Whether you’re planning on writing a song, starting a business or throwing a party, we all have ideas for projects that we’d like to bring to life. If you’re anything like…well, everyone else, chances are many ideas have come and gone without ever seeing the light of day. I know I’ve had my fair share.
That being said, I like to think of myself as a “doer.” I’ve learned graphic design, creative writing, played in bands, DJ’d, and become the “bike guy” for my friends. By no means am I claiming to be an expert at any of these things; in fact, there’s a ton of people out there who are way better than I am at all of the things mentioned. What I am suggesting is that all of these experiences have taught me a thing or two about getting over the initial hump and getting started with an idea.
Here’s a collection of 8 excuses I’ve identified as the main reasons why most of us never start an idea:
Above all, this is the one excuse that always used to hold me back, mainly because most of the time it’s true. The key word is what’s missing at the end of that sentence: ‘I’m not capable/skilled enough yet.’ Right now, you probably don’t have the skill to draw that painting or write that book; however, over time, you will.
I remember when I was in one of my previous bands I would often get a guitar part that I thought there was absolutely no way I’d ever be able to play. It was too fast, too technical, and my fingers just couldn’t move in that way. Since I was in the band, though, not learning it wasn’t really an option. So, I’d practice the part over and over again and, sooner or later (the latter more often than not) I’d be able to play the part.
The key takeaway here is that you can’t think in terms of not being skilled enough to do something. Skills are learned over time, and the only way to master them is to keep trying.
This one will vary from person to person, but I’d be willing to bet that you have more free time than you think. For starters, really think about what it is that’s filling your time. Do you watch TV for 3 hours in the evening? Do you sleep in until 1 on the weekends? If so, these are obvious things that can be trimmed down in order to free up more time.
If your day is completely packed with one task after the next, take a critical look at your processes and question whether you’re being as efficient as you can be. Do some research and see if there are tools available to help automate the time-consuming parts of your day. For example, when I was managing multiple social media profiles I would spend hours signing in and out of accounts, searching for keywords, opening different lists, and on and on. Once I discovered Hootsuite, I was then able to set all of this up into a couple of dashboards that told me everything I needed to know at a quick glance. What would have taken me half an hour now only took me a couple of minutes, giving me a lot more time to pursue other things.
For whatever reason, many of us have it ingrained in our heads that in order to do something you need to have the best tools available. I really noticed this for the first time when getting into electronic music production. Despite having a computer and software that were fully capable of producing music, I could only start playing around once I tried another music production software. Once I tried that, I could only start once I got a MIDI keyboard to play on. Once I had that, I couldn’t start until I had a microphone. Then I needed studio headphones. And on and on.
While these accessories certainly helped, none of them were essential for what I was trying to do. Once I actually got started, I barely even used them. When it came down to it, all I needed was the passion to just get started and work with what I had. In most cases, you really don’t need the best tools available.
Jack White is a great example of someone that creates art with the most minimal of tools. In It Might Get Loud, he explains how he purposely makes things more difficult in order to challenge himself creatively. If it only takes 3 steps for him to jump from the piano to guitar in the middle of a song, he’ll push it farther back so it takes 6 steps. In the end, if there is passion and meaning behind what you are creating, this will resonate better than a lacklustre idea produced with top-of-the-line machinery.
This can definitely be a tricky one, especially if the idea you are looking to start is complex. What I’ve learned from my own experiences, whether writing a 50 page research paper or learning a new musical instrument, is that doing anything is a great place to start. When it comes down to it, if you are doing anything even vaguely related to your idea, it is by definition better than doing nothing. It seems fairly obvious when you think about it, but you’d be surprised how often people never get past this step.
Starting an idea is rarely like the start of a race – 3…2…1….GO! Actually, even a race doesn’t start that way. A runner has to start going to the gym, eating right, going on practice runs, get the right pair of shoes, read tips from the pros, figure out transportation to the race… Only after all that will he or she be ready, and all of that takes much longer than the race itself. So, to get started just start, no matter what it is that you’re doing.
So? Unless you’re creating the printing press, chances are your idea is not 100% unique. And even the printing press first needed handwritten books, which needed scrolls, which needed cave drawings…you get the idea. If people didn’t create things because they had been done before, we would only have 1 movie, 1 song, 1 TV episode, 1 book and so on.
What will make your project unique is that it is made by you. And, just like your mom always told you growing up, you’re special! All cheesiness aside, unless you’re blatantly trying to copy something, you’re going to add your own opinions, influences and style to whatever it is that you’re creating. If I never did anything because it had been done before, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post right now. The “How to Get Started” style of blog post has been done a thousand times over, but what keeps people reading them is what each author can bring to the discussion.
Oh, come on. It’s never going to be the perfect time to start. You’re always going to have things going on in your life. Sure, there will definitely be times where you’ll have to put your idea on hold, like a death in the family or a new baby. But if you keep letting this be your excuse, it’s never going to be the best time to start. We’re all busy and have a lot going on, so the chances of your obligations magically going away and freeing you up to pursue your no idea are pretty much nonexistent – there’ll always be something new that comes up. In the end, you’re just going to have to roll up your sleeves and get started, regardless of what else is going on at the time.
Here’s the bad news: Your idea will probably fail, at least statistically. For example, venture capitalists won’t see a return on investment for 95% of companies they fund! Does that stop them, though? Of course not, because for all the failed investments, there’ll be one that is a huge hit and recoups all of the lost money.
Plus, let’s not forget that ‘failure’ is a subjective term that is dependent on what you define failure as. If success means critical and commercial success, then perhaps your idea failed; but, if success means bringing an idea to life, then it is definitely not a failure. The more ideas you start, the better you’ll get at it, so in the end you really can’t go wrong by trying.
Ultimately, this will be the #1 reason why you won’t start your idea. If it’s a personal project, then this might indicate that you’re not overly passionate about the idea so maybe it really isn’t worth pursuing after all. More often than not, though, you don’t want to do it because of all the work that’s involved. Just remember the end goal, and that every little bit of work that you do will help you achieve your goal. If you keep working at it slow and steady, you’ll eventually get there. Try your best to not get overwhelmed and chip away at your project bit by bit and I promise you’ll get there eventually.
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