I had lunch with a friend today and we got to talking about how creative types (and probably other types as well) tend to overthink things.
I told her about a personal project I’m working on that took me a year to get started on because I wanted it to be perfect. Eventually I realized that you have to start somewhere—perfection doesn’t just manifest fully formed. If you never start, you’ll never even come close to perfection.
She told me a story her mentor, a songwriter, once told her. This woman sat down one day to write a song.
But before she even played a chord, she started to think, “Wow, this a great start. These lyrics could be really good. What if it turns out to be a great song? And what if it becomes hugely successful? What happens when my album becomes a bestseller? And I get tons of money? And when I get nominated for an award? I don’t even have anything to wear to the Grammys!”
And she got so intimidated by her own thoughts, she couldn’t even start writing the song.
It’s fun to imagine future success, and perhaps terrifying to imagine the responsibilities that come with the success, but most of us probably shoot the opposite direction with our flights of fancy. We think, “Wow, this sentence is bad. What if the whole chapter is bad? And then what if I finish the book, and none of my beta readers like it? What if I send it to agents and they send me back letters that just say, ‘HAHAHA NO.’? And what if I send it to editors and they tell me I suck? What if I actually can’t write and I have to get a job at WalMart because I have no marketable skills? And what if I’m so pathetic that I’m going to die alone after one of my midnight shifts at Walmart and no one notices until I never show up for my next shift?!”
You get the idea.
Trouble is, it doesn’t matter if you have nothing to wear to the Grammys if you never even write a song.
We need to stop getting in our own way. Every great book, every great song, every great work has to start somewhere. So put the pen to the paper and quit worrying about what you’ll wear.