In Chapter 8 of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron labels the belief “I’m too old to create” excuse a “Great Block Lie” and considers it on a par with that other old saw, “I don’t have money for it.” Using the “too old” excuse is so convenient. And the longer you wait to begin, the more insidious its grip becomes.
Avoid Starting, Avoid the Fear
It’s tough, ego-battering tough, to be a beginner at learning or exploring something new. And the hurdles from beginner to competence to mastery may seem insurmountably huge. But according to Cameron, telling yourself you are too old to start, or too old to “really be” whatever it is you might become, is nothing but an ego-saving tactic, a way to avoid fear. Saying you are too old to start is taking the easy way out, a way to save face and protect your ego.
And if you have a perfectionist bent, Cameron points out how holding the goal of doing it perfectly traps you, sets it up so you will never finish – so why bother starting since it will never be perfect? – this, too, is a matter of ego. We are so good at protecting ourselves.
In the same temporal vein, you might tell yourself that it’s fine for a young person to be a neophyte, or to set out on a quixotic creative journey, but it’s not acceptable to do it yourself. Or, we may tell ourselves we can do that later, when we retire — because it’s okay for oldsters to indulge themselves doing something that foolish or silly. These are all excuses!
Creative Process vs. Creative Product
Cameron contends: “At the heart of the anorexia of artistic avoidance is the denial of process. We like to focus on having learned a skill or on having made an artwork. This attention to final form ignores the fact that creativity lies not in the done but in the doing.”
When you are creating, you are firmly in the moment. Time becomes unimportant when you are in that state of creative flow. When you can put aside your ego and focus on process and allow yourself to take the risk of creating, then the journey becomes an exciting exploration. But if you focus only on the final product, a new beginning can seem like a fool’s quest.
The March of Time
Think about this for a minute. How old will you be next year, whether or not you start to learn that new skill or work on that new project? Another year older — either way. So you have a choice: spend the coming year dreaming about doing it, or, you could do it.
365 days: one day, one step, one micro-movement at a time.
Can you muster the humility to be a beginner? What could you do today to begin at the beginning, start moving forward on your creative journey? What micro-movement could you make today?
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