The sentiment of trying seems to have become one of those “easier to say than do” virtues. I cheer on everyone who is brave enough to try something new, all the way from my 10 month old son who tries to stand on his own and falls down every, single, time, to my mother, who’s hitting the gym in her newly retired life, and working with a personal trainer. Trying is important. Trying is often more important of a lesson than the hopeful outcome. But when it comes to my own self, to my own work, it’s easier said than done. I am often afraid of the trying.
This became so evident to me today as I tried to sit down to paint. Now, you may see Print Therapy work and think that I’ve always painted, that it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed doing and spent time doing. And that’s partially true – I have, on and off through my life, painted. But it’s always been an overwhelming “hobby” to me, because I’ve never been able to paint actual things, and what kind of painter can’t paint real things? And so often, over the years, months and sometimes years would go by between the times I picked up a paintbrush.
Like many other areas of my life, motherhood (and my amazing therapist) gave me some clarity around this. And when I say clarity, I mean that it it let me give myself permission to say the hell with what a painter “should” be or “should” be able to paint, and I started painting again. And it inspired an entirely new aesthetic direction with Print Therapy. And while I’m now comfortable telling people the sometimes I paint abstract watercolors, I still haven’t shaken this fear of trying. This fear of the outcome of said abstract watercolor being less than perfect (if something abstract can be perfect!). This fear that I would spend time doing something and be disappointed with the outcome. That the effort would not be worth its purpose.
And so today, even though the first thing on my to-do list was to paint, and even though the first thing on my to-do list has been to paint for many, many days, instead I did a load of laundry. I did some social media planning. I worked on spreadsheets. I did everything except pick up a paint brush, dip it in paint, and swish it on paper. Why? Because I was afraid I would produce something that looked like crap. That it would never turn into a new product or be worth showing another set of eyes. That my time would be wasted and I would feel like a has-been failure who would never paint something worthwhile again. Cue the drama, am I right? But that’s what I felt. I was terrified to try.
But today, I made myself. I got out my brushes, and I got out my paints. And instead of forcing myself to paint A THING, I painted little color studies. First one, then another, than another. And I let how good it felt to just paint wash over me. I took in how relaxed I was, how motivated I was, and how much clearer my mind became when I let go of the need for perfection and just let myself try.
And here’s the thing. I liked what I painted, even if in the moment they didn’t ultimately serve a purpose. Because in the end, they did serve a purpose. They brought me joy. They brought me confidence. They allowed me to get out of my own head and to move forward. There was a real grace in the trying.
How many times have we been afraid, in life, to try? Maybe we’re afraid of failure. Maybe we’re afraid of success. Maybe we’re afraid of falling somewhere in between. That fear can be overwhelming and, if you’re like me, it can stop you from trying. It can paralyze you from moving forward. And it can keep you stuck in the present, unable to let yourself move into the future.
But failure is a lesson. Success is a lesson. Finding yourself in between is a lesson. Trying something new comes with so much more potential than the one thing you set out to do. Sometimes the real beauty is where that trying takes you, where you least expect it. There’s grace in the trying. So try.