Hi there, I’m coming to you at the grand new (not old) age of 45 after my birthday last week and whilst it feels a little scarier to be now closer to 50, than 40, each year that passes in my forties, I seem to care a little less.
This brings me to an important conversation around creativity and the fear to start and that maybe sometimes you might think it’s too late in life to try. Now guess what I’m going to say to that? No, It’s Not!
For me, it was more the insecurities of being young and inexperienced that held me back. I’d always wanted to write a novel, but I just daren’t start because of that fear of feeling I was not good enough as a writer. It took me years to give it ago, for that vision and motivation to start arguing and shouting louder than the inner critic, until finally I could ignore it no more.
That’s the thing with creative dreams, if you want them badly enough and feel passionate about them, they never go away, no matter how far they get pushed back down the priorities list.
However, what does sometimes get in the way is just life, and the stage you are at.
Recently I’ve seen a lot of start-ups and creative passions get taken up by women on maternity leave and I think back and ponder why didn’t I do that?! Why didn’t I make the most of that time?
And then I remember, oh yeah, I had a really tiny baby (4lb 15) who was constantly feeding to catch up, and thought that sleeping in the day or night just wasn’t necessary. As she was a late December baby and I’d had an emergency C-section, I lived on Christmas cake for three months just to get through it all as it was easy to slice whilst holding her!
That time of my life, in the delirious fug of being with a new-born would not have ignited one ounce of creativity in my weary bones. My biggest creative decision back then was to choose what cute outfit to dress my baby in or what could I concoct for tea out of passed-it carrots, frozen peas and just- in-date chicken? (chicken casserole btw– always!).
My son came along 2 years later, and thankfully he was a chunk and slept but by then I was running around after a toddler too so time became even shorter for my own interests.
So, it wasn’t until my later thirties with the kids then in school and me back into a bit of a regular daily work routine, that the time was right to start dabbling with the big dream when I could but without taking it too seriously.
With the arrival of children, play time also became part of family life. The sparks started to re-ignite as I read magical stories at bedtime or watched in wonderment as they explained the giant splodges they’d just painted were infact aliens from Mars.
Then there’s lego! Who knew lego could be so much fun? It’s so sad that when we grow up, as adults we can lose that ability to just play and let our imagination run wild.
This was when my imagination sprung back into action, just being silly with the kids. I made up stories for my son, who’s initials are J.E.T called ‘JET – the super-fast boy’, which he loved and would then make up his own in return to me. My daughter on the other hand would ask for a collection of toilet roll tubes, glue, paint and glitter that she would then transform, two-hours later into a bird house or a hanging mobile for her bedroom.
That time of playing with the kids and getting those creative juices flowing set me up, I believe, for the most creative time of my life so far, my forties. By then the children were less dependent and I started to pick up the pace with my writing, trying to cram it in here and there in-between family life.
Around then I also started reading a different genre of books, the new world of ‘grip-lit’, think ‘Girl on a Train, Gone Girl etc, and then I read a book that had a huge effect on me, called ‘I let you go’ by Clare Mackintosh – it’s still my favourite book in this sector.
I was lucky enough to meet Clare at Beverley Literature Festival, where I listened to her story of how she left a long career with the police, became a freelance journalist and social media manager to then becoming the renowned best-selling and award-winning author she is today.
Clare completed her first novel, a rom-com and handed it into her agent who asked ‘Is this the first novel you want to be remembered for? To which she answered ‘Actually, no’ and went off to start again and that first novel then became the book I love, along with over a million others, but it took her two and a half years to complete and 8 re-drafts!
Far from putting me off, this just inspired me further and I went home, shelved the 10k words I’d already written and started again on the book I really wanted to write. The picture of us both above is still on my fridge, a constant reminder that it takes a big commitment to get to that finish line.
You might think, what a waste of time spent on my first story but actually, that grounding of just having a go and gaining confidence that I could write a longer story, was worth its weight in gold. It was basically like a practice run on how to develop characters and plot-lines and just get used to the regular writing habit.
I started my current novel, ‘The Key to Everything’ back in September 2016 aged 42. That’s the great thing about all things creative – there is no age limit for when you can start. The only things that can hold you back are your own fears or the time to do it depending on your working or family circumstances.
I haven’t got all the answers though, I may have had the courage to start, but I still come up against that fear that holds me back and at the moment I know I’m procrastinating (mainly by doing this Blog!).
I’m at the sticky latter end of my first draft, where I need to tie up all the loose ends for it to make sense to the reader, oh and try to remember all the sub-plots I’ve written now that I’m 76k words in! I’ll get back to it though, I re-read my synopsis last night and it always surprises me that it does the job it’s meant to do, i.e. makes me excited to read it, which then of course has the desired effect of making me want to write it again!
So, what’s holding you back?
If the fear relates to a little lack of confidence then it could be worth looking at what motivates you to encourage you to take that next step. That could be joining a supportive group where you feel safe enough to practice, or if you need to just get more organised plan it into your schedule so that you take more ownership and create the time to create!
You could also do like I did, go and see some of your creative heroes or attend a workshop to learn, be inspired and reaffirm that everyone starts somewhere, no one is an expert from day one.
Another good question to ask yourself is, what feels worse? Listening to that daily voice inside your head forever-more, daring you to have a go (which used to drive me crazy by the way) or having a go and the absolute worse that could happen would be that you haven’t set your expectations at the right level. By this I mean if you set them too high, then you’re instantly setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration in yourself.
If you’re going to start, you need to be a little brave and bold and go in with the only expectation to have fun and learn a little, that’s all you need to think about when you first start.
That first drawing at art club!.. To now thankfully something like this, but it does take time.
If I’d have based my future ideals of myself as an artist on that first, truly-terrible drawing of my dog at art group, I would have run for the hills, but now, two years on, I no longer wince at what I draw and paint and don’t feel any of the anxiety I felt on that very first night.
You learn, you meet supportive friends, it gets easier and you leave buzzing from that joyful feeling of creating something, all by yourself.
But you need to experience that sense of satisfaction and pride in order to fully dispel the fear and anxiety, so really my sum up is it just takes ‘one step’, that first tiny leap into the unknown and even if you discover that something is not for you after-all, I can pretty much guarantee that next time something intrigues you enough to try, it will never feel as scary as that first time.
Until next time…
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
As you know, I’m new around here so I’m learning too and I’d love to know how you are finding my posts? Are my tips useful? Does it encourage you to get creative, what would you like more of?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments, I really appreciate it thank you
Also, If my post has got you thinking but you’re still a little terrified of beginning something new, I can highly recommend reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book ‘Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear – It’s a brilliant read that everyone can benefit from, and if you need anymore inspiration, check out The Curious Cave for lots more resources to help you start your journey into a more creative, enriching life.