We Take the Stage: How to Begin Before You’re Ready (Beginner’s Luck Series)

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Click to hear me read this post:


You put yourself in front of them and you forgot your lines.

Who do you think you are? How could you do this to us?

What gives you the right to put yourself in front of us? 

This is why we worry about taking the stage. We fear we’ll be all shaky and nervous and clumsy and in the spotlight and everyone will see our ridiculousness and we’ll get hot and red and sweaty and then we’ll freeze.

So, afraid to freeze in public, we freeze instead in private. We stay stuck, we don’t move, we stiffen instead of reach.

We fear we won’t be able to deliver. To take the stage is to engage in a promise, we imagine, a promise to some how be worthy once we get up there, to prove we had the right to do this. To not let people down.

There is some unwritten, unspoken pact in the realm of creativity and art and beginning that says if you take the stage, if you dare to begin, you owe us. You owe them, you owe an explanation, a reason. And it better be good.

Making your art is taking the stage.

It’s not ‘being given the stage’ – it’s taking it. Of your own will, of your own decision, on your own time. Uninvited, unscripted, and in some cases, unwelcome.

There is a vague sense of something within us that convinces us that to publicize our art we have to be legit. You have to do it correctly and you have to earn the right. Somehow, it’s up to you to figure out how to do a brand new thing – begin something never done or seen or heard before in your own way – and before you even try you also have to be sure.

This, of course, is backwards and illogical which is probably why it’s a very effective way the fear-strung-ego keeps us paralyzed from seizing the doing of what we love. But the only truly legitimate claim we can ever honestly make is that doing our art, being creative, is what we love.

And that is enough to make sharing what we love acceptable and important. And because we love in constant, that makes any time the time to begin. Our love of art and of sharing makes now the time.

Taking the stage is about bringing our love forward and exposing our vulnerable bits, our fleshy, tender stuff.  It’s daring to allow people to see what matters to us. This takes courage, this takes willingness to put ourselves in front of others not because we promise to live up to their expectations but because we value the experience, the connection, the exchange.

This is about allowing the stuff that connects us to ourselves and to each other to be put on display.

It may not be in a theater, it may not mean playing in front of a crowd of thousands, but it does mean sharing, inviting, interacting. It does mean that to make better art, we need to begin to let others see us doing it. It does mean we grab the mic and start to speak.

Taking the stage could mean writing or publishing or putting your music up on Bandcamp. It could mean putting your video up on YouTube or playing in the marching band. Or singing an original song at a local bar. Or telling your friend / boss / lover / child the truth.

It’s going somewhere new and being the one who changes the dynamic of the relationship(s). Whatever it looks like on the outside, it’s a beginning on the inside.

And beginners fear forgetting our lines and we fear feeling like a fraud and we fear not being ready yet.

“People working in the arts engage in street combat with The Fraud Police on a daily basis, because much of our work is new and not readily or conventionally categorized. When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.”
– Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking (also, here is Amanda’s TED Talk)


So – we just start. Without having all the answers, without knowing all the hows, we begin.

To a very great and real and glorious extent: We are winging it.

And [SPOILER ALERT] so is everyone around you who is actively engaged with their art.

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When I announced this series, The Beginner’s Luck Series, more than half this shit wasn’t written yet. I knew what the concept was overall and I knew the themes and what I wanted to offer to you guys. I knew it would get written and I knew I would deliver the very best I knew how.

But I didn’t know if it would work. I didn’t know if I got up on stage and offered this if you would like it, if you would embrace it. If you would embrace me. Taking the stage is a vulnerable thing.

The good news is the more you do it, the more you understand, the more you have to offer.

It’s worth it.

Despite not being prepared, despite the exposure and potential embarrassment, we reach in deep and grab onto trusting ourselves to figure it out. We trust ourselves to be our own wing man.

‘Winging it’ is a theatrical expression which refers to impromptu performances that are given by actors who had hurriedly learned their lines while waiting in the wings and then received prompts from there.

