Have you ever finished an important project, packaged it up and sent it away, and then felt utter terror upon releasing it into the world? Maybe it was as simple as a mass email sent to a bunch of clients, sharing your expertise in your given field. You worked diligently at putting your unique recommendations together and then proudly sent the email off, only to be struck just moments later with a mild sense of panic. “What did I just do? What is Macho Man going to think about the third bullet point? Will VIP Corporation be offended by the pie chart?”
We are all creators. The things we create – our proposals, our progress reports, the monthly checklist of achievements we share with our coworkers – the shadow box project we helped our kid glue pictures onto, the new chili recipe we tried for the company potluck, the white blanket we knitted for a colleague’s new baby – our doodles, our rhythms, our words … These creations of ours are infinitely precious. They can be pedestrian and mundane, or they can be grandiose and impressive, but they are ours. They are things of our own making. They are our little babies, and we give birth to them by setting them free in the world.
And they can be terrifying.
“Look at this thing I made. Is it good enough? What are people going to think? Does it measure up to the world’s standard? Does it measure up to my own standard?”
Creation is a living act of vulnerability. Making something new, or even forming a slightly different version of something, opens us up and invites a slew of potential praise or possible criticism. That “potential criticism” is a powerful thing, and it often holds us back from sharing the unique thoughts, feelings and expressions we have to offer. The pain of judgment can just be too much, sometimes. It’s easier not to create. It’s easier to look at other people’s creations, instead. It’s easier to watch, wait and maybe even whine a little.
I love to write. Writing gives me an incomparable freedom to express myself. It’s liberating to be able to articulate the thoughts, emotions and musings in my mind, then put them on paper and send them out into the world. When I write, I feel like Jerry Maguire in his car singing “Free Fallin’” at the top of his lungs and banging the steering wheel with an irrational grin on his face. Is it crazy? Absolutely. Freeing? Definitely. Scary as hell? Oh goodness. You better believe it is.
I often write a sentence, then stop, re-read it, and cringe. I don’t cringe because of the sentence structure. I cringe because of the thoughts I’m putting out there. I cringe because someone might see this. That’s the point of writing, of course, but it’s also the danger of it. When I write, I’m giving birth to an idea that some people might not like. My words may change the world’s opinion of me, and it may not change them in a good way.
I’m a writer, and I literally write about being “good enough,” and yet, I fall into the trap of perfectionism every time I put my words down on paper. Sometimes, the stuff I write about misses the mark. It’s the wrong subject, or the wrong time to write about the subject, or I’m writing about it in the wrong way. Anytime I throw my thoughts out into the world I’m going to offend somebody. Maybe I’ll insinuate something that is hurtful to another person, and I’ll pay for that insinuation whether it is intended or not. Maybe I’ll bring up a subject that some people don’t want to talk about, or don’t want to hear me talk about. Writing is a minefield. I’m going to get it wrong sometimes.
But sometimes, I’m going to make somebody smile, or sigh in relief that they are not alone. Sometimes, I’ll make people think. Sometimes, I’ll make it onto the target, if not exactly in the bulls-eye position.
Sometimes, my creations will be worth it.
The world is going to criticize the things we create. People are going to judge, and nitpick, and belittle. That’s what people do. I’m here to urge you to do it anyway. Do your thing! Let the world hear your songs, eat your desserts and see your doodles.
Concoct the new recipe.
Wear the sparkly shirt you bought and hid in your closet.
Speak up at the weekly meeting.
We are all creators. We are writers, musicians and artists. We are number-crunchers, analyzers and coders. We are thinkers, dreamers and doers. We don’t have to apologize for the little voice inside of us that wants to be heard. We just have to let that voice speak – or sing – or knit.
Give yourself permission to create. Maybe you’ll fall. Maybe you’ll fly.
I guarantee you’ll at least be free.
“Gonna free fall out into nothin’ / Gonna leave this world for a while / Now I’m free / Free fallin’ / Yeah I’m free / Free fallin’ ” ~ Tom Petty