I remember when I was first learning to surf. I kept going for waves. I’d see one coming in, turn around and paddle as hard as I could. I committed to it. I was stoked and ready. Then I would miss it as it went right past me. Standing on my board still, I would sink slowly into the water doing the “sink of shame”.
Stuck in the line-up watching my friends catch one wave after the other, I had no idea what I was doing wrong. My friends who surfed better than me (everyone surfed better than me) all kept yelling the same thing to me. “Two more paddles!”
It took a long time to sink in and on bigger days, it still feels scary to give it those extra paddles.
The thing is, when I was going for the wave, it really felt like I had it. I felt the momentum pull me. I thought that if I didn’t stand up now, I would surely go over the falls and nose dive, so I’d stop padding and try to stand up too soon.
If you’re a surfer, you can relate to this. We’ve not only all experienced it, but we see it every time we try to teach someone to surf.
I use this analogy now because it’s so relatable to catching waves of creativity too. When we feel the momentum of an inspiring idea we get stoked. We want it. We go for it. We do all the steps that we think are needed. But 2% before we got it, we stop paddling.
When we do this with our creative work, what we’re left with, is an almost great painting, song or book. But despite out best efforts, it’s left looking, feeling or sounding…well…amateurish and embarrassing. No one likes feeling like a kook.
Until you truly become aware of how you’re doing this, you will continue to miss your waves. Like with surfing, often it takes someone else who’s a little more experienced than you looking at the big picture to offer some simple advice and make things click.
When I’m painting, I always try to remember to tell myself, “just two more paddles Jay!”
Keep in mind though…this does not mean you should over-work your creative projects to death. You can easily screw it up by “paddling too much”. And yeah, that’s when you nose dive and take a pounding. So find that sweet spot of just enough…Not too much..nor too little.
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