For some time now you have thought getting started on a creative project. Perhaps you figure it’s time to write that memoir, make a sculpture or learn a musical instrument.
You’d love to be creative but you really don’t know where to start. You haven’t got a clue.
I have a friend who always talks about being a blogger. She is very politically minded and would write great opinion pieces. Several years on she is still talking about it.
When I have a conversation with her she waxes lyrically about how she would need an amazing website and do I know anyone who would build it for her. Each time I answer in the same way. You don’t need a website with lots of bells and whistles. You can blog for free on Medium and have an immediate audience. You just need to start writing.
I get it. Starting something new is frightening. You want to be good at it. You don’t want to embarrass yourself. You want to be“successful” – whatever that means. Maybe you are harbouring dreams of giving up your day job and being a writer, an artist or a musician.
If you have always had dreams of being creative, and that dream keeps shouting ever louder at you – how do you get started?
Start small and cheap
Like my friend you don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds on a website in order to be a writer. You don’t need a top of the range easel, studio space and a full collection of oil paints. You don’t need a Fender Strat guitar.
You need to write something. You need to sketch something.You need to buy a cheap guitar, watch some tutorials on YouTube and start strumming.
Build a habit
Creativity is like exercise. It is a muscle that you have to work out regularly and gradually build skill and stamina.
You wouldn’t go from being fat and unfit to immediately running a marathon. Instead you would train gradually and your initial runs would only be for a couple of minutes at a time. You won’t get to marathon capabilities working out just once a week so you need to do it more often and gradually build it in to your daily routine.
Professional musicians might practise for hours every day but as a beginner at the piano you will find that thirty minutes a day is more than sufficient.
Yesterday I was listening to a writing podcast where the conversation was between two prolific, full-time writers. They both agreed that although they can do 2000 words in one sitting now, when they first started out it was little more than 300. But if you keep doing that 300 consistently, over the course of a year it will grow into a novel. Your stamina and capabilities will also grow.
Prepare to be bad at it
One of the main reasons that people give up on their creative project is because they think they aren’t very good at it; they just aren’t talented.
Yes, your initial efforts are going to suck. Your sense of taste is much more refined than what you can actually produce as a beginner. You aren’t going to like some of your work and you are going to think it is crap.
This is the point that a lot of people give up. It is easy to compare yourself to other artists, writers or musicians who are more accomplished and conclude you’ll never be that good so why both. Those people have worked for years at their craft. They have more experience and have more work under their belt. You can be that good too if you stick at it and do the work.
It is ok to be amateur
These days the concept of being amateur is frowned upon, as if you are not trying hard enough or you are not taking it seriously. Amateur originated as a French word, meaning “lover of.”
It is OK for your creative pursuit to be a hobby because you love it. I don’t make any money from my blogging. There is no business behind this Gentle Creative website. I do it for the love of creating and because I want to share my thoughts. My income comes from other skills and sources.
Don’t give up your day job
Don’t give up your day job and declare that you are now going to be an artist when you haven’t done anything towards it.
If you give up your job before you have built up a creative habit then you will be left with a scary amount of time on your hands and you will not have a creative routine that works for you.
You don’t need huge swathes of time to establish a creative routine. You need to find a few minutes a day or block out one or two evenings a week and just get started.
It’s a lot easier to be creative when you are earning money than when you no longer have a source of income and you are really stressed about it.
(I have written a book on how to combine a side project with your day job. For more info, click here.)
Find a teacher and learn your craft
Once you get started on your creative pursuit you will need to learn how to improve. This might involve taking a class, having one-to-one tuition or adopting a learning mindset and finding resources on the internet which will help you to improve.
There is no shame in having lessons. Even top sports professionals have a coach. Having a teacher or taking a course will give you a framework and the discipline to get on and do the work regularly.
All creative pursuits involve learning your chosen craft and practising on a consistent basis. When I first started to write I was under the false impression that having a reasonable command of grammar and a crazy imagination would enable me to write a novel. Several drafts later I realised that there was a skill to novel writing and I didn’t have it! I had to learn and I am still studying and improving.
Whatever it is that is tugging at your creative heartstrings – begin it. There is so much joy in honouring your creative self and expressing your truth. The journey is not always easy. There will be fear and doubt along the way. And there is also satisfaction, joy, emotion, community and a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Now go and get busy with it!
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