Cringing Is No Way to Be Creative.

2013.01.06 Cringing Is No Way to Be Creative

I am giving myself permission to be brave: to succeed and celebrate, to fail and learn.

I sometimes get hesitant about my writing. It’s as if I anticipate the cringing I’ll do when I reflect on what I wrote a year or more later and can’t believe that’s what I thought or believed or felt and that’s how I articulated myself or thought it would be appropriate to be public about, and so on. This is the sort of anxiety I have struggled with in the past and it’s the sort of self-editing that can be just as stifling as healthy. Where is the middle ground between standing up for what I think and believe, right here, right now, and guarding myself from just plain screwing up? I suppose if any of us knew that all of the time, we’d be more than human.

Which we are not. We are human. I am human. I do my best to offer grace to as many as possible as often as possible and pray I receive it in return. This is key in understanding how one’s failure (real or perceived) falls into the web of life. Yes, this is a post about dealing with failure of being wrong or perceived as wrong. Of wanting to please everyone as if that’s even possible. Raise your hand if you’ve ever done this.

You can put your hand down. I can’t see you.

One of the persons I enjoy reading the most is Seth Godin (Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? is my favorite of his books that I’ve read), a writer who contemplates the big questions behind our choices. He recently launched a new project event and had some choice blog posts about it.

Hours before the event premiered, he wrote here:

Your art is vitally important, and what makes it art is that it is personal, important and fraught with the whiff of failure. This is precisely why it’s scarce and thus valuable—it’s difficult to stand up and own it and say, “here, I made this.” For me, anyway, writing a book is far easier than handing it to someone I care about and asking them to read it.

And two days after the event he wrote here:

At some level, “this might not work” is at the heart of all important projects, of everything new and worth doing. And it can paralyze us into inaction, into watering down our art and into failing to ship… “This might not work” is either a curse, something that you labor under, or it’s a blessing, a chance to fly and do work you never thought possible.

In-between the event itself is the space where Godin and company went out on a limb and said, “Here, I made this.” And secretly whispered to himself, “This might not work.” Godin is talking about empowering ourselves to empower ourselves. As artists, dreamers, and human beings who create. Of course I made this and I’m nervous asking you to read it. Of course this blog might not work. And yet here it is. I’m standing up and maybe screwing up and there’s a space here where both may happen at the same time.

Maybe the better question about the space between standing up and screwing up is, “Where is the space between awe and fear?” It’s somewhere out on a limb and there’s some movement and a least a little wind and there are more eyes on the scene than just my own. And if I’m up there, I have to wonder about my face: am I cringing or am I smiling? With this post I am simultaneously going out on a limb while building trusses to keep that limb in place. But really, the trusses are like Dumbo’s magic feather – as long as I believe I can fly I’m going to soar.

This blog is an experiment. Each post is where I’m at in that particular moment of my life. It is highly contextual. And thank God. So I will be brave. If I need to recant, redact, or rekindle relationships, I will do it when I need to do it. I’ll cringe later. For now, I will be brave. That takes smiling.

Entrepreneur, thinker, and doer Guy Kawasaki (The Art of the Start is my favorite of his books that I’ve read) once said, “Ambitious failure, magnificent failure, is a very good thing.” Here’s to a project that lives up to such potential.


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