Where it all began
This is draft number 32 and I’m sure there will be more.
I’m brought back to a moment in the past. Some time in the 2000’s, it was my senior year, during the semester break. We were in Dubai, at the movie theater, it was the commercials, and I was on edge. Our grades come out today. It’s a stressful time because the grades accumulate and if I want a scholarship and a good university I need top grades no matter what.
My family wasn’t aware of my nerves and were chatting about and enjoying their time. I got a message. Oh crap, it’s from my high school. The grades are out. I hesitate opening and think, hey just watch the movie, enjoy it, and then face it, but damn it, my curiosity got the best of me, I open.
Oh sweet! I got a 99.98% (the grade is out of 100) I was so happy! It’s near perfect, hell yes! I look over to my mom and say “Mom, Mom, the grades are out and I got a 99.98!” She looked at me with a disappointed look, that’s not a 100.
I sat there, shocked. A moment ago I was happy and now, I feel devastated, defeated, and maybe even… ashamed. It’s not a perfect mark… I don’t remember what the movie was or anything after that. All I kept thinking, it’s not a 100. That’s when it started, the perfectionist mindset.
And now I’m on draft 35. Trying to write a post about something yet that something kept changing from draft to draft. For some odd reason, I keep thinking whoever will land on this post will grade me, and they might see this, and not give it a full mark, or even worse, think of it as a piece of rubbish.
Shit, it’s draft 42 now.
People simply say, just do it. But to a person molded in an academic background where your worth is attached to a grade, you must be perfect, get the perfect score, do the perfect performance, and just do it, isn’t as easy as it sounds, it actually sounds terrifying.
I’m on draft 47 now, and keep watching those videos about starting and sucking at the beginning, in hopes it would give me that push to actually make things.
Sound advice, but why is it hard? Why can’t I get myself to do something, anything? I’m really tired of procrastinating.
Epiphany or is it a Eureka?
While going back and forth between those drafts, and listening to some music and podcasts, I happen to land on an episode with Seth Godin
Seth says something (well things) that hit me deep. One of which is
“Perfectionism hides behind quality” damn… that’s the excuse I’ve been using for years. I have avoided a lot of things in life behind the excuse of
“I’m not yet good enough”
“Not there yet”
“It’s not of value”
And those are just other ways of using quality as an excuse.
He also said another thing that just made writing this draft (if you’re counting it’s 51) much easier or rather brought it into fruition, and made me actually write and not delete this draft. What he said was,
You owe it to that idea to execute it.
I never thought of it from that perspective. That this idea came to me, and I owe it to make it happen. This gives whatever I do much more meaning, regardless of the outcome. Yes, it will be painful and you will suck, but slowly you won’t suck anymore if you kept being consistent.
Will what I make be valuable? Maybe, or most probably not.
Will it be stupid? Most defiantly.
Will I keep at it? Yes, because I owe it to the idea of becoming a writer.
So welcome to the process, of me spitting out posts that might be a hit or most probably a miss, but hey, I’ll enjoy the process anyway.
Mindset is the name of the game
Now our attitude truly shapes everything, and obviously, we need to be positive during this grueling time of creating but we need some reminders. I for one will have post-it’s all over, to remind me of these things but you do you.
So a gentle reminder:
- Give yourself permission to create and also create “bad work”
- You need practice to get better so keep making. Stay consistent, no matter what.
- Be patient, what you make will not match what you imagined for a while. There is a gap between where you are right now and where you’re heading, just wait until your skills match up with your thoughts.
- Experiment, don’t just follow along, give yourself the chance to explore
- Domain knowledge. Grow that, and you do that by curiosity, so be curious.
- Have fun. Enjoy the process of making. Don’t take it too seriously.
A is for Action and maybe plAn
So all this fluff is good, but what can I do with this sense of motivation (also please don’t rely on motivation because it ebbs and flows so remember the “bad work” because those will happen in days when you’re depleted. Wait I thought this is the action part?)
Rules or constraints are helpful in creative work, or any kind of work so we need a couple of things when starting something. What we need are double-double D’s. Just bear with me here,
The double-double D’s:
- Define what’s the thing we want to do: What is it that you want to start doing? Is it writing, drawing, programming, photography, filming, cooking… etc… Start by choosing something. With the topic selected, now what do you want to do with it? Write a book? Make a comic? Build a SAAS App? Make YouTube videos? Set up a bakery? This will help you in figuring out the steps to get to that output. Oh also don’t forget to write the steps (or even just one step to fellow overwhelmed out there)
- Dedicate time to it: Now you need to commit to a time. It can be a set of time such as 13 minutes a day, half an hour, or 3 hours. Or you can mark your calendar say every day from 2:00 pm till 3:00 p.m. Depending on your schedule pick a number and dedicate that time to learn and practice.
- Decide on an output: Now that you know what you want to do, and the objective, and set time aside for it, it’s time to decide on mini outputs for the growing body of work you want to do. So it can be a photo, a note, a sketch, whichever just something. Because learning alone isn’t enough (trust me I made that mistake) you need to put it into practice by having an output
- Do it: Now just start, this step is the hardest because you’ll think you need to do something wow, but hey remember we already allowed ourselves to do “bad work” so embrace that attitude and just put it out there, whatever it is, and make it public
An example is a great illustrator to what I just described, so I’ll tell you what I will be doing (actually started doing) just to help set your own
I’ll be writing. My objective is to become a better storyteller, and writer, and just put these messed-up jumbles in my head into coherent thought. Why? Because I want to tell a story. I want to write one that resonates with others, in other words, I want to write books.
I’ll be doing it after my gym time so most probably around 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 but the time varies so all I care about is actually putting in time to write, be it 5 minutes or 2 hours
What I decided was to tweet about the topic every day (1) and by the end of the week have a blog post (2)
I know I chose two outputs It’s just that I want to consistently write even if it’s just a tweet.
.. well I am, with this post right here.
I wrote this in my notes app while writing this draft
I don’t think that there’s a better way to conclude this post other than to say, feel the fear, and do it anyway.
Nice things to check out
- “Make Good Art” delivered byNEIL GAIMAN
- “The Gap” by Ira Glass
- “The Perfection Trap: Why Perfectionism Is Your Enemy”
- “What Every Successful Person Knows, But Never Says” – James Clear