Last week I was honored to speak at the Darebin Arts Creative Business Seminar Series. It was a 90 minute seminar in which I shared, quite frankly, my top 10 “Things I Wish I Had Known” when I was starting out in my clothing label,  Manque Design, some 14 years ago.

I could do a bit of a breakdown of what the talk entailed, and I probably will at some stage of the game. But what I really want to discuss is something that I touched on in the talk and extended upon rather hugely in my personal development in carrying off this event.

That thing was: “Things I wish I had known: No.2: HAVING A BUSINESS MEANS ‘MAKING IT UP’…A LOT!”

When you start out in a small business, you basically begin a process of exposing yourself to a large number of things that you have never done before. Learning how to do your books, learning social media marketing, figuring out how to have conversations with clients that sell. The list is endless really. And what this requires is a willingness to think on your feet and trust in your natural ability to figure stuff out.  This is what I mean when I say “making it up”.

Some ‘entrepreneurial types’ are unnervingly comfortable with this – their willingness to try new things on for size just part of their everyday swagger. But for most of us, it’s not so easy. Many of the tasks required of us, make us squirm with unease, with a lack of trust in ourselves that we will be able to pull it off, whatever ‘it’ is.

Last week I heard a quote, it went something like this: “For most humans, their greatest fear is death….public speaking comes a close second”. I didn’t really think much of it until I found myself standing in front of 60 people, having uttered the word ‘um’ (is that a word?) at least a dozen times in the first two minutes of speaking. Usually, when I get up in front of a group of people, something happens to me and I kind of have the sensation of not quite being in my body and there is a voice coming out of my mouth that sounds vaguely intelligent, so I let my mouth keep moving. In short, I trust the process and find my flow.

For whatever reason last week, it took a little while to happen. I broke into a cold sweat, felt my heart drop into my stomach and had a moment of “what if I make a complete dick of myself?” I stammered and I stumbled a couple of times. And then miracle of miracles, I found my feet and my voice and it all started to flow. By all reports, I did OK and folks seemed to get something out of it.

But I’m glad I had this experience, if simply for the reminder of how crippling it can feel to move through fear and lack of self-belief. I think there is a beautiful little lesson here for the creative process in all of us- and it speaks to those moments where you have to deliver, where you have to complete something, where you have to ‘bring it’.

There comes a point for all of us when our palms sweat, where we feel faint, where we could do with a shot of something to calm our nerves. Why are sweating it? Because we might fail of course, whatever that may mean to us- be made a fool of, fail to impress, fail to live up to our own expectations. Whatever it may be, its fear of failure clean and simple. There comes a point where the tension becomes so great that you either choose to walk into that fear of the unknown, and make it up just as best as you can, or you walk away.

Walking into those “holy shit” moments have been some of the scariest and most surreal of my life and they have also been the most victorious. Not because what I delivered in those moments was necessarily that amazing, but because I trusted in myself enough to try it. I trusted in myself enough to use my own voice. I trusted in my natural ability to make it up and deliver something of my very own to the world- no matter how small or big it may have been.

I truly believe that this kind of tension is the wheelhouse of creating stuff in our lives. In fact it has a name- its called creative tension- and its something that is part of every creative process, whether you recognize it or not. So make friends with it- it’s here to make you creative in the most basic sense of the word.