I am the queen of indecision.
In fact, before I figured out how to handle this struggle, I spent years stuck in indecisiveness and uncertainty.
While I frequently waffled about which glaze and technique to use to finish a new clay tile, there was an even bigger decision to be made. I could not decide whether to quit my job and devote myself to my new dream business or not.
Part of my problem was that I also couldn’t decide exactly what that business should look like.
For more years than I like to admit, I was a stifled creative working as an accountant.
I was good at my job and made decent money, but there was a very important part of me that was dying to get out . . . my creative side. So I started dabbling.
First I tried a drawing class, then some pottery classes, jewelry making classes and more. I loved them all. I also trained to be an interior designer, which I loved too, but I kept heading back to accounting for the money. But, I never stopped dreaming.
I’d fallen in love with the idea of helping others to learn to express their creative side. I wanted to show people the joy that you get from creating. But every time I made a plan and decided to go for it, I’d second-guess myself.
I had so many ideas about how to go about it that I couldn’t decide on a plan of action and then there was the fear of failing. So, I would kick the bucket down the road to decide on another time.
Indecision can be paralyzing, especially in the creative process, however, when you don’t make a decision, that becomes a choice in and of itself.
Do you ever have trouble starting a project because you have so many ideas that you can’t decide which one to work on?
Maybe you are a writer who just can’t decide which way to steer the plot, so you put the whole project aside and start a new one.
Or perhaps you make a decision and then spend days (or more) second-guessing yourself.
In each instance, progress becomes excruciatingly slow or worse comes to a grinding halt.
No matter how many reasons we have for putting off making a decision, the real reason boils down to fear.
Sometimes that fear is justified, but more often than not most of us postpone making a choice because we believe it will save us from making mistakes. Each time that I decided not to start creating my business, I thought I was keeping myself from making a big financial mistake.
We all know that avoiding mistakes is impossible, yet if you are like me, you try to do it anyway.
Once you have few failed projects under your belt, whether it’s a show that no one attended or a business that didn’t make it, or even if you have faced some tough criticism, it’s hard not to take a hit to your confidence. Those tough hits make us question our judgment, drawing us even further into the trap of indecision.
The good news at that we can escape the trap! It takes some practice and determination, but it can be done.
Here are a few strategies you can use:
One of the hardest parts of making a commitment is the fear of missing out. It’s a fear of lost opportunity. It helps me to remember that every project that I decide not to do is not lost forever. If I decide not to use a particular surface decoration technique now, I can always save it and use it for a future project.
By keeping track of all my different ideas, I can resurrect them later, in a place that will showcase them in a better light. Our ideas are our babies. You can keep your ideas safe by writing them down and organizing them so that you can tend to them later. You can organize them in a loose-leaf binder or in Evernote using categories that you can later search for.
My favorite way to organize these ideas is to drop my notes, photos, and clippings from magazines into an old shoebox. Each shoebox is a different category. When I need inspiration, I simply pull out a shoebox and sift through it.
My current business doesn’t look like my original plan. It is continuing to evolve to incorporate more of what I want to do and to provide my clients with more of what they need and want. I’m sure it will continue to change as I figure out ways to include some of my other ideas and as I learn more about how to help others be at their creative best. By keeping track of my ideas I can come back to them when I need some inspiration.
Being an artist means making decisions.
Some will be good, some may not be so great. When you accept this inevitability as part of the adventure of the process, you free yourself to explore your art freely and enjoy the process. Doesn’t that sound better than being caught in the trap of indecision?
You aren’t alone; so don’t bog yourself down with worry that you are the only one suffering from indecision. By taking baby (small) steps forward, you will teach yourself to run head-on into your own artistic adventure. Your self-doubt can serve as a reminder to get to work.
Nothing cures fear like creating and accomplishing!
In the words of Eric Maisel, “Who knows how many artists fail because the light that shines through them is refracted in a thousand directions and not concentrated in a single beam? Pick projects and complete them! It is not really possible to work on a thousand things at once.”
Try it for yourself. If you stop your indecision and focus your light and energy into a single beam, what could happen to you?
What strategies have helped you deal with indecision in your creative life?
Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below so we can all learn from each other.
Betsy Conlan is a creativity coach, ceramic artist, and reformed accounting guru. She is living proof that even the most analytical folks are creative too. Her passion is helping others awaken their inner creative genius. Learn more about Betsy and grab your free Creativity Kickstart mini-course here