There is nothing more frightening than a blank canvasOn February 1, 2020 by Barbara
Here I am, staring at the screen, Figma open and a very clear image of what I want in my mind. However, for some reason, making the most basic decisions seems to be too hard for me. How wide should my canvas be? What’s my background color? Should I start vertical or horizontal? Should I work on a wireframe first or should I just go with what’s in my head?
You think I’m talking about design. Well, in a way I am. But I am faced with these analysis paralysis questions more often than you would think. Every time I find a project that I want to pursue, or a subject I want to study, basically anything that requires a starting point…. I crumble. I just don’t know where to start.
People say “just start”. I guess that’s better than nothing, but “just starting” still sounds very overwhelming. What if I start with the wrong step? Will that set me back? Will that ruin everything? (here I go again.) I’m one those people who can spend a lot of time planning, and absolutely zero time executing. My calendar app is full of events and reminders that I completely ignore: “Eh. Don’t feel like it.“. Kinda sounds like I should manage someone else’s life – if they execute according to my plan, everything will be perfect. Ah, if only I would execute my plans for my own life!
I know the theory: break your project down into small and manageable pieces.
I’m not good at that. I’m better at finding simpler projects, and tackling them head on with zero planning. By choosing to stick with smaller/easier/achievable projects, I’m keeping myself in my comfort zone. But that’s not where growth, learning and adventure lives – is it?
Everything of value is on the other side of fear
I used to paint. That was a long, long time ago. I couldn’t tell you if I was ever excited or terrified by a blank canvas. And I don’t even remember how or why I stopped painting – but I guess it’s time for me to reclaim that feeling that I can turn nothing into something. That I can create beauty. And that I can bring color into my life in a different way.
When I was little, my parents (well, my mom, mostly) took me to see a fortune teller. Yes, I know. I don’t quite believe in that stuff either. And I don’t remember anything about the visit – but I remember something my mother told me when I was in my teen years: the fortune teller told her that I’d make beautiful things with my hands.
Now, I guess that can be interpreted in many ways – anyone can make beautiful things with their hands. But when I think about it, throughout my life I:
- made music (with my voice, but also with my hands),
- drew and painted,
- made pottery,
- painted pottery,
- made soaps,
- made candles
- made jewelry,
- did tricot and crochet, and finally
- I design and build websites for a living.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some things. But my point is that all of those things start with a blank canvas – sometimes not even a canvas.
So… wait a minute. Maybe starting from scratch is not as terrifying as I think it is. Maybe I just need a little bit of practice, and over time I will become more and more comfortable with it… and one day a blank canvas will be the most exciting thing I can think of.
So let’s get started, shall we?