It’s Veterans Day here in the U.S., and I have the day off from work. I had a delicious sleep last night–none of that waking-up-multiple-times-in-the-middle-of-the-night nonsense–and I lingered in bed (what a luxury) as I caught up on some emails and some blog posts. One post made me laugh out loud because it rekindled some thoughts I was having just last night.
The post is When Other People’s Opinions Don’t Matter from Writer Unboxed. The gist is that we can (and should) follow our dreams and passions and be wary of people who might (intentionally or not) inject their unkind or unnecessary criticisms into our creative universe. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but we don’t need to please everyone…we need to please those who matter. And for me, I’ve decided that I matter.
I’ve invested time, energy, and money into my passions (writing, photography, blogging, etc.). Most of the time I don’t make money from doing these things, and when I do, it’s not enough to cover the cost of what I put into the endeavor. So why keep doing it? Because I love it. It brings me joy. Maybe some other people enjoy my work (I do hope so), but negative reviews or low sales aren’t on my horizon. Frankly, I don’t have time to deal with negativity, and why should I? Why should you?
Perhaps it’s your inner critic who’s whispering harsh words in your head, cultivating doubt and regret. This is when I encourage you to give your inner critic a big hug; thank him or her for keeping you safe in certain situations and keeping you grounded in life; then tell your inner critic sweetly and genuinely that, in matters of creativity, to kindly f*** off.
Last night I painted my first watercolor. I loved the environment: everyone in the small room encouraged each other and praised each other’s work. We voiced which colors we liked on someone else’s palette. We noted which dew drops looked so real you felt you could pluck them off the leaf. I was a complete beginner, and the instructor and the women around me gave me advice when I got stuck. Watercolor is magical…if you think you’ve made a mistake, there are multiple ways you can go about fixing things.
You can tell by my final work that I’m not a professional painter. My pencil sketch was a little too dark, one leaf looks humorously misshapen, and I didn’t catch on to all the techniques that were being utilized (I thought too late in the game that I’d like to add salt to my paint to take some color out and make some frost-like patterns in the watercolor…it didn’t work, and I ended up using a hair dryer to dry my soaked paper).
Nevertheless, I’m fiercely proud of my little watercolor. I can’t wait to do another. My husband complimented my work when I brought it home and said it was a shame I didn’t start sooner in life so I could have learned more about painting. I smiled and sweetly disagreed. In my opinion (which might matter to you or might not), it’s never too late to start pursuing a passion. I may never become a master painter who shows my work in galleries and sells small canvases for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but who says I can’t paint and derive pleasure from doing so? I don’t have a degree in English or creative writing or anything remotely related, but I wrote a book and it just became available as a paperback this week. I have a keyboard in my home and I love to play on it when I have time. Because I have so many other passions and projects and responsibilities, I don’t play as often as I like. But would I chuck out my keyboard and say, “Forget the piano!” because I don’t get to practice as much as I wish? Of course not. (My husband, by the way, is a huge supporter of my passions–every single one of them.)
Don’t let your critics, inner or outer, let you believe that you shouldn’t be doing something because you aren’t good enough or you started too late. Look at Misty Copeland, one of the greatest ballerinas of our time, who got a late start. And remember that you don’t have to be the greatest at anything. Do your best work and savor the experience.
So I’ll ask you: is there something you love to do or would love to do? And if you’re not already doing it, what’s stopping you?