Disclaimer: This blog post is fueled by gin rather than whiskey because sometimes you try new things.
I constantly need to remind myself that it's ok to try things. Trying different things is scary because there's always that danger that you'll slip and fall on your face. The fall itself doesn't usually hurt too much, it's the fact that you fell that hurts the most. Some are afraid of the people watching; they're afraid of the laughs that will come when they fall. For me, those laughs were never the problem. I've always been my worst enemy, never giving myself the chance to really try something, give it a full go, instead of half-assing it so I can say I was barely even trying. My age has been a source of stress and tension for several years now. It's like I think it was fine to screw up and mess around when I was 21, but add four more trips around the sun and suddenly I have all these new expectations of myself. It's like I should be somewhere else by now, I should have gone farther. Should have reached for more, should have done this, should have done that, but the reality is I'm still in the same basement, under the same roof, doing the same thing. I remind myself that I'm still young, that I still have time to just try shit out and figure it all out. I remind myself that I chose this, that I could have gone the easy route and put my bachelor's degree to use behind someone else's desk. That if I want the things I want, if I want the right to write and perform for the rest of my life, I need to take the punches first. They hit harder and for longer than you expect, and that will always be true. It's not going to end when I publish my first book. It's not going to end when I'm actually paid what I should be for an acting gig. It's not going to be when I win a championship. There are still going to be punches to take, falls to break and boundaries to push.
At the moment, I'm writing a fantasy novel. I've got these creeping feelings that tell me what I write doesn't matter, that I'm not that good, that I should be focusing my energy elsewhere. I should be making more money, working for a boss more, be more normal. Truth is I was never truly normal, and like everyone who's a bit different, I think that means I'm more interesting. I'm not; normal people are plenty interesting. Their decision to go for what's safe and comfortable doesn't make them lesser people (and I think a lot of folks in our creative fields forget that). There's this weird conflict between self-loathing and self-aggrandization that plagues many artists (I do consider writers to be artists, in the loosest sense of the word). You tell yourself you see the world a way no one else does, that you need to reflect that in the things you create. Only you can bring your craft to life in your own specific way, a combination of past experiences and weird quirks of perception unique to you. You'll say this out loud when there are plenty of people listening. Then you sit down to work on your at. That's when your proud words from before fade, drifting to the back of your mind where you can't quite reach them. You remember being boisterous, proudly proclaiming...something. What was it again? You praised yourself, but maybe you don't deserve it. You're not actually that good, so-and-so is much better. You've barely gotten any work done and it's nearly tomorrow. It's weird because while you were at work, doing that thing you hate doing, you were anxious to be right here, in front of a canvas or with your fingers on a keyboard. But now you're here and it's not happening. That creative spirit isn't there, or rather it is, taunting you from just outside your reach.
But you need to try.
Throw some paint on the canvas, put words together until they make some sense, mash notes together until something comes out. Because you need to make something. The quality of it doesn't matter nearly as much as its existence.
You're not as good as you think you are, but neither are you quite as bad.
It's ok to try. It's ok to fall on your face. Better get used to telling yourself that, because you'll be doing a lot of it before you're done.
There's a lot of self-loathing, tension and strife that comes with these pursuits. But I prefer them to the alternative.