Posted by: Edward | May 17, 2015

Move the Pen

Move the pen. Move the brush. Push the keys. Strum the strings. If there is some creative endeavour you wish you could do, all you have to do is do it. At the base of every one there is a core set of activities and some basic equipment. Get your hands on the simplest version of the basic equipment. Don’t go out and buy the best. You earn better gear by using up, wearing out, or out growing the basic gear.

Get the basic gear and start. Now. “I don’t have time!” the cry goes up. No one has time until they take it. In between two activities, strum a chord. Add two brush strokes during a commercial. I have a notebook in the bathroom. One on my bedside table for when I can’t sleep. One hidden in my desk drawer at work. Shh. Don’t tell anyone. I go to work an hour early to sit in the coffee shop across the street writing. I write on my lunch break. If it matters to you, you have to act like it does. If it matters to you enough, you will steal the time to do it.

You are going to suck, at first. If you are lucky like me, you might not realize how much you suck until you don’t suck as bad. Most of us aren’t that lucky. We all start out no good. It’s what you do next that counts. You can quit and be like everyone else who doesn’t do what they want to or you can keep going anyways. That’s called courage. Be courageous and keep going even though you suck because eventually something magical happens… you get better.

So if practice, just doing it, is the most important part, what’s the second bit? Feed yourself good examples. If you write, read the sorts of things you want to write and read the greats. If you want to play guitar, listen to players you love. Or better still, watch them. Then? Copy them. Try to replicate what they did. And again, it’s perfectly ok to suck, even they did at some point. Hunter S. Thompson typed out The Great Gatsby just to feel what it was like to type something brilliant. I’ve spent the last few months memorizing and singing my favourite songs, and this week I wrote two of my own. Are they as good as my favourites? Hell no. Am I stoked that they exist? Hell yes.

So you’ve started doing what you wanted to do. You steal time for it. You accept that you aren’t as good as you want to be. You’ve fed yourself good examples, and copied them. Maybe you’ve even gotten better. Now what? Find a community. Find people who want to hear, look at, or read what you’ve made. Find other people who are working on what you work on. Find other people who care about what you care about. They exist. Community sustains us in our goals. When you get discouraged, and we all get discouraged from time to time, your community can help you remember why you are doing what you have chosen to do.

I’ll tell you a secret now. This stuff I’ve just told you about getting started on a creative pursuit, can be applied to just about anything you want to learn or improve at. Decide what matters to you, figure out the core activities, and make time to do it now. Move the pen.

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