Episode #9 – Embrace Being a Beginner

It’s a new year AND a new decade, so this episode is all about embracing being a beginner, especially when it comes to your creativity.

Being a beginner seems to have become my new “norm” this decade, so in this solo show, I share four basic “beginner principles” to help support you in starting and continuing with any new creative endeavors that might be calling to you.

Beginning a project or learning a new creative skill can be terrifying and hard. We’re not good at it. It can be uncomfortable to be crappy at something. 

But it can also be SO much fun, especially if you accept that you’re a  beginner.

In this solo episode, I talk about:

  • Four principles that I’ve learned about beginning so many projects that have helped me keep going
  • Some of my own beginner failures
  • We learn in “pieces” and how that can impact our overall success

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Hello. Hello. Today is January 1, 2020, so the first day of a new year, and a new decade. It’s exciting to welcome in a new decade and for my husband and I we are really ushering in a whole new phase of life. Over the past decade our kids have flown the coop. They’ve both graduated college, graduated high school and college. Gary and I have both had career changes. And so the beginning of this decade looks and feels so different than the beginning of this past decade where I was teaching full time. He was a business owner, and we had two young teenagers living at home. So lots of changes, and I’m super excited to see what this next decade brings. It’s going to be so different.

And this episode is all about beginnings and how to embrace, being a beginner. I’ve really been thinking about beginnings because I’ve had so many of them over the past decade, and even just over the past year the past six months. But before we dive into how to embrace being a beginner and some of the things that that you might want to think about, even at mid life I want to share a few things that are coming up in the dear creativity world.

I have some fun events planned for this winter and spring. In addition to one on one creativity coaching, this winter, I will be launching a course to support you in both starting and maintaining your creative practice. And I’ve also had quite a few people reach out over the past few weeks, who want to “pick my brain” about the whole book publishing process.

I am self published. I had an agent but I ended up self publishing. And so I’m going to be putting together a kind of a q & a with a literary agent and also an editor, sort of like a summit where we’ll have a little presentation and then you can just ask your questions. Because that’s what I found is that there’s so much information on the internet. But people just want to ask their questions so I’m going to set that up.

If you’re interested, and I’m also the spring will be having a writing retreat probably in May. I don’t have specific details on any of these events yet, because I’ve been fully holiday mode. I turned on my computer, I think one time last week over the holidays. So, if you’d like to participate or hear the details about any of these upcoming events, head on over to amyisaman.com/subscribe to get on my email list.

Okay, let’s dive into this idea of beginnings and creating something new, starting something new.

Beginning a creative project mid, especially at mid life can be really hard for a couple of reasons. If we’re starting something brand new likely it’s likely that we’re probably not good at it. And it can be hard to not be good at it something when we’re older.

We know what we like to do. We’re comfortable there. It’s the status quo. We’re good at stuff. We do it well, so starting new can be uncomfortable and it can bring up uncomfortable feelings. We have to kind of step into that discomfort. And starting something new, embracing being going to be a beginner can also be really hard, especially if you have tendencies toward perfectionism or towards comparing yourself with others because I can pretty much guarantee that there will be zero perfection at the beginning of your creative process or, like, I shouldn’t say zero perfection, but you’re playing. You’re learning you’re doing something new and what you create will be perfect as a beginner, but it’s not going to be perfect as a master of the thing, whatever that thing is.

And so that can be hard and that can be scary and it can be really frustrating. So, why start something new or create something new or dive in to doing something brand new that’s outside of your comfort zone? Why try? And there’s one answer, because it’s fun. Actually, let me correct myself there’s there’s more than one answer. It’s fun. And if you’re a creator you have, you might have feel like a calling to do this, or to get back to something that you let go many years ago that feeds your soul.

And because we’re creators, or if you’re not a creator yet but you’re want to create something it almost requires that you embrace being a beginner and being open to learning and failing and all of the things that being a beginner requires. And so beginning requires a recognition of what being a beginner means.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about beginning. Because as I said I’ve started making a lot of new projects. This fall like this podcast. I’ve made a major business pivot. I traveled out of the country on my own this year, which was super scary and totally worth it. So I wasn’t a beginner traveler, but I was definitely a beginner solo traveler, which was a whole new thing for me. And I also this fall started playing with a creative project of hand lettering. And I talked about this a little bit in Episode Three because I interviewed my teacher my hand lettering teacher, Ashley Bradley of @theRosiePen on Instagram.

