RECREATING YOUR CREATION: FUN v. FEAR

Several years ago, about three months into our efforts to launch an app that facilitates fundraising for charities, my partners and I realized that we were going to have to dramatically alter course from our original plan and take a very different path to market.  I must have sighed loudly or grimaced or both, because the most experienced member of the team smiled at me and said, “Are you okay?  You don’t look like you’re having fun.  This is the fun part!”

It didn’t feel like fun at that moment.  It felt like we had spent a lot of time, effort and money heading in the wrong direction and that resetting would take a whole lot more—of each.  But I should have known better:  Starting any project, including a business, is always a creative journey.  The path to success is rarely a straight line.  Missteps, re-thinking and reupping are not only to be expected, but, are necessary to “get it right.”  And, as my sage partner knew, if not “fun,” reengineering one’s approach can be seen as part of the excitement of turning an idea into a company or a political campaign or a movie or anything else—including, by the way, one’s life.

I say I should have known better because I had already written books and movie scripts and, in every case, editing was an invaluable part of the process.  In fact, falling in love with the content one has already created and resisting needed editing can leave in limbo a creative project that has huge potential.  The great novelist William Faulkner put it this way:  In writing, you must kill all your darlings. Stephen Spielberg expanded on the thought: [K]ill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.

Spielberg had at least partly right.  One very substantial hurdle in the way of retooling your idea is ego.  When we manifest the fruits of our imagination and see them in a business deck or a manuscript or an architectural rendering, we can feel legitimately proud of the concrete results.  And we can feel relieved that we were able to translate them from mind to matter (whether on paper or on a computer screen).  We may have gotten others—readers, investors or potential partners—to buy into what we have manifested.  And that can make us feel proud and accomplished.

But there’s something else that comes into play beyond ego and pride.  There’s fear.  If we reverse course, if we start disassembling what has been assembled, what if it all falls to the ground?  What if the core idea isn’t strong enough to withstand the second or third or fourth iteration of it?

Here’s the key to “having fun” while reimagining or editing or deconstructing your ideas or work product:  Faith in the creative process itself.  See, you wouldn’t be feeling that your creation could be better or could be more “true” or could be more profitable or could be more beautiful if it were not for that immeasurable force in the universe called intuition and another called inspiration.  When something you create as an individual or as a group feels not quite right, that isn’t a knife to the heart of the project, it’s testimony to the vitality of it.  Try, at

every point, to feel the positivity in that.  The project has become a living document or idea or plan.  It is calling upon you, as a child might, to help it grow stronger and stronger.

We human beings could apply the same reasoning to our lives.  We’re works of art, too.  And if we feel that we’re years into the wrong career or an ill-fated relationship or education that misses the mark, then that feeling is a gift from God or the universe, not a searing criticism or an attack.  It means that we’re still becoming the people we were meant to be. We’re still alive.  We’re still worthy of true self-regard.

So, go ahead . . . Even if you feel some fear, remind yourself to have some fun putting that next layer of paint on your metaphorical canvas, whether professionally or personally.

 

Keith Ablow, MD

Founder, Keith Ablow Creative

www.keithablowcreative.com

[email protected]

 

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Think You Don’t Have the Time or Talent to Launch Your Big Idea? Says who?

It should come as no surprise that our own minds are not always the most reliable guides to whether we have the resources to pursue our goals.  And by resources I mean energy, time, money and everything else.  Sure, we can overestimate our possibilities and go tilting at windmills.  But I find that, more often, people underestimate their possibilitiesand assume that pursuing their ideas will require far more in the way of resources than may be the case.  Parts of very competent and creative people can still fear being overwhelmed by a project.  And parts of very competent and creative people can also fear falling in love with it and having to make life changes, in order to serve it.

So, who says we can’t launch our big ideas?

Well, far too frequently, the answer is we do.

 

What’s So Scary About a Big Idea, Anyhow?

One of the reasons for our own naysaying is that we may tend to look at creative projects—whether starting a business or writing a book or pursuing another degree (which does qualify as a big and creative idea)—in one big chunk, rather than in the small pieces of which they are really made.

Here’s an example:  Hold a mystery novel in your hands and look at the hundreds of pages and the publisher’s imprint on the spine of the book and the acknowledgements page, and you might be tempted to doubt your ability to write a mystery novel.  Or take a look at the requirements you’ll need to complete that divinity degree, and you might opt for reading a few books by other divinity scholars and leave it at that.

The trouble with those examples are that they’re like looking at a brick wall and telling oneself that it’s far too daunting to construct.  If you think of it brick by brick, instead, it’s a very different prospect.

