As someone who has coached many artists through the process of working on creative projects I have seen one thing that tanks budding creative folk over and over: they bite off more than they can chew. In our culture we are told that “the sky is the limit” or that we have “unlimited potential” and that we can “do anything we set our minds to.”
Sorry to break it to you, but it’s just not true. There are some things you can’t do – especially on a first try. We are just human beings with limits and that’s exactly the way it should be. The most resonant art explores exactly that – our limits, our frustrations, our heartbreaks and struggles. But time and again I see people try to do way more than they could reasonably be expected to accomplish. They try to hit a home run the first time they pick up a baseball bat. And then they are faced with the tough realization that it isn’t that easy, they aren’t born insanely talented, and they get discouraged.
Start small. In Springboard our groups run for 3.5 months. If you have a social life and a job it’s hard to devote even 10 hours a week to a project. So be realistic about what can be accomplished. Now, if you’ve got a lot of experience in the field, know what is possible, and are willing to push yourself, by all means do it. But for many of us we need to think small in order to just get moving on a project. David Whyte has a great poem which begins – and ends: “Start close in / don’t take the second step / or the third, / start with the first / thing / close in, / the step / you don’t want to take.”
Now this is not to say you shouldn’t be ambitious and dream big. But it has to come on the back of early successes. If you have no experience writing then your first project should not be trying to write the next Great American Novel. Try blogging or a piece of short non-fiction. If that’s hard try journaling stream-of-consciousness style every morning, like The Artist’s Way encourages. The most important thing is to do the work. No less an authority than Macklemore says: “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats were great ‘cause they paint a lot.”
You may be surprised what can be accomplished if you simply sit down and start. Think small steps and modest goals. Having a community of people to help hold you accountable can be very helpful. Anthony Robins tells us, “most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year — and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.” This is very true, but my advice is don’t think about what can be achieved in a decade. Think about what you can do before dinner – and go do it!
Our next group starts May 6th, 2014 in San Francisco – join us! What will you create?