I like success. A lot. I have a hard time tackling anything that has a chance of totally flopping. I usually do things I am good at. Risk is hard for me. I love the feeling the flow of mastery and I have a hard time in the uncomfortable tension of being new at things. Sound familiar?
And yet, creativity is deep in my bones. This is a problem because real creativity is risky in nature. Failure and reiteration are just parts of the process. And worse, in creating this blog, beginning to record some music, posting poetry on social media, etc. I have begun to put my work “out there.” So I may not only miss the mark in the privacy of my own home. But others can see it. Hell, you might be reading it right now.
In the last six months or so I have mentally taken some territory around success and creativity. In this new land the only thing more important than my fear of failure is my fear that if I ignore this fire in my bones any longer it would swallow me whole. Or worse, my negligence will suffocate it and snuff it out. As much tension as my drive to create has brought into my life, I can’t imagine my life without it. And I don’t want to witness that reality first hand.
In the midst of this battle royale in my mind, here is what is helping me take the leap.
I am redefining success.
When we are pushing ourselves to do new things outside of our comfort zone, we must change our thinking to make success achievable and within our control, at least in the short term. For me this means changing the goal to be action steps that I can take instead of measuring success by the responses of others. We never have control over the responses of others. In large part, other people's opinions about us and our work is mostly not about us anyway (more on that later).
I am changing my markers of success to 2 action steps:
1. Make something
2. Put it out there
For me, the hurdles I need to overcome are my own perfectionism and my fear of my work being rejected or ignored by others. These two steps help me push past these mental barriers to creativity. When I move forward in this way I am able to see that when I put something out that is meaningful to me, I survive whatever comes next. If I find a typo, fine. I go back and fix it then move on. If I get a bunch of likes, fine. If no one even sees it, fine. I am desensitizing myself from all of the outcomes that are out of my control. I am learning to practice equanimity, staying impartial to the responses of others. Not over identifying with their praise, criticism or silence.
My hope is to move past this stage. Practicality says, if you would like to do more of this creativity thing, you will have to draw an audience. People will have to like it if you are ever going to make this financially sustainable. I know that's true. But what's also true is that I want my work to matter. I want what I make to move people, to support them or to give them language for whats going on inside of them. I want my work to yell, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!” the way the art of others has shaped my life has called to me. So of course I want people to notice my work. I want them to love it!
But for now, I will stay with my simple plan for success. I will be in this territory as long as I need to be, until I have built up enough strength to create in the face of criticism. I will carve out a land wide open and free, bountiful enough that I can create from the fruit this of sacred place. I will create from deep self-acceptance. Not for it.
So when I say, my poems are not for you, that’s what I mean.