Shane Nickerson is a guy on a couch. You can find him at nickerblog.com.
You don’t have to start with something perfect, but you do have to start with something.
As someone who struggles daily to actually believe that I am an artist, I am constantly inspired by people who push through the darkest hour of creating new things: the self-doubt phase. It’s a gloomy time right after you have a big idea, because all of those negative brainbots activate to convince you that it won’t work/isn’t good enough/has probably been done/shouldn’t happen/is stupid. I’ve had an idea, gotten excited about it, let my mind imagine the possibilities, registered a relevant domain name, then murdered the idea in cold blood when that negativity prevails. All in under an hour.
The alternative, which is much more difficult, is to have faith in an idea. That faith, a firm belief in something for which there is no proof, becomes essential when the dark voices start piping up with the “dude, don’t bother!” or the “who are you kidding, you’re not an artist?” It carries me through the murky transitional zone between “ZOMG IDEA!” and “BEGIN BUILDING IDEA.” Anyone can think of something. Doing something is much more difficult.
If you listen to critics of art and begin to believe them, you will never make anything. Critics are everywhere. They slam movies, writing, ideas, creative decisions, people, past work, future work and at their worst, assume they understand someone else’s motivation for creating something. They’re on Twitter, on Facebook, blogs, at your work, sometimes in your family. These people shit on other people’s efforts because being a critic is easy. It requires no skill, no effort, and no faith. Most of all, being critical justifies those dark voices in their own heads about why their ideas aren’t good enough. If you’re not careful, it will justify your own as well.
One of the loudest voices in my head, the real dick of all the voices, likes to tell me that what I’m making won’t be perfect. It’s an impossible standard to live up to, perfection, and is therefore an effective weapon against my own creativity. I’m often tempted to give up before I begin. But I’ve tried to stop doing that. After 41 years, I’ve finally begun to realize that you have to start. You have to begin to make something before you can worry about how it’s going to end up. If you don’t start, you have nothing.
I want to be like the people who keep pushing forward, in spite of the critics, self doubt, and uncomfortable odds. They try new things. They take risks. They eat shit sometimes. They get back up and try other new things. Their successes are widely embraced. Their misfires are lonely. Most of all, their art is inspiring.
If I’ve learned anything in my shaky life as an artist, it’s that you must stop talking and spinning and whining and start making your thing today. Pick up a camera. Pick up an easel. Open your laptop and turn off your Internet connection while you write. Find a starting point. Ignore the voices. Ignore the critics. Reward yourself for having ideas by valuing them enough to believe in them.
Failure does not exist.