Beginning again, and how to do it

The Loveshack in Prague. In the studio, without a clue as to what to do, when the wind started to blow the curtains. So that was the beginning.

I want to write about beginning a creative project and how to do that, how to get out of that stuck area. I want to give advice — this post is suppose to be useful. But I’ve got a bunch of ideas, no format, no focus, plenty of voices in my head saying, “You suck, you don’t know ass and more importantly, you have no audience and they don’t care what you have to say anyway.”

Beginning. Remember, you have to begin somewhere, something, somehow.

This is advice. Give advice. Start. Go.

7. You don’t have to start at the beginning. Begin in the middle. Begin at the end. Begin where you can.

People confuse the process with the product. The process is one thing; the result of the process is something else. A movie might begin with the opening credits, but the producer doesn’t start the process of making a film by saying, “Stan, lets knock out those credits.” This is an overly simplistic analogy, but the amount of times I’ve seen people trying to write the first line of the lyrics, make their rough drawing on the canvas perfect, give a full performance at the first read through, etc…

Start where you can start, wherever you can get a toehold. You know how you want it to end? Great. Write down the ending and then work backwards. You know you want it red? Great. Paint the canvas red and then do your drawing on top of that.

“But I don’t want the whole canvas red.”

Okay…

6. The beginning isn’t permanent. It’s fine if it changes. You can write the first line over again differently if the lyrics need the first line to be different. You can paint over the red with white, or whatever you wish. You can mangle the beginning until it is unrecognizable. That’s fine. The beginning is always far in the past eventually. You only need a beginning to start. Once you start, the beginning is already retreating into the past.

“But,” you say, “I don’t like the way I started. I hate my beginning.”

5. That’s great news! You hate your beginning! You hate the direction it’s going in! Fabulous. You’ve learned something. So go in the opposite direction and see what you get.

“But now…” you whine, “I have a bunch of things and I don’t know which one is best. Or which one I should do.

4. Also good news. When you can’t choose between several different things it indicates they’re all of the same value. One is as good as the next. So pick any one and work from there.

“But, I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t know what I want. I have no vision. No clue.”

3. Yet again, this is great news. When you have no idea where you’re going to, it doesn’t matter which direction your start from. What matters is that you move, you go.

So… hmmm… quick glance around the room and I spy with my little eye… a wall. Dandy. Those things are everywhere. So, if it’s a painting, dip a brush in some thinned out paint and start sketching out the wall in front of you. Writing a story? Easy: “The wall was about 8’ feet tall with striped wall paper. And there was a door in it. Soon, the door would open, Sheila would walk in and all hell would break loose.” I’ve already got a story going with a character name. And all from something as dull as a wall. Or as dull as a ceiling, or a chair, or a fish tank. Picasso used to make paintings from whatever was in the studio in front of him.

The Loveshack in Prague. In the studio, without a clue as to what to do, when the wind started to blow the curtains. So that was the beginning.
“But my idea is unoriginal.”

2. Fine. So copy whatever it is that is the source of your unoriginality and get going. Print out the Elvis Costello lyrics which you wish you could write, get a single edged razor blade and cut up the words and rearrange them. Tape a snapshot of the painting deKooning did that you like so much to the top of your easel and copy it badly, because you will. Or flip it upside down. Or paint what’s missing from it.

Creating work based on/inspired by another artist’s work has been standard practice in the art world for centuries if not longer. Why do you think they’re called The Goldberg Variations?

“But… I’m scared my work is no good. I think this is why I can’t start.”

1. Well, it might be true. Your work might suck. You might not be very good at what you do.

Do you think your work will get any better by your not doing it? Will some angel tap your forehead while your sleeping and the next morning you’ll wake up able to write good web copy? Or nail down facial proportions in a sketch? Or do that tap combination? Will it get done somehow, if you don’t re-approach it and begin again every damn day until you finish it?

This post took 5 beginnings. Now it’s done. Does it suck? Maybe. But it is a million times better than the post that I didn’t write.

If you don’t begin, you’ll never get beyond the beginning.

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