When do you decide that an idea is worth committing to?
When do you kill your darlings?
Why are both of these questions difficult?
Why are they so loaded with resistance?
Yesterday I wrote about ruckus; about the fact that in the internet age it costs next-to-nothing to create things which bring people together.
If we are so inclined, we can all be people who start things regularly, because it’s free to try out ideas which might not work.
Theoretically, we can continue to try ideas out until one sticks.
In Western Australia, where I live, it takes six people and $121.80 to register a nonprofit organisation. If you add value to the life of just one person, that’s time and money well spent. I’ve done this, and I believe that almost anybody can.
You can launch an online store for under $100. If it works, congratulations, you have a business. If it doesn’t, you almost certainly learnt enough from the process to justify the expense, and can consider it a valuable investment in your own skills.
You don’t need a shop front or millions of dollars in donations to make change any more.
If starting things is so easy then, why doesn’t everybody do it?
Honestly, I think it’s because making things is fucking scary; Putting your name on a thing is scary, and telling people that you’re making a thing is scary (especially if it’s something they’ll want to see).
So lots of people don’t.
They still have ideas. Everyone has ideas, many of which are good ones. But they don’t commit to any. None of their ideas get seen through.
Until you make the shift from ‘having an idea’ to ‘doing the thing’, you idea doesn’t mean much to anyone but yourself. Making this shift towards your idea meaning something to other people is where the fear lives, but it needs to mean something to other people for it to become a thing in the first place.
This is particularly tragic when a person generates lots and lots of ideas, but struggles to commit to any of them. This is called thrashing.
We all know people who are thrashing.
They are usually wonderful people with brilliant minds, who are always talking about the next project they’re planning, or the next thing they want to write, but aren’t doing the vulnerable work of turning any of their ideas into things. Their ideas might be fantastic, but their work can’t speak for itself because it doesn’t exist.
I used to be a thrasher. I was thrashing over this blog until yesterday.
The solution to thrashing is to decide on a deadline for every idea. A pivotal moment where you make a serious decision;
Am I going to turn this idea into a thing, or am I going to kill it?
If you commit to the project, you have to finish. You owe it to yourself, no matter what. The product must ship, the website must launch, or the book gets written. No excuses. No backing out.
If you kill it, you’re making the promise to yourself that you’ll stop thinking about the idea, and shift your focus to another. You’ll stop talking about the idea, and if anyone asks you about it, you’ll tell them it’s dead.
If you can’t bring yourself to kill an idea, it’s probably a good one.
If you can’t bring yourself to commit to it, you are probably harbouring fear.
Starting things is scary work. Fear is an entirely natural part of the creative process, but we get to choose what we want to do with it.
We can resist fear, but deep down we know that never works.
“I do not think you can get rid of the fear.
I think that the harder you push back against the fear, the louder it becomes.
But I think you can dance with it.“
This is the trick. This is what transforms thrashing into sinking, or swimming.
Let your fear energise your work. Thank it.
I was petrified to launch this blog.
Until yesterday, it was a website I’d made and written some notes on, which around five people knew about.
I thought to myself;
‘I’ll launch after a few weeks. Once there’s a build-up of content for people to read back through.’
I was scared, and I wanted to leave myself an escape route available for as long as possible. I didn’t want to share it until I was 100% certain that I wasn’t going to embarrass myself, but another few weeks of writing posts wasn’t going to get rid of that feeling.
Nothing can get rid of that feeling. I was never going to feel safe pressing the share button.
Someone clever told me to push it anyway, and here we are.
My fear was rational. To an extent, so was the logic behind my plan to build up some content. But if I’m honest with myself, the only reason I didn’t launch a week ago when I wrote my welcome post was because I was scared of you reading it, and scared that I wouldn’t be able to deliver on my promise.
I was scared of telling you that I was going to publish a post every day, and that you’d take a look in a month and nothing would be there.
I was scared of you, I was scared of myself, I was scared of committing to do the thing.
Thrashing wins games of Pictionary, but in real life you need to do more than just have the right idea to come out ahead.
Yesterday was the day I made my commitment.
This blog is now a thing.