This phrase dates from the late 19th century and the verb ‘to wing’ was defined in an 1885 edition of Stage magazine:

“‘To wing’… indicates the capacity to play a role without knowing the text, and the word itself came into use from the fact that the artiste frequently received the assistance of a special prompter, who… stood… screened..by a piece of the scenery or a wing.” (source)

We think we’ll know.

Right? Like when it’s time to move, or speak, or try, or create, or build – we’ll know. We’ll know the time has come because one day someone will ask us, will invite us, will tell us it’s time to do our beautiful, imperfect, original, genuine thing out loud.

Someone will tell us it’s now the right (acceptable) time to make space in our lives for our art. They’ll tell us we’ve finally earned the stage; that we are now ready and they are now ready.

But we won’t be. And they won’t be. Because just like us, they are afraid, too.

Most people are afraid to begin because they feel like a phony and a fake and illegitimate. But the truth is, we all feel this way. All of us – beginners, pros, amateurs – are a work in progress, learning as we go. Starting before we are ready.

Those who take the stage have decided it’s worth it for themselves to break the silence of keeping their creativity locked away, it’s worth it for the sake of their art and their lives, to say something.

“We are unprepared to do something for the first time, always.
We are unprepared to create a new kind of beauty, to connect with another human in a way that we’ve never connected before.”
– Seth Godin, What To Do When It’s Your Turn

Put yourself in front. Take the chance, take your place.

Take the stage before you can forget your lines.

Take the stage while you’re still writing them.


~ ~ ~

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© 2014 Allison Marie Conway at Glory Begin

32 thoughts on “We Take the Stage: How to Begin Before You’re Ready (Beginner’s Luck Series)

  1. Stephanie Lennox

    This post is everything! I don’t think there’s any creative out there in the world who won’t be able to relate to this. You know who to speak to souls, Allison – fragile souls who really need your strength and empathy. I have this saved and bookmarked to look back on when self-doubt strikes. Thank you. :)

    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Dear AMAZING Stephanie,

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for your light and your warmth and your spirit. I can’t tell you how much your words mean to me. To know you have this one tucked in close to your heart is just so beyond beautiful.

      I am SO grateful to you for reading and reaching out. Virtual hugs are definitely coming your way! ;)

      I wish you so much peace and many, many blessings, dear one, always,


  2. Michael

    Thank you for this series, Allison. It would be relatively easy to mentally dismiss it and say, yeah, yeah, yeah… I know all that, but it’s good to hear. To slow down and absorb. Because it matters… :)


    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Dear Michael,

      Thank YOU for being here and for leaving such an awesome comment. I love what you say – it made me smile – because I totally understand what you mean. It would be so very easy to dismiss this stuff, right.

      I really want to thank you for saying this matters. That means EVERYTHING to me. Thank you, thank you for your kindness and your warmth, and your gentle, brilliant presence here. I am so grateful for it.

      Sending much peace and light your way, my creative friend. ;)


    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Dearest Richard,

      I simply cannot thank you enough for your presence here and your amazing comment. You rock my world, man. ;)

      I am so glad you enjoy hearing the reading, too, that is SO cool. I really enjoy making these because I imagine sitting with you guys talking and hanging out.

      Sending big huge love and light your way, dear one.


    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Dear Erika,

      I cannot thank you enough, my friend, for saying that. I wish I could crash through this screen and hug you! ;)

      Love, light, blessings and so much peace your way, always,


    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Dear Noelle,

      Your words and your spirit bring me so very much joy – I am so grateful to you! Knowing this piece was spot on for you when you needed it is the BEST I could ever hope for, truly.

      Thank you for being here and for your kindness. I must tell you, no one ever wished me ‘much metta’ before and this made my whole day. What an exceptionally beautiful sentiment – I wish you just the very same, my good friend.

      Much metta.

  3. Meg Evans

    I believe we do make a promise to the audience, but it’s not to have everything written in advance and perfectly matching their expectations. It’s to put our genuine selves out there, to tell the truth, or (as you put it so well in a recent post) to be the truth. Often that truth is messy and incomplete because we’re still under construction, still learning, still experimenting. It’s honest though, and that is what matters.

