“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”
I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was in the fifth grade. I had just finished a short story about a teddy bear coming to life and being my best friend, or some other generic story that a ten year old girl would come up with, when I decided that writing would be my life’s focus from then on. I knew I was in love with it but up until that point I couldn’t decide if I loved it more than fashion or art or baking or any of my other thousand passions I had going at once, but I decided that I just had to pick something and run with it.
It seems silly to think that a fifth grader thought that was the right time for her to get serious about her career path, but even then I hated wasting time. My mother always told me that “idle hands are the devil’s playthings” and the mentality of that phrase sticks with me now. I learned early on that boredom is unnecessary – there are so many things to do and not enough time to do them. I learned that life is full of potentially exciting, creative, wonderful things. My favorite of those things happened to be writing, and it’s remained my focus – my main life goal – ever since.
I wasn’t a great writer starting out – I was a little kid with an unoriginal imagination. I used to write song lyrics about breaking up with my imaginary boyfriend (probably Joe Jonas), how much I wanted to be Nancy Drew, and all my favorite lunch meats…
However, I’m telling you that I got significantly better. I started out pretty terribly, I moved on to angsty poetry and depressing short stories as a teenager, and I’m here now – nearly done with my first book. I’m not boasting, but I know I have to have improved since my lunch meat song lyric days, and that’s the whole point. I started out embarrassingly bad, but I started nonetheless.
You could easily make the point that I began as a child, so of course I’m better now – I’ve had over a decade of constant practicing. That’s not exactly true though because while writing is my focus, I have recently explored some other long-buried passions, and the same can be said for those even though I started out as an adult.
I never allowed myself to take my own art seriously because I simply wasn’t the artist of the family. Both my mom and sister are full-time artists: serious actually respected artists. I knew I wasn’t as talented as they were because I’m crafty, not a “real” artist. So in turn I repressed my love for it for most of my life, but in the past year I decided that even though I’m not the same type of artist they are does not mean I can’t partake in my own art endeavors. I wasn’t the worst artist in existence when I started out, but I definitely wasn’t where I am now. Over the course of less than a year, I’ve improved like you can’t believe. I’m actually proud to show people most of the stuff I make now, and I get really excited to finish projects.
Why? Because I started. I stopped thinking about my hang-ups about art, I stopped thinking about how I wanted to paint but knew I couldn’t make money doing it or I would never be as good as my other family members, and just did it. I taught myself (and of course am still teaching myself, because no one is ever quite done learning) how to hand letter, how to use Adobe Illustrator properly, how to hone my own style, and so on. Again, I’m not saying this to brag, I’m trying to tell you that the most important thing you can do is to just go for it – whatever it is, as long as you work at it and stay open to inevitable changes in the plans you worked so hard on.
I have learned tremendously by starting where I was at. I created five different blogs over the course of a decade before finally creating my own company around this one, and it was the failure of the other five that lead to me growing and knowing what I should and shouldn’t do. I’ve tried to make other companies – tried to do so many things that just didn’t go as planned. I fail all the time and it’s great, because it means I’m a step closer to improvement every time. I’ve built a little community here and on Instagram, and I recently-ish started an Etsy account associated with my blog in which I sell some of my art and other things I make/design…I’m so proud of it all that my focus is no longer how successful it is financially. Obviously that is a very important factor, but I’m where I’m supposed to be right now and I will continue trying until it works. I have faith and I’m open to change. I couldn’t have gotten to this point if I wasn’t willing to start somewhere and be okay with potentially failing again. I still have a ridiculous amount to learn, but the only way to really accomplish that is with effort.
So many people cling to the phrases “I’m working on it,” “I’m researching,” or “It’s just not the right time.” The problem with those statements is that they are 99% of the time excuses for fear. Of course I believe in careful planning, but there is no way to predict everything that may happen. When you start, you will encounter problems you never could have anticipated and you will have to come up with solutions for them. Your plans will absolutely change from the moment you start, and that’s good. That means you’re headed in the right direction; closer to getting where you need to be.
I’m not at the finish line – I can’t even see it. I have more to learn, I’ll encounter plenty more obstacles, and I’m still crossing my fingers that people will find, like and buy the things I create. I still sometimes worry that I will publish my book and people will think it’s garbage, but there is no way to know what will happen and I’ll be better for the next time.
There is no way to know how to improve if you don’t start somewhere. Anywhere.