For a happy new year, at least read Step 1.

mapLaurie asked a similar question in her new blog. It’s worth sharing here too, but typically long winded, I’m also going to hit some practical steps here toward your personal creative adventures in 2010.

OK, so you got a guitar, a set of pottery tools, a canvas, a fly rod, a snowboard, or a [insert yours here] for Christmas. You lucky. Someone loves you enough not just to give you another sweater, but to give you a pursuit. A hobby. A discipline. An entry to your gold mine of overflowing talent that has remained hidden until now.

But you feel it don’t you? The pressure. Are the voices already telling you you’ll never get good at that? That your new gift will end up in the closet like everything else you’ve ever tried?

Well, then this post is for you. We can silence the criticizing voices, or at least laugh at them. A few practical steps can help us to make baby steps of progress that will keep us going instead of getting overwhelmed at the magnitude of the task. You need to buckle your bindings before you huck a 360 off a snowy cliff. Ready?

Step 1: Love yourself no matter what.

God does. So you can too. Fear is the enemy of creativity and adventure, and I know someone who would love for you to remain in a “safe” place of self-criticism and what you already know instead of the freedom of trying something new. Hint: it’s not Santa, but you can get his name if you rearrange the letters.

Step 2: Get a good guide, or at least the cell phone number of one.

It’s easier to get going when someone is beside you with an excited look on their face and plenty of stories about the way they fell, fumbled, faltered, and repelled the opposite sex when they were first learning. You might think this step is cost-prohibitive, but consider this: you may not need a professional. You are asking someone to share about their skill and their passion. Offer them dinner, coffee, beer, or whatever they like. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t want to hang out talk about and do the thing they are best at, even with a beginner, if it feels like a party.

Step 3: Survey the territory.

Let’s keep the analogy of exploring going. You have a guide. Now you look at a map. This is where some people stop though, so be careful. You don’t have to understand all the symbols or know the exact scale. Ask your guide to show you the major landmarks and pitfalls as you plot a course to somewhere you want to go.

Did you hear that? If you want to hike to the lake, you don’t need to consult a geologist about the chemical makeup of the soil. You don’t need to be a herpetologist, able to identify every tree. You don’t need to distinguish between the call of the great horned and spotted owls. You just need to know what you’ll encounter between the trailhead and the lake, and how to handle it.

Step 4: Strike out with courage.

You will be using new muscles and firing new synapses. It will be awkward. And awesome. Laugh at yourself. If you get frustrated, relax. Look around and breath fresh air. Unless you are in a dark room or refinishing furniture–then just think happy thoughts and get a respirator.

Step 5: Do it again. Watch your guide.

You may want to quit now, but remember Step 1. You have nothing to lose by trying again and again. Try on your guide’s movements and attitudes. With enough repetition, you might start to discover a new part of yourself emerging.

Repeat step 5 a few times.

Step 6: Now you are ready to do it “for real” and maybe with others.

By now you might have leaned how to play one song on your instrument in relatively good time. Take it to a group of musicians. Play it at the fellowship sunday morning. There is safety there as long as you remember Step 1. If you are learning to kayak, you have your roll by now. Ask your buddy to take you to a mild section of river because you’ve mastered the pool. You’ve paid your dues watching your lumpy clay pots slide off the potter’s wheel. Now keep a few. Glaze them and show them to some potter friends. They will be kind. If they are not, they need to know about Step 1, and you are just the person to inform them.

Step 7: You are a success. Sit down with your guide and talk about how great life is.

Talk about what you’ve accomplished. Back on the explorer analogy, talk about your course through the woods. What did you see along the way that you might like to explore further? What challenged you that needs more work? What was your favorite part?

Now repeat all the steps, but aim at expanding the “route” of your expertise. Don’t forget to be willing to share what you’ve learned with others, and don’t dismiss yourself as “knowing nothing.” You know how to get to the lake.

What creative, adventurous territory are you going to take over in 2010?

Did I miss any steps or nuances? What are they?

December 31, 2009