You don’t have to do the scariest thing first.

I was putting out videos every day that got no attention. I thought things had to get better soon. It turns out things had to get worse for me to see the light.

I put up a video of myself reading an original poem and I was REALLY unsure how it’d go over. I love writing it, but I have no idea how to judge poetry so I let my doubts get the best of me. Worse, it rhymes. I left it up anyway and after a few uneasy hours I realized that failure is a glorious part of it. The bombs are also yours, and I felt somehow freed and emboldened by standing by my work no matter what, willing to take the fall for something vulnerable, creative, and out of the mainstream. Owning this backslide would pave the way for me to move forward in more bold and daring ways. And then something crazy happened.

People liked it. My boyfriend who always gives harshly honest reviews liked it and another poet gave me praise for the shots, the language and the reading. A scholarly friend liked it. That’s all, but that’s enough. Three weeks in, with videos every day that test my comfort limits, I’m learning a few things. Besides self production and technical nuance, it’s all mindset.

Get in the Arena

You don’t have to do the scariest thing first. Do the furthest thing you can do, that only scares you half to death and not totally, that’s in the ballpark, and do that, because…

  1. When you know firsthand that failing isn’t fatal, you can do bigger things.

3. Put it up before its ready/perfected/good/whatever so that you learn not to stop yourself, get more done, fail more, learn more, be captain of your ship more

2. Poet David Whyte taught me that if you hate, reject, and resist the hard parts you’re missing out on part of life. Failure and depression can kindle creative fire.

My favorite thing to remind myself is to treat this all impersonally as I can. It’s not about you, but what you do for others. I like to be that clown, the screwup that makes failure and imperfection into something lighthearted and funny so we can all feel safer to do more in our lives. Creative flops aren’t fatal. That’s the whole function of clowns: to get us to risk more. We live in a success obsessed culture that makes the thought of failure more mortifying than actual failure. Perhaps the fact that clowns fail for a living is why they have become scary to people (or maybe its a fascination with shadow images/opposites. More on that later).

When we begin our voices aren’t so strong. It’s like speaking up for the first time. Respect these sheepish places we come from in starting our journeys again. They build the foundation of who we are to become. So don’t stop there, don’t do the easiest thing but the one you’re not sure you can do, and find a way to completion every day.

“Without the compassionate understanding of the fear and trepidation that lie behind the courageous speech, we are bound only to our arrogance.” — David Whyte

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