Sometimes, you come across something that makes you stop dead in your tracks. It hits hard, because it makes you realize – sometimes painfully – exactly WHAT it is that you’ve been chasing all this time. It could be a movie, or a line in a TV show as you’re flipping channels. It could be a commercial. It could be a poem or a book or a random article online. It can even come in an off-handed remark by a friend or coworker.
Today, it comes to me from Seth Godin in his latest blog post, Cheering you on when you lose.
I love all of Seth’s posts, which come to me quite cheerily in daily emails. They’re poignant, they’re thought-provoking, and they’re usually short and tidy. (Added bonus now that I’m trying to wean myself off the inbox from hell.) I recommend anyone who has or is starting a small business devour every word Seth writes – he’s seriously that brilliant. And succinct – did I mention that already? Go ahead and pop over to read today’s bit of wisdom. I’ll wait here. (Don’t worry, the link will open in a new window so you won’t forget to come back to me.)
After I read it, I was completely choked up. Tears and all, folks. You know what got me? The last line. Here it is again, in case you skimmed over it:
“Almost nothing is more important to the artist who dares to leap.”
That’s really it, isn’t it? We artists, we’re putting ourselves out there in ways that most would never dare. We bare our souls and display them for all to see, on a daily basis. For us, showing up each day is a heart-wrenching process. In order to create our work, we have to pour ourselves into each project, and there’s no way to keep emotion out of it. That’s why it’s so beautiful. We have to live in a state of constant vulnerability in order to be any good, or at all productive. And when we take that leap, out there, bared to all the world, it’s terrifying.
I ran once. Only because they promised to throw paint at me while I did it. That 5k was physically the toughest thing I’ve ever done – and I’ve given birth. Twice. But you know what kept me going? The people throwing paint. Not just because they were providing my kick-ass war paint, but because they were cheering us all on. When I reached the finish line, there was a small crowd of people yelling and clapping and cheering for me. For ME. Because I made it. They didn’t even know me, and yet there they were. Celebrating with me. Did they care if I didn’t run the entire time? Did it matter that I wasn’t the first to cross the line? Nope. They just cheered because I showed up, and I stuck it out. All the way to the end.
For us as artists, that’s the ultimate goal. To have a crowd of strangers cheering for us, just because we showed up, we created, and we never quit. But what about here and now? What’s the big fear we all face? Not that we’ll fail. Nah, we’re actually comfortable with that. Look at all of our unfinished projects piling up. We’ve gotten pretty damn good at failing. That’s almost comfortable now.
The true fear is that we’re on our own in the meantime. That nobody believes we can do it. That we have to wait until we prove our worth for anyone to cheer for us. And even then…will it be enough to earn their applause? Will those we love most really be there at the finish line, celebrating US? And even if they are, what about mid-race, when we feel the cramping set in, when we can’t breathe, when we are ready to collapse? Who is showering us with paint and handing us water and telling us, “You GOT this!” and “You’re doing SO GREAT!” and “You’re ALMOST there!”
I’ll be your cheerleader. I’ll be by your side, shouting encouragement and showering you with hugs and love and laughter – because I believe in you. I know you have a purpose in this life that is just begging to be seen. I know you have a drive to see your projects through and birth them into this world, and I know the world needs your creations.
I know you, because I am you.
Gasping for breath, looking around for a friendly face, hoping someone’s there.