Guest Blog by Shane Nickerson: Start

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.

18 thoughts on “Guest Blog by Shane Nickerson: Start”

  1. Dude! This is a fabulous and uplifting post, Shane.

    I am reminded of a rather moving segment of dialogue from a recent animated film, which many people may in fact recognize:

    —–
    “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read – but the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

    But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery, and defense of the *new*. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.”
    —–

    It’s easy for many people to dismiss the sincerity of dialogue from Animated Movies and Video Games, but I find most of the positive morale impact I receive from media stems from those sources. I loved this quote the moment I saw/heard it, as it supports positive thinking, never giving up, and daring to dream.

    So does your blog entry, Shane.

    This is no doubt the reason I enjoy coming here and exploring the entries, projects, books, and performances Wil offers… as well as the people he chooses to work with. It’s all simply just – positive, real, and usually encouraging. No nonsense.

    I don’t remember where I heard or read this, but there was an article or clip last month-ish that I had seen that discussed how fame has ceased to be a product of the goals of success or recognition of hard work, and fame is more and more becoming something that is aimed at as a primary goal. Shock stunts, Media exploitation and overall immature behavior are things that many people are exercising and displaying all over the place in order to “become famous,” rather than hold strong ethics, practice to refine talents, aim at positive goals, and uphold sincere honesty and respectable objectives.

    I, like many people here had the pleasure of briefly meeting Wil and speaking with him for a bit about the 80’s, movies, video games, craft beer, et cetera… and although I have always been an introvert and usually nervous meeting new people for fear of judgment – I felt very comfortable and clicked instantly in conversation due to simple respect, and sincerity. It felt like I had run into an old friend or a long lost brother, loll. Wil really is … Wil! He doesn’t pretend to be one persona in this blog or on twitter and end up being pretentious in real life – He’s really him!

    Many thanks to that, and to you Shane for having self respect, respect for others, and the guts to post your awesome entry. Cheers!

  2. Woo boy… this struggle within my brain is consuming my entire life lately. I’ve been “preparing” to start my own business as a photographer for about 3 years now. Trying to figure out how to do it right/perfectly, has kept me from doing anything for far too long. It’s well past time to get over it, and get on with it!

    Thanks for the adding a few sparks today to the fire that needs to be lit under my backside!!

    -Syndelin

  3. Completely agree here. Great post, Shane. I wrote this on Facebook yesterday and thought I would share with you to affirm what you’re saying:

    13 years ago Phil Vecchio and I sat in a board room at our school and were told by a high ranking administrator that we were “aiming too high” and we need to “aim lower.” I am so glad we didn’t listen to that dude. Since then we have accomplished so much cool stuff! Just a sampling:
    – Put on countless successful concerts
    – Released several CDs
    – Published a webcomic with 400+ strips and counting
    – Published a book that people actually bought.
    – Hosted several panels at major comics conventions.
    – Recorded over 50 episodes (and counting) of a podcast listened to by hundreds of people.
    – Created a Kickstarter and reached our goal in less than week!

    If we had listened to that dude (or the countless other dudes that have told us over the years we suck) and given up on our dreams, none of this would have happened. Don’t let failure get in your way. Failure is part of the process. You only fail when you stop, when you give up. Keep on creating, keep on dreaming.

  4. Wow. Fantastic post Shane. I couldn’t agree more and I completely relate to those sometimes overwhelming feelings of “if it isn’t perfect, it isn’t worth it”. My own writing has been sitting on the back burner for so long, the flame has nearly gone out. Thank you for such a timely reminder and kick in the pants to ignore the haters who hate for hate’s sake and push forward with my own goals.

    And a major big thanks to Wil for selecting such phenomenally awesome guest bloggers as himself to carry WWdN in his temporary absence.

  5. Thank you for this, Shane. It’s always a good thing to hear, especially right now, for me. I’m in the first rewrite stage of my novel, and what seemed like an awesome idea four months ago seems like something I’m never going to be able to pull off. Since the internal reminder that first drafts always suck and that it’s still an awesome idea is so often drowned out by the voices telling me how terrible a writer I am, it’s always good to get outside reassurance as well.