 

How to Chop Your Big Idea into Little Pieces

  • Think of pursuing your goal or idea as a series of manageable steps, not a gargantuan undertaking. It’s okay to imagine taking small bites.  Write a single page of a mystery novel each day, and you’ll be done with the draft in a year.  That’s pretty quick, right?  Put a one hour meeting a week on the schedule for a conference call with your likely partners in a possible new venture.  Take just one or two courses at a time, and you’ll still be on your way to that graduate degree you would treasure.  So what, if it takes longer?  You’ll be on your way.  That’s glorious.

 

  • Just start. See, it’s tough not to think about the 100,000 bricks you need to lay to construct a wall, if you wait to get moving.  But, pick up just three bricks and resolve to get started, and you might lay six of them.  So, get started in a small way, even if your big idea is gigantic.

 

  • Allow yourself to quit. Huh? What?  How can that be?  What the heck are you saying, Ablow?  Well, here’s the thing:  If you consider your next big idea or project to be a prison or a life sentence, then the inherent desire to be free—which can feel a lot like  anxiety—can derail it.  So, remind yourself that you’re a free agent.  If the project becomes boring and seems to stay boring, you’re going to get out.  If a business you start ends up threatening your financial stability, you’ll effort lots of options, but you don’t have to agree from the beginning to sell your home. You actually don’t have to
    “burn the boats.”  You can decide, rationally, whether to stay on the island.

 

Think About the Scary Part of Not Pursuing Your Big Idea

Here, I’ll just say it:  You don’t want to get to the end of your life, turn the pockets of your soul inside out and find them missing some of the really good stuff.  And some of the really good stuff is those imaginative and creative and profitable ideas that God or the Universe put into your head and heart.  So, if you have one of those, or more than one, and you keep putting on the emergency brake, beware.  None of us lives forever.  What you choose to do, especially the original and bold stuff, really does matter.

 

Don’t Think You Get Only One Bite at the Apple 

If you aren’t able to make a project succeed, or three projects, or more, that does not matter.  Sure, you should try to figure out whether there’s a common thread—say, impatience or wishful thinking—messing up the projects.  But you shouldn’t assume that the fourth project won’t be the one that “goes.”  And you shouldn’t assume that the business you started and stopped because the timing was wrong isn’t one you’ll revisit down the road.  The road is long.  Lots of twists and turns.  But it’s a labyrinth, not a maze.  There are no dead ends in a labyrinth; you just have to keep walking.

Okay, one last thing.  If you’ve read this blog from beginning to end, there’s a reason.  You have an idea in mind, already.  Embrace that fact.  Don’t let it scare you.  You have the idea; it doesn’t have you.

 

Keith Ablow

Founder of Keith Ablow Creative

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting Over the “Am I Kidding Myself?” Hurdle

After talking with enough creators about their plans, I have identified a hurdle to creative expression.  I want to share it with you so that you can clear it.

The hurdle, if it could speak, would say something like this:  “Sure, I may have the desire to write a book or start a business or run for office or create art, but my desire isn’t unique and what I would offer the world isn’t going to change the world substantially enough.  There are better books than I would write.  There are better political minds than mine.  Van Gogh was ten times the painter I could ever be.”

Call it the “Am I kidding myself?” hurdle.

Let me tell you another name for it:  It’s called resistance—resistance to following through with your own creative destiny.  Steven Pressfield wrote a whole book about it called The War of Art  which I wholeheartedly recommend.

The truth is that your book may or may not rival one by Fitzgerald.  Your paintings may or may not sell or win critical acclaim.  Your business may or may not revolutionize an industry—or even make it past year one.  But no one can write the book you will or paint the painting you will or start the precise business in the precise way you will with its precise goals.  No one.  Once the seed of a creative idea is planted in your mind, it is an original. Period.  Because you are an original.  And that’s why what you create really could change your life or the lives or others, or both.  And if it does, then no one else could have done it in that way, at that time, for those people.  No one.

You have no idea when or where or how your creativity will take flight, because you’re not supposed to know.  You just have to serve the Muse, not ask her a bunch of questions.  Because you can’t possibly figure out how your brainchildren will resonate in the world. It could be the case that you sell a million copies of your book and write ten more and change hearts and minds for the better. Or, it could be that you don’t even find a publisher for your book, but that your daughter or your grandson or your brother or your friend ends up motivated to express her or his creativity because you showed the courage to express yours.  And maybe her creation takes flight—partly using fuel you provided.

