Creativity involves dreaming. Dreaming encourages the creative process. Dreaming is good. But dreaming can also halt your creativity – completely. That is if dreaming becomes nothing but a dream. If you don’t turn the dream into action, nothing comes out it. I have written about this before, talked about doing the work. And we can talk about creativity till the end of time, but if we don’t do the work, we are not creating.
There is something more to it, though. Because dreaming also has the aspect of dreaming the big goals, the big achievements, the ultimate expressions, the big aspirations of the creative life. There is nothing wrong with that. But big dreams have a tendency to scare us more than encourage us. Going for the big leap is so much more frightening than staying put. But the reality is that creative life is not made in big leaps, but by a lot of small steps – every day. Instead of believing everything has to be done at once, we should rather start out small and take one small step at the time. That’s exactly how babies learn to walk. They continuously practice first by crawling, then getting up on their feet, taking small steps while still holding on to something, then try one or two steps without holding, before they are finally are able to walk, better and better as they practise more and more. So it is with all big goals in the creative life, too. We must take small steps and continue doing smalls steps, until one day we have achieve what we once dreamt about.
For instance many photographers dream about getting an assignment for National Geographic. But just the mere thought of having to compete with the world’s most accomplished photographers or even just approaching the picture editor of National Geographic seems like too big a leap to even try doing. And it is, if you start out there. Instead look to what you can do today. What do you need to get closer to the dream? Well, first of all some work to show for. Then start doing personal projects, and do something you can accomplish wherever you are. And start doing it today. When you have a body of work, try to sell it to the local publication. If it doesn’t sell, do another personal project. Eventually you get enough experience to move up the ladder and maybe one day even to the top. Small steps toward the big goal.
I have experienced people telling me how they envy my way of working and living, that I am able to travel the world and make a living out it. Again the best advice is to start out small. Do a travel story in your own backyard and try to sell it to a smaller publication. Next time you go on holiday somewhere give yourself an assignment to photograph your destination as if it was a travel story. Small steps toward the big goal.
Or writing a novel. Instead of worrying about getting published or not, start writing a couple of page every day. Or start making a disposition or a plan for the writing and then do it, little by little. When one day the novel is written, you can take the next step. Make it sellable to a publisher, make a synopsis, an introduction letter, and do research on publishers. And then start selling the novel. Going to the publishers one by one. That’s by the way exactly where I have stopped myself. I have written a novel – and even started a new one – but lost track of the road, the one step at a time. The novel has been lying there for too long, I suddenly got scared by the thought of approaching publishers – I might actually get rejected… But no more. That’s really why I have now written this post – to push myself into take the next step. Small steps toward the big goal.
If you can break you dream down to small increments then every task becomes so easy, you can do it, no sweat. Do not look at changing you whole life in one swoop. That is too scary and a sure way to stall yourself. No, small steps toward the big goal.