I tell writers at my writing retreats:
“Don’t confuse beginning with the beginning. Beginning is just starting. It has nothing to do with knowing what the opening of your piece, what your piece is ultimately about, or even where it will end up.”
Thinking you need to know the beginning of your project before you can start can keep you stuck for years or send you looping back to begin at the beginning again and again which can keep you stuck.”
Of course, this is true for many art forms. I am learning to draw, which is challenging for me because I am both impatient and I struggle with fine motor skills. If I keep erasing what I draw, how will I ever develop confidence or progress?
How do we outsmart our need to keep going back to make it right, to know how it all fits together, or to overcome our fear of beginning?
Here are a few thoughts on how to begin a creative project:
Make the distinction that starting is not the same as knowing the beginning might be enough to get you going. Remind yourself “It won’t feel comfortable to begin without knowing the right place to start but what does being comfortable have to do with leading my creative life?”
Design a simple starting ritual and repeat it every day for a week, but do not start creating. Do the ritual and then go back to your regular life.
My ritual is making a latte, going upstairs to my office where Freedom is turned on, putting on headphones, and hitting play on the same playlist. These activities cue my mind and body and say “It’s time to start.”
Make an inventory before you being a creative project. Here’s a writing practice members at the Oasis received that I would like to gift to you. The first part is questioning the need for constant productivity and then I talk about making an inventory as a way to sneak up on your project to get started.
The idea is to make lists of things that you can then work with to create with intent. For artists, this could be deciding on a limited palette or collage materials.
Ask yourself, “Where would my best friend tell me to start?” Go where your imagination tells you to go. Set a timer for five minutes and start making stuff right then and there.
Speaking of timers, cheap kitchen timers are super useful for starting and restarting a creative project. They allow you to stay away from your phone – the ultimate distraction – and instead focus on what you are creating. Focus on the period of time you’ll create and remind yourself,. “I can do anything for five minutes.”
Tap into your deep why. Why are you creating this? Why does this creative project drive you? Why is it important to you, not the entire world, but first you? Remind yourself, in your mind and body, not as a way to increase pressure, but to own your intrinsic motivation.
Work with someone else. Sometimes starting solo is too lonely. Find a group to write with, a class to paint with, a coffee shop to sketch in, and consider one of my cozy almost-like-being-in-person virtual retreats! It’s a wonderful way to get a lot of writing done in a day being with yourself and with others.
Turn off your computer screen and type without seeing your words. Or blindfold yourself and paint or draw.
Pick one Oblique Strategy and begin from there.
Remind yourself you are essential goodness, Christ consciousness, love, beingness, and life. Creating is one lovely way to celebrate to this goodness, but it is never about earning your right to be. Never.
Have fun when you begin a project and then keep going!