So at this year’s retreat I took a chance and inflicted a forced a group activity on everyone. During dinner on our second night, I handed everyone a number between 1 & 12, and got them to get up and move to that table. The idea was to shift everyone around, and get them connecting and chatting to a new group of people who they may not have met yet. To make it less awkward and painful, I gave them some juicy questions that I just knew they would have no trouble answering.
My favourite question was the third one - “What is your dream project - and why the bejeezus haven’t you made it yet?” :) :) :).
It’s such a fun question and the answers were illuminating. There were all sorts of reasons being tossed around, but what became clear to me was that a big part of the why fell into two caterogories. The first was that we were overthinking rather than doing and the second was that we had a bunch of stories around our dream project that just weren’t true.
You see, before I forced everyone into group activity I was a little worried (OK - a lot worried) that they would haaate it. Group activities are not my favourite thing. I get awkward and nervous and a little shy, and then often overcompensate by overtalking. It’s a messy thing to watch. So I checked in with my women about whether it was a good idea, and they weren’t sure either - they were 50/50 on whether it was going to make everyone feel good and more connected, or just be weird. After too-ing and fro-ing I decided that the only thing to do was to trust my gut and try. Overthinking about whether it would work or not was not helping me one iota. There was no answer to be found in thinking about it - and all it was doing was making me crazy. I sat in the discomfort of not-knowingness, of fear of failure, and handed out the numbers.
And I’m so glad I did. So many people came up and told me later that it was one of their favourite parts of the event. That they loved the questions, and the cushy way they were forced to chat to new people within the structure of a directed conversation. So many absolutely beautiful connections came out of these deep and heartfelt conversations as people authentically shared about their most meaningful making.
So back to my favourite question. Why don’t we make the thing we truly want to make. Here is a sample list of the reasons….
Because I’m not good enough yet.
Because I don’t think I could do it as beautifully as I want to.
Because I need more practice and more experience.
Because the materials I want to use are so special.
Because I don’t want to screw it up.
Because I don’t have the time yet.
Most of these reasons aren’t actual reasons not to try. They are stories that we roll around in and overthink, that ensure we don’t act. Or if we do act, we don’t act freely. Instead we act with these stories rolling around in our heads - each time we think about them we are assessing whether or not they are true and whether they matter.
I’ve spoken before on the blog about the false economy of not making, about how we are all practising in the gap, and how the only way to get good enough to do the thing we want to do is to do the thing we want to do. Often the only way to learn to write a novel is to write a novel. The only way to learn to run a marathon is to run a marathon. And the only way to learn to make that beautiful colourwork sweater is to make a colourwork sweater.
We can go to as many workshops as we can afford, and read as many books as we can find, but the only way to really do the thing we want to do is put the rubber to the road and try. When we are trying to make, we learn by making. We need to feel the materials in our hands, manipulate them in some way and experience the results.
Planning can only take us so far. To avoid the overthink that leads to paralysis and stories and excuses - the only option we have is to try, something, anything. We need to act - to make some forward movement towards what we want. One step towards our goal is often enough to propel us forward into a new mindset that makes the whole project seem possible. To shift out of our fear into doing, and by doing allow ourselves and our projects to change shape.
When we start, we often find that the thing we were overthinking is not very difficult at all. Like colourwork or cables or natural dyeing or sewing pleats. It is simply another skill to add to the multitude of skills we have learnt since we took our first breath.
We might have more to learn, and our first attempt might be rubbish, but our second attempt will benefit from our first in untold ways. And that without our first attempt we sit in the paralysis and the overthink for years longer than we have to. Sometimes we have to make bad art to make good art.
Now obviously this isn’t always the case - sometimes we genuinely don’t have the experience we need to have to make the thing we want to make and we end up with a howling ugly hot mess of an object - but does that really matter? Many things are salvagable, and even when they aren’t it generally doesn’t result in an apocalypse.
I’m hoping that the conversations that the women had on that night at The Craft Sessions will be that very push to get them started on making their dream project. I’m hoping that the very act of saying what’s stopping them outloud, will be the first movement towards making their dream become realised. Because often, from what I’ve seen, the only thing that is holding us back is overthinking our fears, leading to overempahsising our stories about why we can’t, leading to a paralysis in our planning.
And I’m hoping there will be follow-on as I’ve been suffering from a bit of blog paralysis lately - the ideas that I have getting stuck in overthinking about what I should say and how I should say it. This blog post is about me getting myself out of overthinking and into action. Hurrah for that.
Can you tell me about your dream project - and why you haven’t started yet?