Monday, 27 January 2014

#1 HOW TO: Begin

One of my biggest creative hang-ups is an inability to begin.

Starting a new drawing, a new article, a new relationship or even just picking up the goddamn telephone; taking the first step on any endeavour can fill me with so much excitement and dread simultaneously that absolutely nothing happens. In fact the very irony of struggling throughout January to begin a blog post about How to Begin is not lost on me, but rather validates the quandary we face so often; how to get past the starting blocks with an idea we believe in.

Now that I'm here, I'd like to introduce the first installment of a new project; a monthly creative HOW TO driven by things I've learned about the things I'm trying to get better at. Through a post-graduate roller-coaster year with my own illustration practice at the proverbial helm, I have over-thought, overworked and overslept on my way to solving some tough truths about the creative capacity, fascinated by my own shortcomings and how to begin to accept or overcome them. Moments of enlightenment have begun to appear; when working collaboratively with others; at exhibitions; on the bus; in the shower; absolutely anywhere at 3am; and these fragments of motivational clarity are precisely what I want to pass along and build upon in this series.

With regards to the challenge of beginning, I think the difficulty stems from a designation of importance or ceremony - The Big Bang, a baby's first steps, the first mark in a new sketchbook - these are big deals, people. But such narrow focus leaves the beginning isolated in time, and I think we can actually feel a little bit lonely in these moments, and very vulnerable to our own hopes and fears. If we shift our thinking and broaden the perception of the beginning it becomes a lot less scary as we see things have preceded and will naturally follow it. It is a node within a network, not an island surrounded by sharks.

Embarking should be celebrated and the fear we experience should not be allowed to paralyze our action, but rather reassure us that it matters. When placed in context this first step is the moment we act on something or decide to release it from our clutches, which is pretty flipping exciting. Like the breaking of a bottle on the side of a ship, our maiden voyages should feel celebratory; like the beginning of a great adventure. After all, uncharted territory is what pushes us to grow and level up, and there is a whole world of promise out there if we just let go.

Nobody said it was easy, but here are a few tips to get you started:

In order to begin with moxy and might you must first establish your strengths. When things feel difficult it's easy to forget our abilities, so make a list of what makes you great for this project and refer back to it when you need reminding. This not only builds up some armour to protect you from blows further down the line, but also allows you to identify areas you may need to work on to make the project the best it can be; gaps that can either be filled by learning a new skill (such as developing an understanding of web design, becoming a better public speaker, or how to write a budget) but equally valid is inviting someone to help you out in that area. Seal your intention with not only a firm belief but valid proof that it can be a success.

Research and planning are invaluable but don't let this stage weigh you down. It can be tempting to limit damage by trying to solve all potential problems before you begin, but there comes a point when taking the leap and addressing any issues as they arise is the only way to make it happen. You can keep feeding into the project once it starts so, sure, R&D your little socks off, but use this preparation as a springboard not an anchor.

Give your endeavour structural support by telling other people. Putting an idea out into the universe is a great way of validating it, and will strengthen your commitment to making it happen. Get advice from someone who inspires you and surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you. Simply discussing things aloud can often make them clearer, sweeter and even jovial. Don't keep it to yourself.

The biggest villains that can overthrow your ballsy beginning are excuses and procrastination. It can often feel like x, y and z need to be in place before you can make a start but this means there is a danger you never will. A shiny new thing may feel like it needs lots of people or money or stuff, but start by planting the seed. If you have dreams of a big exhibition, start small; find a local space or put up work in your bedroom. If you need equipment, swap skills for resources and utilise tools from those around you for mutual gain. Identified your dream job? seek experience and meaningful encounters through whatever you're passionate about. Work up; don't cease before you've begun.

And finally the most important thing to possess when beginning is determination. This does not need to be conviction towards a fixed end product, but rather the commitment to a process and a reason to keep trying. Ideas naturally evolve and sometimes mutate completely, but set out your intentions clearly and allow yourself to be led by your values and instincts. Continually define the next step you need in order to reach your goal - keep going and you'll find yourself there.

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