Thoughts on a Plane

I haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve been feeling the peculiar feeling of being lost before I’ve even begun. Does that make sense? I couldn’t make much sense of it until a dear friend of mine gifted me The Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway. As I read The Snows of Kilimanjaro, this quote stood out to me:

“But, in yourself, you said that you would write… But he would never do it, because each day of not writing, of comfort, of being that which he despised, dulled his ability and softened his will to work so that, finally, he did no work at all.”

This quote resonated with me because it scared me. It’s about a writer who stopped writing because he got too comfortable in life. What struck me even more was this quote that came from his deathbed:

“Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either. Maybe you could never write them, and that was why you put them off and delayed the starting.”

Fear of failure is a real thing, but how can you justify being afraid of failure if you never give yourself the chance to fail?  I’ve determined that I’m not afraid of what other people will say. I’m afraid of what I won’t say – because I lack the courage to.

I once had a nightmare I was at a convention. Painters, musicians, photographers, dancers, and writers were all there, showing off their talents. I had a table that held my writings. But everyone there just passed me by. I started feeling very small, watching everyone laugh and cry at the other creations. Then someone came up to me, and told me I was wasting my time being there. Writing isn’t visual, and it isn’t audial. It’s not easy to consume. Who wants to take the time to read when there’s paintings and songs that can make you feel the same thing quicker?

I didn’t know what to say. I thought they were right, and I woke up feeling very sick inside. It’s been a fear I’ve carried around ever since. How do I entice people to read something that will be worth their while?

But all art is not, and should not be, purely for ease. Ease is entertainment. We are a culture of great ease. But writing goes further than entertainment. It has to, because it requires more attention and commitment. You open a book because you’re looking for something. Not something specific, but something that you can work with, something you can pick apart and put back together in your own way. It’s more than a new meaning. It’s a new feeling.

Some of my best creations  have come out of times of intense discomfort, because they produced intense thoughts and feelings. Instead of getting comfortable in fear, and worrying about form, strategy, and marketing, I had to remind myself that the form will come. The most important thing is to simply create. So, if you’ve stuck with me long enough to read this next part, I’d like to announce a new project I’ve committed myself to. It’s called “Thoughts on a Plane.”

“Thoughts on a Plane” began on an airplane, contemplating the world below. Since then, it has become every deep, meaningful conversation I’ve had. The plan is to take note of what was said, analyze it, explore it, and simply share it. It’s not to be about anything specific, only observations, ideas, insights,and theories. It’s about the things we talk about that move us to higher planes.

Advice for Creative Entrepreneurs

The best piece of advice I ever got was from my short story professor.  He told me my writing was stiff and unemotional, like I was trying to hide behind it. He was right. I was. If I wanted to connect with people, I had to write like how I spoke. With emotion.

It was this advice to essentially “be more real” that convinced me to take the leap to focus on my creative career more intensely.  I consider myself a creative entrepreneur, but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing. Who does? There’s no rules in this field, and that’s the beauty of it.

To make creative entrepreneurship less daunting, I wanted to share some advice I’ve learned so far for anyone pursuing or thinking about pursuing their creative dreams seriously.

I wanted to make a cheat-cheat for what qualifies as advice versus criticism, but the difference isn’t black and white. There’s good advice and bad advice, just as there’s constructive criticism and plain old criticism. In my experience, anything that makes you see things in a new perspective is worth exploring. But if it makes you feel defensive, personally attacked, or confused, don’t listen. A lot of people don’t know what they’re talking about.

Listen to people who are familiar with you or the industry you’re in. Seek them out for advice.

As my best friend in high school said, “you wouldn’t take weight loss advice from a fat person.”

Nobody criticizes you more than yourself.

Why are artists notoriously hard on themselves? Because our success is dependent on our ability, our will, and our hearts and souls – that’s a scary, fragile thing to carry.

Learn to manage your anxiety and stress.

This is key. Do whatever you have to do, because it will never go away.

Watercolor therapy, one of my more healthy ways of coping.

Follow your ideas through.

Talk about them, record them, write them down – anything to get them out of your head into a physical form. Now you have a rough draft you can work with.

Share your content.

Even if you think it sucks or isn’t perfect.  Remember, you can’t be afraid of failing if you don’t give yourself the chance to fail.

Treat it like a job.

That is, if it isn’t your job already. Putting in the time will make you feel more disciplined and accomplished.

Be a nerd.

People appreciate someone who is passionate about something they know well. If you’re a nerd, you’ll meet other nerds who are nerdy about the same things. Now you have friends – or a network, as fancy, official people like to call it.

Disconnect yourself from your work.

In creative fields, the artist is the product, because art is the extension of the artist. I can be a terribly shy person, so I have to think of my work as separate from me. I tell myself it’s a business I just happen to be running. If I didn’t, nothing would ever get posted.

You can’t care about what people think of you personally.  

This is why making that disconnect is important. Let people say what they will about your work, but you can’t let if feel like they’re saying it about you. This is a tricky one, since our work is our art and our art is ourselves. I wish I could say I truly don’t care what people think about me, but I’ve got a lot of heavy meditating to do until I reach that level of freedom.

Recognize your accomplishments.

They may not be monetary. That’s okay. They might just be you completed a to-do list, or posted something, or overcame any of the personal dilemmas listed above. That’s an accomplishment. Recognize it.

Accept the struggle, and love it.

This whole creative hustle is one vague, agonizing process. It’s hard not knowing if all the time you put into your projects will ever be worth it. It’s hard not knowing when, how, or if you’ll ever get paid. But you have to love it because it’s you doing what you love.  Love it because it’s you being you. And if you create work that you like, chances are other people will like it too. They’ll recognize that it’s “real.”

A Must Read for any Creative Entrepreneur