One of the great challenges people experience when making art, doing things they consider ‘important’, and when making changes in their lives is often “I don’t know where to begin.”
One of the great secrets to having a fulfilling life (and making great art) is to
It really doesn’t matter where you begin as long as you begin while the idea has percolated enough to be recognizable. After what David Lynch calls the “magical flash” (the creative, magical seed of the idea), it’s a good idea to then scratch around and play with the idea to see what it might be and where it might go. At that point, you’re well on your way to making magic real, whether it’s in your creations or your life itself (which I might describe as a work of art in itself).
If a change in your life is pulling at you and you want to make that change, simply start doing something, right where you are right now. Patricia Ryan Madson talks about this quite well in her incredible book, Improv Wisdom.
“When do I start?” you might say.
The easy idea is “right now”, but if the idea isn’t really an idea yet, then take the step that David Lynch calls “wait quietly” until the idea is a pinch more clear. As soon as it’s tugging at you (more than a test nibble), start moving.
“How do I start?” you might say.
Use whatever you have at your disposal.
When the idea first appears, write it down! Don’t lose it. There’s always a chance you can forget at any time and great ideas are worth holding onto. Write it down! If you followed my frequent advice (“Get a notebook and use it!”), you shouldn’t have any problems. If you don’t have a notebook, get one now.
If you catch yourself thinking or saying something like “people like me don’t do things like this”, then it may be time for you to challenge who exactly you think you are.
Believe it or not, you get to choose this (within the typically very minor limitations of genetics, the family/community/country/etc into which you were born, and the material world lessons you face which could, of course, manifest as extreme challenges such as injuries, illnesses, old stuck traumas and patterns, imprisonment, etc).
If you don’t like who you think of yourself as, change your beliefs about yourself and your “identity” to whatever you would most enjoy. And, believe it or not, you are free to play around and experiment with ideas about yourself and identify as whoever or whatever you like. If that doesn’t work, keep playing! You just might discover something very interesting about who you “are”.
If you find yourself feeling sad or hurt or otherwise immobilized by/about past failures…
You need to gently remind yourself that failure is an important part of success. Most inventors try hundreds, sometimes thousands of experiments and iterations of an idea before they find the one that works. Sometimes an Art idea might be awful (most of them probably will be, even if you are making some works that are “great” — that’s part of the creative process, too!). Sometimes a life change will seem to be a mistake. Quite often these “mistakes” will put us in position for a great success or an opportunity to learn something difficult. Or give us unexpected opportunities to grow in unexpected ways.
Fearing failure might seem natural, but it is completely unnecessary most of the time. You don’t have to be afraid!
Planning is often a mistake.
Most of the time, people will use planning as an excuse to not take action when an idea is ripe and conditions are nearly perfect. I have found it helpful to think of plans as a type of Art. When inspired and tapping into the magical idea machine of the universe (i.e. the Muses), a magnificent plan can come together seemingly all on its own. Trying to force a plan to be in place before taking action is usually just wasting time.
If you feel pulled by a great idea or a profound life change, follow the pull. It’s almost always better to improvise and respond to conditions as they’re forming around you than it is to try to plan out a trajectory. Life is funny in that most of our plans, just like almost everything people tend to worry about, simply won’t happen. Almost always, something else happens instead and we have to improvise and respond creatively anyway.
So why not dive in when the pull is clear and strong and do our best to make the experience as fun as we can along the way?
Bypass all the agonizing noise and refuse to worry about your plans in advance.