Right now I’m preparing feverishly for an event next week at which I’ll be sharing a greater-than-usual amount of new content. This happens sometimes; I’ll be following my usual prep plan right up until a couple of weeks before the event, but then something will hit me – I’ll write or see or experience something that leads to an epiphany, and from there there’s just no looking back. I’ll do whatever I have to to get this new idea from my brain to polished on the page, even if it means staying up day and night during the prep time I have left.
It’s kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s never clearer as a creative that you’re adding value than when you become acutely obsessed with an idea that takes over your brain and turns you into a mere vessel for its expression until it’s fully formed.
(Sorry, that was super melodramatic and pretentious, but honestly it reflects the way I think this feels, so I’ve gotta honor that.)
On the other hand, though, when creating something new, it can be incredibly difficult not to compare the new work to the surety and polish of whatever work we’d been hanging our hats on for whatever period of time there was before the new thing demanded our attention.
“Um… so?” I hear you say. “Shouldn’t we want the new thing to be at least as good as the last thing you made?”
Well, yes and no.
The reason why we might say “yes” to that question is somewhat self-explanatory, so I won’t expound on that.
But there are two good reasons why holding ourselves to the standards of the last thing we created is probably more of a hindrance than a good thing.
1) A new idea doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful. I can’t tell you how many poems and stories of mine have gone unwritten over the years because I was too concerned about them not sounding as good on paper as the other stuff I’ve created does. It’s a very human fear, but ultimately it’s one that robs our audience of the impact they would experience if we were to put something out rather than nothing at all.
2) YOU notice the micro-optimizing way more than THEY do. We forget this so easily. I so often end up in this trap that I sometimes see people whom I coach fall into where because I know how I want the thing I’m creating to look and feel, I assume that any miniscule place I fall short of that goal is a place where I’m letting my audience down, and that they’ll know I’m letting them down. This is, of course, ridiculous. The audience doesn’t have any anchoring vision to compare what we end up sharing with them to, and time and time again I see (and personally experience) a creator’s surprise when the work that they put up while being painfully aware of its flaws are remembered only for what they do well by their audience.
Ultimately, both of these points above revolve around the protection of one thing: the creator’s ego. But when we allow our ego to fully dictate what we end up sharing, we neglect the whole point of doing this work publicly, which is that people in the world’s lives stand to be improved by the work we share.
That’s what I wish I, and others with the potential to lead change and create in public, had an easier time remembering.
Needless to say, this post is somewhat a letter to my current self – perhaps a little more so than the previous posts.
And with that, I’m off to rehearse – and hopefully to let myself make a few more mistakes as I do.