Starting Small and the Art of Deguilting

Topics: Creativity, Skills

Epic.  That’s what I want, really.  I just want one or two really epic songs.  I want the next Hotel California, or Stairway to Heaven, or Bohemian Rhapsody.  I mean, it’s not too much to ask for is it?  I keep on working so hard to write music that blows people’s minds, but it’s just not working.  Everything I write just isn’t good enough.  I’ve been a mild perfectionist my entire life, but lately it’s becoming a bigger monster than ever.

So I’ve been experimenting with a solution that I think may help solve my rampant perfectionism.

Start small.

You want a three hundred page book?  Start with one crappy page a day.

You want a 480 ft tall pyramid built from 25 ton limestone blocks?  Start by moving one block.

You want 10,000 screaming fans?  Start with five or six.

You want to write an epic song?  Start with one word.

And don’t feel guilty about being small!  I haven’t written a blog post in more than a month, but you won’t hear me whining or apologizing profusely about it.  I know I could be doing better, but if I beat myself up about it then I get depressed.  And if I get depressed I beat myself up (or down rather, down to inaction).  So do you see the vicious cycle we get ourselves into here?  It’s quite simple not worth the effort.  What is more, I’m not writing this blog to get famous or make tons of money, I’m doing it to get myself out there.  I’m doing it because I know that most projects don’t die from undernourishment, they die from complete starvation.  The simple act of removing your guilt and doing something, however small, will take you a long way.

You’ll find that as you take that first step, as you get yourself moving, you create momentum that often helps to carry you to places you couldn’t have ever imagined.  Often times, you only need to go into your room, shut the door, and put the pen or guitar in your hands.  Nothing else.  Woody Allen says “90% of life is just showing up.”   Don’t force yourself to write anything at all.  Even better, try your hardest to NOT write anything.  I bet you can’t do it.  I know I can’t.  It’s practically impossible for me to sit with a guitar in my hands and NOT play it.  If you are passionate about your music, you’ll know what I’m talkin’ ’bout Willis.

Don’t worry about trying to be “as good as” that guy, or that girl that you admire with a passion bordering stalker (you know who your’s is).  Don’t even try to emulate the styles of The Greats, because they obviously understood something that most of us don’t: The Greats were great because they didn’t copy anyone else.  If they did, would they be that great?  Stop comparing your skill and your talents and your creativeness and your hair and your skin tone and your vocal chords and your chord progressions and your shoe size and your bank account and your fan count, to them.  You’ll always be left wanting.

On a final note, learn to be completely engrossed in the moment – letting the “magic music” that “makes your morning move” come to you.  Let go of everything outside your little space.  There are very few things more freeing than releasing the unjustifiable and luxurious expectations to which we chain ourselves, and when we give them up we find it easier to create.