Punch through the tissue paper wall

I often admire other people’s ability to just make stuff — to just write, to just make music, to just create photographs, to just connect with people. And I sit back, feeling the creative potential burning like stars inside my skin, ideas playing inside my head like a troop of loud and rambunctious monkeys, and I think — and this is 100% true — “How do people just make stuff?” Only I use a different word instead of “stuff,” LET’S BE REAL.

It’s like running down a path and coming up to a wall made of tissue paper. You can stop and evaluate the wall, worry about how you’re going to move past it: what options are available to you, which approach is most appropriate for this situation, and what is this situation exactly?

Or, you just say screw it and punch through the tissue paper wall.

Maybe you don’t want to do this on a really big, important project, and that’s okay. I’d even argue that you can’t; big projects are, well, too big. The tissue paper wall is only a mental block; all that matters is getting through it. Once you do that, your mind is free to keep moving in all directions.

This is why it’s important to have a quick, easy, inconsequential creative activity that you can go to. For now I call these “sprints” because I’m a runner and when you’re a runner, all of life can be explained in annoying running metaphors.

Think of it this way: you’re standing staring at the tissue paper wall and the longer you stand there thinking about the obstacle, the larger and more insurmountable it seems.

Until you finally decide to just tackle it full tilt. You back up a few dozen yards, pump yourself up with phrases ripped from old Nike ads and “Lose Yourself” ramping up in the background and you break out running at full speed, arms pumping, aggressive forward lean, screaming into the wind and you smash right through it, leaving shredded tissue paper in your wake fluttering through the air like confetti.

And it feels. so. good.

Instagramming (@sarahehman) is one of the ways I sprint. Making and sharing an image gets me through the full creative cycle in a matter of minutes. It could be crocheting a dishcloth, or doodling for twenty minutes, or building a castle out of Legos, or making a collage out of magazine cutouts. It’s not your life’s work — although you never know where it might take you. It’s not about making something good or bad or groundbreaking. It’s about making something. It’s play. It’s exploration. It’s an adrenaline shot to the creative heart.

How do people just make stuff? Easy. They just make stuff.