See, God has a plan for you.  And those creative thoughts of yours aren’t accidents.  At all.  If you’re not a religious person and don’t like the word, “God,” then substitute universe.  The Universe has a plan for you.  Just don’t doubt it.  Don’t block the gears turning in your mind that can get gears turning for the rest of us, in ways you can’t possibly predict.

J.D. Salinger described it really well in Franny and Zooey

In that book, Franny has given up acting because she thinks that the audiences don’t understand her work and that it won’t amount to the grand, heart and mind-changing series of performances she apparently anticipated (at least, it hasn’t yet).  But Zooey knows better than to agree that his sister should have any idea how her work is going to resonate in the world.  Who knows, after all?  Certainly not the artist herself.  Here’s what Zooey tells his sister about the night he saw her in summer stock theater:

“ . . . I’ll tell you, buddy.  You were good.  And when I say good, I mean good.  You held that goddman mess up.  Even all those sunburned lobsters in the audience knew it.  And now I hear you’re finished with the theatre forever—I hear things, I hear things.  And I remember the spiel you came back with when the season was over.  Oh, you irritate me, Franny!  I’m sorry, but you do.  You’ve made the great startling goddamn discovery that the acting profession’s full of mercenaries and butchers.  As I remember, you even looked like somebody who’d just been shattered because all the ushers hadn’t been geniuses.  What the matter with you, buddy?  Where are your brains . . . ?  It’s this business off desiring, if you want to know the goddamn truth, that makes an actor in the first place . . . .  Somewhere along the line—in one damn incarnation or another, if you like—you not only had a hankering to be an actor or an actress, but to be a goodone.  You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings.  Cause and effect, buddy, cause and effect.  The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do, is act.  Act for God, if you want to—be God’sactress, if you want to.  What could be prettier?”

Enough said.  You get my point.  Or Salinger’s.  If you need help getting underway, I’m here to help.  I would love to.  You know where to find me.

 

Keith Ablow, MD

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I KNOW YOU HAVE A UNIQUE DESTINY

(BUT YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE ME)

After nearly three decades helping people become powerful, I can tell you that you’re no different from the thousands of people I’ve helped to express themselves more fully and more successfully.  Your life story—including every paragraph of it—has prepared you for the next page to be the most significant one of all. What’s the key:  Recognizing that it can happen, feeling as though you deserve for it to happen and identifying the specific way in which you most want it to happen.

 

Pure Self-Expression

Your destiny is about manifesting your purest possible form of self-expression.  For some people that means being a painter or writer.  For some if means creating a successful business.  For others it means starting and nurturing a family.  You may be a born teacher, musician, politician, corporate leader or athlete.  And deep down, you know it, even if you’ve been denying it or encountering hurdles that seem to stand in your way.

What can get in the way?  Well, life can, starting with childhood.  So many of us are discouraged from expressing our true gifts. We also experience things that diminish our self-esteem.  We live through stressful periods that make survival our priority and push our deepest, most personal agendas into the background.  But, guess what?  They’re still there.  They may be hibernating, but they can be reawakened.

 

You Can’t Ignore Your Destiny . . .

Unexpressed dreams and talents mustbe awakened. Why?  Because they don’t just lay quietly underground.  They cause turmoil—as in anxiety, low mood, irritability, substance abuse and trouble in relationships—until they arereawakened and expressed.  Seen this way, you really have no choice but to get on with it.

 

. . . No Matter What League You’re Playing In

I have helped people discover their passions for writing or teaching or starting a small business and I have helped people decide to finally run for national political office or quit lucrative jobs to invent transformational products.  The process is exactly the same:  Discover the non-fiction narrative that truly defines the person and then find the faith to write the next and best chapters of that narrative.

 

Yes, Faith . . .

Very, very few people I have worked with approach the most powerful work of their lives with pure confidence.  There is usually tremendous self-doubt.  Moving forward despite that doubt calls for faith.  It requires recognizing that God or the Universe isn’t messing around with you and detouring you away from your destiny. Your calling is sacred.  And, sure, rearrange the letters of “sacred” and you can get “scared.”  It’s scary to follow your heart.  It’s scary to embark upon your life’s work.  And that’s okay.  But, you still have to.

 

Are You Ready?

When you decide to look at your life in depth and live your life with purpose, I am ready to help make it happen.  That sounds pretty direct, right?  It is.  Because part of my life’s work is making your life work.  I’m certain I was destined for it.

 

Keith Ablow, MD

Founder of The Ablow Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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