Have you ever been ready to throw your work in the air and give up? Who hasn’t? Hey, maybe starting over isn’t such a bad idea.
Yesterday I was talking with a friend over coffee when he told me he doesn’t get it. “What don’t you get?” I asked him. He explained that every time he starts a creative project, writing a book in this case, he comes to a point where he realizes he must start over because it’s just not good enough or doesn’t make any sense.
As he was explaining his face took on an exhausted and frustrated look. I recognized it instantly, because I’ve seen it so many times… in the mirror…
My friend was suffering from a common issue that most all of us go through when we find ourselves starting over.
We tend to think it indicates our work isn’t good enough or that we have somehow failed, but the reality is that starting over isn’t about either of those things.
It’s not anyone’s fault that we see it this way, because over the last hundred years the industrialized world has become all about standards and measurements, with little to no patience for the creative process.
In fact, until the previous decade creativity had been practically removed from most people’s lives.
Do it right the first time became the mantra, and standards were put in place to insure you did do it right the first time.
But now that the world is once again changing, more and more people are going back to their creative roots and the process of creativity must be rediscovered.
It’s kind of scary, I know. But it’s okay.
It’s okay to start over. (Tweet This if you’ve ever started over).
We’d all like to start a project and see it to fruition in one go, but the reality is we need to start over.
The human mind is designed to contemplate, to learn, to grow and to seek out and find solutions and new ideas.
Whenever we begin a new creative project it’s usually from a vague idea, a mere inkling of what we really want and it takes working it to discover if an idea has any potential to blossom.
The first draft may seem like a garbled mess, but it’s really the way the brain works through thoughts and ideas.
Our brains work this way all the time without us taking conscious notice of it.
Quiet your mind and try to follow your thoughts and you’ll discover they seem scattered and random. That’s why meditation can be so difficult.
As creatives we are fortunate (or unfortunate, you pick) to see our confusing thoughts in writing or on a canvas, and it can be disturbing.
When you start a creative endeavor, be it writing a book, painting a picture, or sculpting a portrait, it’s absolutely natural to start over, putting aside the first effort, and second, or even the third until the right words, the right colors, or the right shapes finally come to you.
This is why we are taught that it is better to let go when writing the first draft, because when you try to control and edit it you’re disturbing your brain’s natural process, and as a result you become frustrated.
We must go to the edge of quitting.
It’s happened to me many times after writing several drafts that when I am about ready to quit and throw my keyboard into the trash, the idea suddenly begins to take shape in a coherent form.
When this happens my writing becomes like a symphony and the angels sing.
I often wondered in exasperation why I always seem to go to the very edge of quitting before I start writing something that makes sense.
Because that’s the way the brain works.
We might not understand how our brains are putting ideas and thoughts together to form our concept, but we do know it feels exhausting and it’s hard to trust that somehow it will put everything together to create something that matters.
Each time we start over, or begin a new draft, the message becomes clearer and it is the process of starting over that makes this possible.
Consider Thomas Edison – why is he famous?
Is Edison more famous for his inventions or for how many times he started over and did not give up?
Thomas Edison’s story is so inspiring and motivating because it tells the truth of human nature about how we learn and grow, and ultimately, hopefully, succeed.
We make mistakes (or we call them mistakes) and we start over, but without doing so success would not be possible.
The next time you start a project try not to worry too much about whether it will unfold perfectly or not. Just know that you are on the right track you if you feel compelled to start over again.
Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
Don’t give up.
It’s okay to become frustrated and exhausted. Go for a walk or get a drink of water, and then start again.
If you’re a writer, never throw away any of your drafts.
They may seem like a mess, but if you wait a few days and read them again you are likely to find gems, a delightful word here and a beautiful sentence there, and you may discover the writing is not as incoherent as you thought.
Here’s the thing, you’re never really starting over, you’re simply taking the next step in the creative process.
Take. The. Next. Step.
What have you started over lately? Share in the comments.