Blank Pages

In the beginning. There is so much space, so much life in the possibility of those blank pages.

For me, the most common process where I feel this is in writing. Every time I click "new post," or every time I create a fresh new document to write a book, I feel that rush of newness that comes from seeing all the connections I could make. "Ooh, I could say this...which I could connect to this!" And the pages don't stay blank for long.

For many others, however, it is not quite this way at the beginning. I have mentioned in a previous post the feeling of wanting to curl up into a ball, rocking back and forth, wondering what to create. This is an adequate way to describe the brain of a creative person when they face the beginning. It's time to stop talking about art or thinking about how great it is to be an artist or practice saying "Oh, what do do? I'm an artist" in front of the mirror. It is time to make.

There is a tiny voice floating in the scary part of your brain when it's time to create.

In order to ignore said voice, you set up your workstation ever-so-perfectly. You put your paints in your palette, you arrange your paper, you change the margins and font and line spacing on your document, you make sure the proper music is ready to play when you start making.

But all of this cannot mask the voice, the voice that says

What, exactly, are you going to make?

Particularly, this is a problem for people who have created before, for people who like to call themselves artists. If you have at least one project that you would deem successful (or, at minimum, you're done messing with it), there is an insecurity with beginning again. You've been able to talk a big game about your previous accomplishments, but now you have to start something else. You can't simply remake what you had before, but what else is there to make, since you took so long creating that piece in the first place?

Yet a third problem can be disallowing yourself from creating at all. You were told art is not a valuable skill, or you aren't very good at it, or whatever. Someone said those things to you or you have said them to yourself.

The second two positions, I can sum up as fear of failure.

To begin doing something new is to risk failure, and due to the good ol' American value of Success as some measure of meaning, why would you do something you're not already good at? It's so much safer to scurry under the umbrella of things you have done over and over again. This is why many peoples' lives end up boring, repetitive cycles of going to a job they somewhat disdain and going to lunch at that burger place they've always gone to, because these are things we've practiced. What you practice is what you become good at, and on the whole, adults practice risk- and failure-free activities that shelter them from the possibility of not being immediately good at something.

This fear of failure must be cast aside when you look at those blank pages. The "what ifs" are the kind of limitations that will keep you from ever stepping outside your creative front door.

This is the same reason why so many people, though they claim Jesus, fail to follow the Way he created. Because that path is so different. The idea of letting yourself go, of making life more about loving others than it is about financial gain, the idea of financial gain being entirely insignificant, the idea that outsiders and outcasts are the first in the Kingdom. Those are unsafe things to live, and it's much less risky to make your money doing something you don't like much to make money to get more stuff so your kids can do the same as you.

Your art and your faith call you to risk, right from the beginning. Whether you've never touched a pencil in your life but want to draw, or you've been a Christian your whole life and are scared of following who Jesus is.

Let go of your idea that you have to "succeed" in order to try. That idea will keep you from beginning at all. Practice every time you go to begin something, or when you finally muster the courage to start doing what you've wanted for a long time: Your value has nothing to do with the success or failure with what you're about to do. Instead of worrying about whether it will be good or popular or well liked, just make something you know is true. Even if that's only one thing. I promise you, creating the next thing that is true will always give you a new beginning.

How do you deal with the fear of beginning? Let's talk about it in the comments.

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