  6. thank you so much, Shane. i newly discovered my artistic talent this year and i cant tell you how many times i have already just not even started because of negative thoughts like those you described in this blog. I am completely encouraged to go home and start my biggest idea tonight! its been in my head for months but i never started because all i could see in my mind was the perfect end product that i never thought i could achieve with my current level of knowledge. thank you thank you!

    http://jonmesser33.deviantart.com/gallery

    1. Just glanced through your DA gallery and wanted to maybe add a little fuel to the fire. You’ve made some really nice pieces and you absolutely have talent! Keep it up, and shoot for the moon!

      1. thank you so much! it does indeed add fuel to the fire! i really suppose i should have said my talents blossomed over this last year, as some of those pieces are older. still, somehow over the years i was afraid to “start” i would always tell people that i worked with 3d animation because i lacked the skills in 2d art. i dont feel that way anymore! thank you again for your comment!

  7. Thanks for this post, Shane. I kind of needed to hear this today. I’ve literally been putting off starting something I think could be great, for fear that it will suck and be a waste of time. But even if it does suck, the time won’t be wasted – I’ll figure out how to make it better and keep moving forward.

  8. “These people shit on other people’s efforts because being a critic is easy. It requires no skill, no effort, and no faith.” Whoa there, horsey: while I know you probably didn’t intend it to come across this way, being a critic in the journalistic definition (where you are actually critiquing the work, as well as bringing to bear where it sits in the cultural landscape) is just as difficult as any artistic endeavor, if not harder as the response tends to be even worse in terms of trolling reactions. As an amateur theatre critic (hoping to get into professional arts journalism), I’ve had people ask me what right do I have to criticize, when I spend a good hour or so crafting a 500 – 1,000 word review of a production. I even had a stalker because I had the audacity to say a show could’ve been better.

    So while yes, there is a valid point to ignoring criticism, at the same time there can be value in it: after all, how can you get any better if you don’t get any feedback?

    Just my two bits,

    Angie

  9. About five years ago I had a laundry list of creative things that I was certain “I’d never be good at”. Most of those things I’d never or barely even tried. And then I began challenging myself them. I taught myself to take pictures, draw, paint, sew and knit, among other things. Sure, I’m not great at all of them, but I know HOW to do them. Even better, I’m learning new ways to express myself every day and it’s freeing. These days, the more something new scares me, the more I’m likely to make myself learn it.

  10. The epic post is epic! I’m 43 and just now learning this lesson. Thanks for writing this post. It helps me get passed the negativity and on to actually making something awesome. Even if its not awesome though, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I simply, “make”.

  11. Indeed. We all struggle with this, and those in the world who do not have the creative gene struggle to understand why we struggle with it. I recently attempted to explain to my mother why “you have too much time on your hands,” said in the way it is usually said, is the most insulting thing anyone can say to a creative person. She got it, I think, but it was a struggle, and there’s no way she’d understand my I’m wearing a duct tape Sparks McGee hat in my avatar here. No flippin way. But seriously, we all have the same amount of time. We just all choose to use it differently. And we all struggle with self doubt. Thanks for the reminder that we should kick that troll in the face when he rears his ugly head.

  12. This is such a great post. I’m reminded of this quote, usually attributed to Goethe (although it seems that’s not totally accurate):
    “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

    Inner editors can be crippling. It’s taken me a long time to let go and make glorious messes. Without horrible first drafts, there can be no mediocre third drafts and excellent fifth (or tenth or whatever) drafts.

  13. Totally agree with this philosophy. As a musician and writer of music, I am faced with the dreaded “writer’s block” on a regular basis and the best approach that I’ve found by far is to continue being creative, even if you think what you’re creating is terrible!

    Most of the time, you will come back to your work after a few days, and realize that you have recorded the seed of a good idea, even if it wasn’t executed very well.

    It’s good to remember that nothing has ever been perfect on it’s first draft. Just have confidence in your creativity and you’ll find that you can mould even your bad ideas into great things.

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