The Blank Slate

When you begin to create something completely new, everything is possible.

Every creative person lives for the thrill of starting something completely new. A new song. A new book. A new business. A new painting. A new fashion line.

When you are starting something new, everything is possible. The sky’s the limit! The world is your oyster! Your only limitation is what’s between your ears.

But then some time passes. The work becomes problematic. The fun has been slowly zapped away by difficulties, deadlines, and delays. The great ideas are harder to come by. You begin to wonder what’s wrong with you. You begin to feel like you’re drowning in a sea of your own making.

And you then you think the thought to end all thoughts. Maybe I should start something new? Maybe it’s time to move on? Maybe this project has run its course and there are other mountains to climb. But if I go through with this, isn’t that admitting defeat? Isn’t that being a flake? Wouldn’t that prove what all those critics in my head are always saying – that I never stick with anything?

This Is Normal.

It’s taken me thirty years to realize this simple yet startling truth. This is the normal lifecycle of the creative soul. In modern business parlance, it’s called being a “serial entrepreneur” – the person who’s always dreaming up the Next Big Thing. I used to beat myself up over it. I have stacks and stacks of paper – both real and virtual – loaded with software projects, media plays, e-commerce companies, etc. I even have plans to start a restaurant, and I don’t know anything about running a restaurant.

Like I said, I used to beat myself up over it. Jared, you’re a flake. Jared, you need to just pick one thing and stick with it. Jared, you’ll never be successful – you’ll be like that annoying loser sidekick who’s always telling people about what he’s gonna do when he makes it to the big leagues, when he hits the jackpot, when he’s finally a success.

But then I discovered something that some of my favorite (and successful) creative visionaries call permission. I gave myself permission to dream, dream lots, dream big, dream often. I began to celebrate all the notes on my stacks of paper. I began to write down new ideas not with distaste but with gusto. I began to plan what kind of financial structure I’d need to put in place to capitalize on my best ideas. I started to consider what sort of team I’d want to work with to bring some of these ideas to fruition. I began to map out the best way to build a framework where I could keep leveraging small success into newer, bigger successes.

I’m not “there” yet. But I’m well on my way.

I don’t have all the answers. I’m still not sure I’ll reach the level of success I yearn for. But at least I’ve stopped beating myself up. I’m not poo-pooing my dreams. I’m not listening to the critics in my head. Oh, I never stick with anything? Good! You know what happens to a person when they stop trying new things, stop learning, stop imagining, stop challenging the status quo, stop searching for new opportunities?

They’re pronounced dead.

And I’m still very much alive, thank you.

Jared White