I Don’t Know What to Make

I Don’t Know What to Make

It’s a perennial problem, that. Either you want to get a thing underway you’ve been half-dreaming about, or you’re itching to dive in and make . . . something. So why is it so hard to get going?

You have to have a specific idea in order to start, right? Well, no you don’t. However it shakes out for creative fields I’m not familiar with (glassblowing?), it’s very similar in two broadly major ones: painting/drawing and writing. I’ll use painting as an example, because I know that one. Probably it’ll translate, at least somewhat, to other media, but we’ll worry about that later.

You usually begin with a blank, white canvas. It’s clean and pure, almost holy—unless you’re not steeped in the Western European tradition, in which case that symbology starts to fall apart. But it is daunting, and voidlike. The way past this barrier is through it. How do you start? By putting something, anything, other than white on it. You can start by putting a tone on it: red, green, gray, or some wild eye-searing thing, like the orange I used on the detail of the blue-dominant painting up above.

There, you’ve started. One line, a new color, and you should be better able to build on what you have.

The same goes for the blank page. You start putting down the proverbial “I don’t know what to write, this is dumb, I can’t even,” and you have something to bounce off of. As long as you keep going, it isn’t long before you can drop into the flow and dig for something true. It’s in there.

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