And this was super fun for me when I was a kid in the 70s, I had a calligraphy set. So it was like a box and it had these calligraphy pens that had metal tips on that, and you would take the ink cartridge. It was a plastic kind of little tube cartridge and you stick it in the pen and it would poke a hole in it and then the ink would flop, and it was, it could be potentially a disaster like a ink everywhere. But I loved it, and the the metal tips were different width, and you got to be got to be pretty good at writing calligraphy and and writing out words and letters.

I had a lot of fun with it and so this fall. I decided I’m gonna try this again I’m going to take this hand lettering class. Oh my gosh. It was so hard. I have terrible penmanship. First of all, and so, like my penmanship was better when I was 10 then it is now half the time I can’t read my own writing. And so it’s been hard but I’ve had fun with it and I’ve actually been practicing quite a bit, writing out the letters and so I also love planners, and if you ever look at my Instagram account I sometimes will take photos of my planners and I’ll sticker them up and put washi tape and I’ll paint do different things to my planners to make it fun.

I decided I was going to write December in beautiful hand lettering on my planner. On the month of December. And so I practiced. I practiced writing all the letters, the D etc and practice them over and over and over until I could write December, pretty decently. And then I finally got my planner and I wrote it out and then I looked at it. Once I was all done. And I had written Dember, like I didn’t spell it right.

I was so focused on writing each individual letter that I missed the whole picture. And this is such a beginner thing. And it really made me start thinking about Wow, how we are when we’re beginner and I laughed at it I was kind of annoyed that I had, you know, written in pen on my planner but it was kind of funny.

Yeah, I mean it was just such a beginner mistake. And so it’s really made me think about that and started this podcast what it’s like the inner in terms of our creativity and a creative project and it really requires that we agree to some basic beginner principles. Otherwise we’ll just be crushed right. And the first principle is that we will fail. We will.

You’re going to write Dember instead of December. It’s just a guarantee.

And I was thinking about that. And it reminded me when I was in high school I was a junior ski instructor. I grew up in Carson City, Nevada right next to Tahoe, and they have a junior ski program. And, and all the high schools have ski teams and I was actually the manager on the ski team because I didn’t like to run gates and I was not good at it. And then I was also a junior instructor on the city ski program so I was skiing two and three times a week, but we had to go up to the mountain and learn how to become a ski instructor, and I think I was like a junior in high school I did this. And the first thing they made us teach our students was how to get back up again, and they first taught us how to get up but they made us unbuckle our ski boots, and then they would just go like we had to ski all day with our boots, completely 100% unbuckled so we would remember what it was like to be a beginner.

And if you’re a skier, it’s hard to ski with your boots, could not just unbuckled the bike completely loose like you have to stand perfectly balanced on your skis. And it’s also really hard to stand up. But that was the first thing we had to learn was how to stand up and when we got our first classes that’s what they made us do and I’ll tell you what those kids got angry because you know they get up and they’re standing there they got their skis on and then some teenager comes over and knocks them over. So they have to learn how to stand back up. It’s not if they would fail, it was when you would fail, what do you know how to get yourself back up again. And I had completely forgotten about that until I started thinking about this whole idea of being a beginner.

So the question is that, if you fail. Or if you fall down or if you do it wrong. It is, you will fail. What will you do or what do you need to do to encourage yourself to keep going. Not if you fail but when you fail. And I don’t know that I have the answer to that for you. But I think it’s an interesting, a good question for you to think about in terms of embracing a beginner mindset.

What do you need to do to get up and keep going. Right? What kind of self talk, do you have to tell yourself. I think the basis of it is just to accept okay I am going to fail so I will keep going. Right. You just keep going after you fail. But dive into that a little bit maybe with your journal. If you want to start something new and you’re a little nervous about failing. Just know that you will fall down so what are you going to do to get back up again?

For example, even this podcast episode that I am recording right now I am on Take two. Because the episode that I just recorded. I didn’t have my microphone turned on. I recorded the whole thing silent – beginner mistake right like check the microphone. I just laughed and I’m rerecording.

So, so what will you do, just keep going.

Beginner Principle number two is also kind of a mindset thing and I talked about this a little bit in the intro was to release all comparison, or ties to doing something perfectly or doing something right. And that can be super hard.

If you are a perfectionist right but you’ve got to let it go. And I think it can be harder when it’s something that we’re already good at. But we’re trying a new things. I think that really depends on if you’re already good at something or not so for example as a writer or quilter. I tend to be harder on myself when I try something new in my writing if I don’t nail it or harder myself if I try something new with quilting. Then if I’m my cam lettering where I’m just I’m terrible at it already I know it I’m brand new. I know I’m going to fail.

And so, kind of feel into that too. Know that it can be harder to let that go when you’re doing something that you’re already comfortable with, but you’re just trying a new technique or a new strategy in the area that you’re already fairly proficient in, but when it’s brand new it’s the least of all comparison, or perfectionism. Right.

