Although preparation is an essential part of pursuing our creative dreams, it can also lead to stagnation. We prevent ourselves from starting our venture by constantly advancing our skills, or waiting for the right time, or finding the right collaborator. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of Eat, Pray, Love and responsible for one of the most popular TED talks of all time) new podcast Magic Lessons, she gives creative career advice to those struggling. In her first episode, she advises social media strategist Erin Rawlings about what she, Rawlings, needs to do to finally get her career off the runway and taking flight:
I feel like what you’ve been doing for the last six years is that you’ve been increasingly picking up speed on your creative journey, but you’re still a little bit on the runway. Taking all these classes and writing is on the runway. Giving yourself permission to write is part of the runway. Starting the blog that you started is part of the runway. Teaching has been part of the runway. All of it, you’re accelerating towards something, but now that gnawing feeling that you have and that feeling of being stuck right now is that you’re done with the runway… Now you are speeding down that runway, ready for liftoff to do the thing that you really want to be doing, and that you couldn’t have done without those six years of buildup. If you don’t liftoff now, you are going to crash that plane into a bunch of houses on the other side of the highway. So we really need you to takeoff.
Teaching junior high English, taking writing classes and blogging were all necessary steps for Rawlings to become a writer. However, preparation is only good for so long before we begin to feel stuck. While blogging was what Rawlings project required six years ago, it could become a creative rut if she continued as is. Gilbert told Rawlings that she needs to cut back:
Do everything else in your life a little worse for a while… I want you to dial those things back so you can create enough space to write the book that inspiration wants you to write… It’s going to mean that everybody else gets a little less of your attention but ultimately that’s not necessarily such a bad thing.
Creative pursuits require time and space, two of the hardest things to give yourself. If you want to take off properly, you have to give it 100 percent for an amount of time so you can really get your project off the ground. It doesn’t mean you need to scale back on all of your commitments for forever, just so you can continue to slowly prepare for your goal instead. Just remember to listen for that gnawing feeling when you’re ready.