The Star is about finding your true north.
When I think through topics for my weekly blog, I often do so with a particular type of person in mind—someone who wishes she could incorporate creative work into her life but feels she does not have enough time, skill, or inspiration to get started. And while those are certainly three common self-limiting beliefs we constantly battle, there is another that I’d rarely considered until it started happening to me: embarrassment.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d bought a camera for my honeymoon. I’m still learning how to use it, so this past weekend, I went shooting with my fiance (who has been doing this much longer than I have). I was having fun, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that people walking by were judging me, like, “what’s he doing with a camera?” “What does he know about photography?
I know they weren’t. I know that no one cared. But I felt like a poser. Who am I to be walking around with a camera I barely know how to use? That’s something my fiance never seems to think about. She’s been the one at the party or the bar or the parade with a camera for years. And it shows in her work.
The fear of looking silly is a huge creative hurdle we all face. That’s true when it comes to sharing work (like when you’re stuck in The Gap where our taste does not match reality), but it’s equally true in the creation of the work. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve not taken in the past month for fear of looking stupid.
But to reap the rewards of creative work, we have to first take the risks associated with putting ourselves out there and, yes, maybe look silly.
It’s like Lorde said at her concert the other night:
“You know, I meet people, and they’d be like ‘why are you writing that thing down, what I just said?’ ‘Why are you making us stop the movie to figure out some thought?’ ‘Why are you turning over in bed to record something?’ And I realized, those people don’t understand me. Because that’s who I am. I am always going to be writing that stuff down. That’s what you get. That’s the deal you get with me.”
It can feel dumb to stop a conversation to write down an idea. It can be nerve wracking to email your idol and ask if they’ll be on your podcast. It can be embarrassing to sit inside and write a blog post while your future in-laws chop down a tree in your backyard.
It reminds me of a story Austin Kleon shared on his blog the other day:
“There was one morning when I was up on the porch shuffling index cards around while the contractors were unloading large pieces of lumber out of the back of their truck. Even though writing is hard like any job can be, I know how lucky I am. (Tony Fitzpatrick once said, “Writing is hard fucking work, but it’s not labor.”) A neighbor down the street told my wife her husband saw me out one day and said, “I want his job.”
When I finally went out to the garage to get some real heads-down fingers-to-keys Writing done, I thought I was going to be annoyed by the din of the drills and the saw blades, but instead, I’ve found the buzz of the power tools to be encouraging. The contractors are practicing their trade and I am practicing mine. Who will finish first?”
Your brain wants to protect you from becoming some sort of pariah, so it magnifies silly fears. But if you never take the risk, you’ll never reap the reward. As my friend Jay says, ordinary inputs lead to ordinary outputs. But extraordinary inputs—being brave enough to do the things others are too embarrassed to do—leads to something more.
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