His words punch me in the pit of my stomach. A twisting dread. A panicky longing. “I’ve sold the first lot. The buyer will be here any minute,” he says.
My husband has been talking about selling our turntables and records for a long time. Suddenly it is all happening. It’s real. The collection of vinyl we have built up in our twenties and the Technics decks we spent so many happy hours playing them on will soon be gone.
“It makes perfect sense,” my rational mind tells me. He’s moved onto digital mixing and can get all of the music from the cloud. I haven’t put much effort into learning how to use our CDJs (digital turntables) and hardly play anymore. The records weigh a ton and take up a lot of space. They hold a lot of value but were gathering dust.
Yet, in LockDown, I had hauled them out again and had a spin. I got my groove back and rediscovered the joy of mixing music that you can touch. Each dog-eared record cover brought back memories. I had forgotten the clarity of the sound and how you can see the beats and breakdowns right there in the tiny black grooves. I was charmed once again by the mental challenge of getting two tracks in sync and the joy of being able to linger on a clean mix.
What is it about losing something you have moved on from that immediately makes you desperately want it again? You know the feeling, right? Yet, deep down, I know this is the right thing to do.
When I think about it, one of the main things holding me back is familiarity. Ease. I know my way around the vinyl. Learning to use the CDJs will take effort and time. It will stretch me out of my comfort zone. I’ll be a beginner again. There will be lots of frustrating fails. But it will be worth it. With the ability to auto sync the digital tracks, there is time to get creative. The new tech enables sampling, looping, wordplay, and a host of effects. It means I can also start playing around with all sorts of different music that we don’t have on vinyl.
As a creativity educator, I see the impact that not letting go has on creativity. Whether it is an individual holding on to the idea that they are not creative, or an organisation holding to the old way that they do things, not letting go can stop us from even considering a new thing, let alone trying something new.
Celebrated American author, Ray Bradbury, put it this way: "Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You've got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it."
Isn’t it weird to think that physical things can hold back our creativity? Yet they can. A huge culprit here is clutter in your home. Piles and piles of possessions can have the effect of weighing us down like lead shoes. Half-finished projects and things we intend to mend tie us to the past. I am ashamed to think of all the broken picture frames I’ve tucked away in a cupboard, intending to fix them… ‘one day.’ I’ve convinced myself that ‘next weekend’ or ‘this winter’ I’ll clear out the garages. Lock down certainly showed me which projects I am never likely to get to!
In Jeff Olsen’s outstanding book, The Slight Edge, he says: “Each and every incomplete thing in your life or work exerts a draining force on you, sucking the energy. <They> sap your strength because they block your momentum and choke off your ability to move forward, progress, or improve. Incomplete things keep calling you back to the past to take care of them.”
What physical stuff is holding you back? Where could you do some cleaning out?
If you need little inspiration in this department, I recommend an interesting Netflix documentary I watched recently called Minimalism. It will help you rethink what you really need and how letting go of stuff has helped others.
Perfectionism can be debilitating when it comes to creativity. Creativity requires experimentation, daring and a lightness that is happy to make a few mistakes in pursuit of a better outcome. The striving for excellence is noble and good. Don’t give that up. Creativity requires you be able to hold opposing forces in tension at the same time.
Creativity expert and author of The Creativity Leap, Natalie Nixon says: “creativity is the ability to toggle between two different capacities — wonder and rigor. Wonder is the ability to be awed and ask big audacious questions, and rigor is the realm of discipline, practice, skill, and honing your technique by spending lots of time on tasks.”
Are you letting perfectionism get in the way of being a beginner at something? If so, let the impermanence of life encourage you. The Buddha says, "The problem is, we think we have time. "
Make a start.
Reframe the endeavour as an experiment.
Stop demanding perfection from your team.
Sometimes it is old ideas of who we are that hold us back. It could be a negative stereotype we were labelled at school, or an unkind judgement that a parent made of us, or a fear that we allowed to take root in our minds.
You don’t have a creative bone in your body.
I’m just not a runner.
You’re not management material.
I could never run my own business.
As long as you hold onto these old ideas, you are locking shackles onto your creativity. If you find yourself overly concerned what other people think of you, then this is a hard one. If you don’t let go in this department you could end up stuck living a life that other people expect of you; a life that leaves you feeling empty.
Creativity expert, Lana del Roy, described this so beautifully and simply to me, she said: “Creativity is freedom.”
Isn’t that powerful! I thought, yes!
When we let go of all the old notions of who we are and what we are capable (or not capable) of, we can be truly free to explore, experiment, and create.
What old notions of yourself do you need to let go of?
What old notions of your business or your team could be holding you back?
The Thai Buddhist master Ajahn Sumedho said, "There are only three things to learn in life: Let go, let go, let go."
I was thrilled to hear that the guy who bought this first instalment of our record collection along with a collector’s item case is what Londoners call ‘a diamond geezer.’ My hubbie reassured me: “We couldn’t have sold them to a nicer guy.” So this record bag and a batch of 20 or so records have found a happy home and will be taken good care of and played with joy. 20 down, 480 to go!
Note to the reader who may be horrified at the notion of selling off collectors' items:
Just to clarify, I’m not purporting that one shouldn’t treasure and enjoy collectors' items. The new isn't always better! In our particular case, we do need to let go.
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