is that your friend will politely tell you it’s not a great idea, and if they’re an especially good friend they’ll help you work out ways to improve the idea.
You convince yourself they’re just being kind and trying to help you polish a turd and the idea is now rubbish.
The third reaction is apathy. They just have zero enthusiasm, they think it’s ok, but they don’t have anything to say either way.
You convince yourself that means it’s rubbish.
So where are we now?
We’ve convinced ourselves against all psychological odds that it’s a good idea and we want to do it.
So we tell a friend – and whatever their response we are riddled with self doubt.
So knowing this, you’ve got two realistic choices.
Tell a friend, but tell them in a way that gets them to work on the new thing with you, two heads are better than one style.
Or stubbornly make the thing, knowing that asking for outside opinions will just hold you back.
With this podcast for example. It’s the most recent thing I’ve started and if you remember back to the episode I did in episode 2 about feedback, I said when you’re asking for feedback or opinions are you asking people what they think or are you asking them if they think it’s good.
I had the idea for this podcast and I really felt like it was something I wanted to do. I was going to ask some friends what they thought but I knew I was just looking for validation not their opinion so I just quietly went away and made the website and the branding and the theme tune.
And not looking for confirmation from anyone while putting it together has honestly made it loads more enjoyable for me.
I’m not here to tell you not to tell your friends about stuff, absolutely not. I’m saying know why you’re telling them and again it comes back to the fact that if you just want them to validate your idea, you’ll be disappointed. If you want them to workshop your idea with you, amazing, but not many of us do.
If you believe in your idea with all your soul then just go forth and start turning it into a reality.
Let’s quickly step back a bit to when you were talking yourself out of the idea…
Usually that comes in the form of questions. Usually what if questions… here are some of the ones that rattled around my head starting this podcast:
What if that person thinks it’s rubbish… what if nobody likes it… what if you sound like an idiot… what if you choose a rubbish intro track… what if you need a website… what if you can’t build a good enough website… what if it’s a rubbish idea.
Something I’ve done over the years is to write these questions down as I think of them. You’ll end up with a long list.
Now work through the list. If you have no control over a question cross it off. For example I asked myself ‘what if people don’t like the way my voice sounds?’ – without major surgery there’s nothing I can do about it so I crossed it off.
By doing this you’ll realise just how many of your questions are irrational fears, so you cross them all off and what you’re left with are the things you actually need to think about and work on while you make the thing.
The same goes for if you involve a friend – write down their ideas, questions or whatever and cross off the ones which you can’t control and work through what’s left.
The rest of the process of building something new or putting something new together is relatively easy while it’s all in secret and behind closed doors. The next hurdle is when it’s time to show the world.
You’re hovering over the ‘go’ button. But now all the questions are back.
My advice here is just press the button. I delayed this podcast for a month because I was in a crisis of confidence just when it was ready to go. Now obviously I wish I’d just pressed that go button the first time.
You can only do so much while your project is behind closed doors. As soon as the world can see it it brings a new kind of focus and while fixing things or tweaking things after it’s public can be stressful, it’s often the only way as they’re things you probably would never have thought of while things were comfortably invisible.
Then, after pressing the go button, having a little panic, and calming down. Celebrate the win. Getting something out into the world is a HUGE win for a creative, so you can never pat yourself on the back too much for that.
So I know we’re all sitting on ideas that we’ve just not found the enthusiasm to push forward. And what I say to you is this:
Just make a start. Once you start you’ll find a motivation and momentum you didn’t know you had. And before you know it you’ve done it and it’s out in the world and you’ll feel great.
Ok as usual here are my finishing recommendations for listen, read and watch.
LISTEN and WATCH are one thing this week really – it’s a famous TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert called Your Elusive Creative Genius and it’s wonderful.
READ is a book called Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It’s brilliant and without being a spoiler I’ll never forget one line from that book which is a principle for how I’ve worked ever since: “Do your work and show it to people.”
That might not be the exact line haha I’ve not read it for a while, but that’s the basic gist of it!
Alright my creative friends. Thanks for being here, thanks for listening, join me on instagram @thepositivecreatives and I’ll see you back here on Monday on The Positive Creatives!