It will be until at least the 13th July 2020. I’ll publish something, even if it’s not much, for an entire year and then reassess.
I write what about whatever engrosses my attention and share one piece of it every day – no exceptions.
I sincerely hope you can find some value in the mix.
Each of my daily post gets assigned to any number of clusters. These are my attempt to organise the inevitably sporadic nature of my posts into categories of articles which you might find interesting.
Clusters can be found in the sidebar, and clicking on one will direct you to a feed of posts all relating to that cluster. If you’re looking for my thoughts on a specific topic, or are looking for an old post, that’s the best place to start!
Your feedback is very important to me, and I endeavour to respond to all of it. If you liked something, if you didn’t, or if you just have something to add, please get in touch.
This rest of this post contains a bit of history about me – and explains what led me to start this project.
I live in Perth, Western Australia. It’s nice, but I can’t see myself staying here forever.
My family is Australian, but only one of my grandparents was born here. My Nanny comes from Kent in England, while my Nonna and Nonno were both born in the same town on the East coast of Italy – I plan to live there for a time before I die.
I only have one really bad habit, and it’s also one of my best traits – I’m a ‘yes‘ person.
I regularly flirt with a crippling state of overcommitment because I love exploring new opportunities. I feel like I am at my most productive when I’m under a lot of pressure, even though this is rarely the case.
Likely due to this habit, I’ve developed a passionate hatred for the question:
‘What do you do?’
When confronted with it, I’m usually juggling too many jobs, projects or goals at any one time to give a clean answer.
To answer that question in a way which doesn’t make me feel awful, indulge me a little while I give you an abridged recap of my adult life.
I landed my first lead acting gig with The Western Australian Youth Theatre Company (WAYTCo) during my final year of high school. The play was Punk Rock by Simon Stephens, whom I love.
The play lined up almost perfectly with my last set of exams, and was the first time I had to prioritise between what I loved to do, and what I thought I needed to. The decision seemed impossible, and everyone I spoke to seemed rather certain that I had a choice: good grades, or some play.
I wanted both. So for the first time in my young adult life, I made it happen.
Making the sacrifices necessary to accept that role was one of the best decisions I ever made. I worked the equivalent of 6am – 10pm almost every day to stay on top of my studies during the rehearsal period, and I got through. Punk Rock taught me how to hustle.
I got so hooked on being in that rehearsal room that something else became clear to me, and it completely changed my trajectory;
If I was going to be happy, good art needed to be at the core of my everyday.
In the four years since, I’ve fumbled through a myriad of opportunities with that being my only consistent focus: make good art.
It was a beautiful catch-all which ticked every box I needed it to. It involved solving unique and complex problems, has inbuilt periods of isolation, and satisfied the expectations of every adult I knew.
The grown-ups laughed at the specificity of my ambition, but believed I’d make it all the same.
He’ll be fine, they thought.
It was naturally a shock when, after graduating high-school with a score more than adequate to take my pick of local engineering courses, I told them all that I was going to study Theatre.
No he won’t be, they thought.
WAYTCo allowed me to realise that art is important me. That I need it. In a sense, that show saved me from myself. Without it I likely would have suffered through half an engineering degree which I know for a fact I wouldn’t have finished.
Right now, the last three items on that list consume most of my time. As I edge closer to completing my studies, the sense that this won’t always be the case fills me with anticipation and excitement.
At the moment I still write in a bunch of forms; I still write theatre; I adore poetry and spoken word (you’ll find some of my angsty crap online if you look hard enough); and there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll sink my teeth into some longer form non-fiction soon enough. But first, I need to practice.
My writing is getting better constantly, but I’ve got a long way to go before I’ll be in the position to write a book that I’ll be proud of, a poetry collection of relevance, or a play I can tour the world with.
Every bit of advice I’ve ever received about becoming a better writer has shared the sentiment of this snippet of wisdom from Ira Glass, the host and executive producer of This American Life.
In six words;
To write well,write a lot.
This blog is how I intend to implement that sound advice. It’s my promise to the world. It’s an investment in myself.
The writer I’ll be in five years time will thank me for taking this leap.