Beginning Principle number three, that I came up with was really to embrace your curiosity here. This is the phase where it’s so funny. Here at the expert space or the beginning Phase I think curiosity is so much fun to plan and feel into.

You’re super lucky to be a beginner because it really opens you up and allows you to explore and try new things you don’t really know what you’re doing so you can’t really do it wrong and that’s where art and creativity and defining your own style can really come in to play. I mean obviously this might not always apply like with skiing. You want to know the right way to stop on a hill, other than falling down. But in terms of your creative pursuits, curiosity can be super fertile ground when you don’t know the parameters of the thing that you’re doing or you don’t know necessarily all of the rules of the thing that you’re doing right? So, I don’t know how to do this so let me try that. I don’t know or what if I did this. “I don’t know” and “what if” can become really fertile ground for your own creative pursuit so you can explore and play there of what happens if you try this, what happens if you try that.

Play with that.

The next principle is sort of not necessarily a mindset thing, but more a how we learn kind of thing. You’re going to learn whatever it is that you’re doing in stops and starts. You’re going to learn it in pieces, and you will focus on getting and mastering those pieces before the whole can come together.

For example, with my hand lettering. I made my letters really, I was pleased with how I had made the letters when I wrote Dember, but the whole, I had spelled it wrong.

I have a tote of ugly quilts, where I was playing with color, and I was making like their smaller like scrap quilt. I was trying different things with value and pattern and texture. They are truly ugly quilts, they will never be quilted. I mean they’re just quilt tops. But I learned so much about value and color and texture and pattern, but the the thing about them is I mean if you look at the stitching and the points, and the blocks, they’re great that skill set is great. The color the pattern texture, they were definitely learning so you’ll learn in pieces before the whole will start to come together so allow that. As a beginner allow yourself to get those pieces together. And don’t be hard on yourself.

Again, think of it as, as play it’s sort of it’s like, like when you’re doing like hand lettering. It’s muscle memory right you’ll get one part down and then you’ll try another, and then you’ll forget the first part because you’re so focused on the second part, and it takes a lot of practice to ultimately put those things together so if you think of, you know, paint strokes when you’re painting the painting how much pressure how much paint you put on the brush which direction do you, you know, do you pull the paint, or you know with watercolor how much water, how wet is your brush. How much is it spreading around? how much control do you want to have you don’t have much and watercolor, so called stitches or shutter speed on your camera your light settings were in a novel and you’re writing you know you might be so focused on your character development that you forget the plot or you might be so focused on getting your plot together that you have these characters that are like all exactly the same because you’re so focused on the plot.

And that’s so normal, and that’s part of being a beginner and I think people then get really down on themselves that the whole didn’t come together but that’s part of being a beginner. You’re focusing on each of those different pieces. As the whole does begin to come together.

So allow yourself to play there play with those pieces ask that “what if?” say I don’t know let me try this play with it, see what works.

So as I wrap this up. Remember, you’re going to fail.

Remember that comparing yourself to other people or expecting yourself to do something perfectly right away is just a recipe for depression right. Release that. Embrace instead, embrace your curiosity and ask what if? and say, I don’t know let me try. Those can be your best friends. And then also know that you’re going to learn in different in pieces before the whole comes together.

And I think the last point I want to make that being a beginner, especially at midlife or in adulthood, can be extra frustrating, or it can be super fun kind of wherever you are in terms of your confidence or how driven you are to try this thing or create this thing, but wherever you are, keep going, and play with it.

Think of it really as play. And everyone starts somewhere. Right? And if you don’t start now. When?

I don’t any longer have my whole life ahead of me. My kids in the early 20s they have their whole lives ahead of them. I don’t. I have half, maybe a third of my life ahead of me.

And so I’ve got to use the time I have now to play, and to create and to live joyfully, which for me, will absolutely including the beginner, because I don’t want to be doing the exact same thing in 30 years that I’m doing now.

I want to grow, which will include creating new things which will absolutely mean being a beginner, and it can be frustrating but keep going. We’ve all got to start somewhere. And at the beginning of this new decade, I encourage you to embrace that be a beginner What do you want to begin, what do you want to start this new, this year, this decade. What do you want to touch your toes, dip your toe into and play with?

Have an awesome start to this decade and Happy New Year. If you’ve got any comments on this post you can head on over to amyisaman.com/podcast/9 and find the show notes and leave me a comment there, or you can leave a review on iTunes. That always helps.

Super grateful for all of you. Thank you for listening and have a great week.

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