It was American author Mark Twain who said that the secret to getting ahead is getting started. And the secret to getting started? “Breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable ones, and starting on the first one.”
Well, he was in a good position to know. This 19th century author overcame all the disadvantages of a humble background to become one of America’s best and much-loved literary giants, with the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and then Huckleberry Finn his most famous works.
But Twain didn’t arrive in the world as a fully-fledged creative writer. Thanks to his own journey to success, he was able to recognise that breaking down the creative process into nugget-like, manageable portions was the only way to overcome the terrifying process of creating something for others to consume, and ultimately judge whether it’s any good.
What drives this desire to create something wonderful is a compulsion that comes from deep within us. But, what keeps so many of us from doing what we really want to do? The answer is fear. Fear of failure and fear of turning a dream into a reality and having your passion scrutinised by others.
From childhood we learn to regard fear as a weakness to be overcome. But, instead of seeing fear as a negative emotion, psychologists believe we should now see it as an essential component of the success toolkit when realising our creative dreams. You are about to give something to the world that is a little piece of your soul. Of course you feel fearful!
Susan Jeffers, best-selling author of ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’, wrote that fear, very often, keeps us from moving ahead with our lives and from doing the things that we want to do.
“So many of us short-circuit our living by choosing the path that is most comfortable. Realise that fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow.”
“The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something, is either to give up (!) or, to just go out and do it.”
Steven Pressfield, the author of the War of Art, goes as far as to say that if you are paralysed by fear then that’s a good sign. “The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
“The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, then the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.”
However, when you are paralysed by self-doubt and further held back by its bestfriend procrastination, the launch-pad to your possible new life can feel like a very dark and lonely place.
How do you give yourself the courage to go for it, particularly if you’re working alone? Reaching out to other people in your situation is the best starting point. Having a support network like Holly & Co (just saying!) where you can share your fears and anxieties with others in a similar position is vital. There really is comfort in numbers. Your COmmunity can help you shine a light on that dark place.
There is never a good time to start and I think it’s all about just accepting, you’ll probably never feel ready.
In the words of English poet Christina Rossetti: “Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes, work never begun.”
So, begin you should. There’s no time to hang around. Just accept that all creative people with big ideas are plagued with fears and self-doubts. As actor Hugh Laurie puts it: “There’s almost no such thing as ‘ready’. There’s only now. And now is as good a time as any.”
It’s true that you could spend another year creating the perfect collection of jewellery, a mouth-watering line-up of hand-crafted cakes, but you still won’t have faced down your fear of showing them off to the world.
Brené Brown, one of America’s leading research professors into vulnerability and courage, says: “There’s nothing more daring than showing up, putting ourselves out there and letting ourselves be seen.”
If Elizabeth Gilbert hadn’t taken a leap into the unknown, we wouldn’t have had her best-selling book, Eat Pray Love, and the follow-up, Big Magic, which tackles the pitfalls of creativity.
On the subject of fear, she says we should just welcome it in, not conquer it. Consider it as a companion on a road trip. You don’t need to let it take the wheel, but you never know where it may take you.
And seeing as this article seems to be all about what others think and say, rightly so, the final word goes to Napoleon Hill, one of America’s earliest self-help gurus. In the 1930s he wrote: “To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don’t worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest.”
So, go on, forget your fears – and shine as brightly as you can.
Candles by Lily Belle