    Thanks for the explanation of “winging it” — I never knew that was the origin. I had some vague thought that maybe it had to do with the homing sense of birds, finding one’s way home without anyone giving directions. I like the actual history as you’ve explained it!

    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Dear Meg,

      YES!! I love this: “It’s honest though, and that is what matters.” Yes, yes, yes. This. This is the stuff. And don’t you think this is why so many of us are tired of the media circus? So many people take the stage and DON’T tell the truth, or they manipulate or cover up the truth. But we want to see the rugged, honest, work-in-progress, I’m-doing-this-with-all-my-heart people take the stage and do their groovy thing.

      And isn’t that cool the definition of winging it? I’m so glad you appreciated that, too! I found it rather fascinating. It’s funny because we use the phrase or hear it quite often but I never knew where it came from. I was thinking it had something to do with angels – I love that you thought it was birds flying. We writers are creative buggers, aren’t we, haha.

      Sending you so much peace today, my friend. ;)

  4. Alejandro

    Dear Allison,

    As I opened my eyes this morning to face a brand new day and saw a very gray and cloudy sky through the bedroom’s window, then the perspective was the same for no matter how gray the day may look on the outside, the inside was full of vibrant colors. It was then that I picked up my phone to check for any new messages and I saw your new post on the wonderful beginner’s series…it was there waiting for me to read it, however, today different from the past I decided to listen the podcast version instead. As I began listening and the message was flowing very natural through my whole being, the awesome realization hit me like a ton of bricks, that I was experiencing such a powerful and truthful connection with every word spoken. Then, at that moment in time I was in a state of pure bliss thinking of how extraordinary the invisible forces of the Mighty Universal Source were so very present and acting right there. The feeling was so intense, no kidding, that I felt like shouting to the top of my voice “The Magic of True Connection is Real” it is freaking real, stop doubting and see, hear, smell, taste…delight all your senses with the harmony of this experience…live it fully, enjoy every word.

    Let us indeed take the stage NOW and let’s begin before we are ready……..but why begin now? I don’t think we are fully ready, there is more research to do, there are more articles I need to read before I can start preparing my next presentation, and there are always reasons and excuses to delay, to postpone or in some cases to cancel a project altogether……WHY???????, because we thought we were not completely ready to begin.
    Allison, I cannot thank you enough for sharing with us the quote by Amanda Palmer…I got so intrigued that I looked up her TED presentation on “The Art of Asking” and apart from loving her real self, her transparency, her vulnerability, her story was extremely interesting, and one of her messages stood high and clear for me “the art of powerfully connecting with ordinary people from a real, honest and vulnerable perspective”; this is true connecting magic and one of the things I am so very passionate about, for there is nothing more fulfilling in my own opinion than to meaningfully connect with another human being heart to heart…to establish that invisible but very real connecting bridge between the heart of the giver and the heart of the receiver. That was what I experienced listening to your message today, I was walking, running, jumping, enjoying the scenery from that bridge. Wonderful and enriching…stop waiting for perfection, we are perfect and ready NOW…new ART is floating in the ether, let us be courageous and shape it into form, whether a new inspirational speech, or a piece of writing, a painting, a statue, etc…let us take the stage and share a piece of our hearts…that is the beginning!!!!


    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Dear Alejandro,

      WOW – this is an amazing comment! I am so thrilled this piece reverberated through your whole being – THAT is magnificent! I am so grateful that you shared this, thank you. Thank you so much for rocking out with your creativity and light. This is exactly what the world needs, dear one.

      “The Magic of True Connection is Real” – This is totally worthy of shouting! ;) From the rooftops and the bridges, man! How amazing and awesome. Love it.

      Also, I thank you for mentioning Amanda’s amazing TED Talk! I should have linked to it – I’ll add it now to the post. The book is a beautiful one – I highly recommend it. Guess who wrote the Foreword? The incredible Brene Brown!

      Thank you for your graciousness, your kindness, your openness, and your glow.

      Sending you much peace and light this day, my good friend.


  5. Gerry

    I used to play as soloist and in bands. It was so different to each appearance.. As soloist I was a little more laid back and had to interact more. But a part of a band we did not have to interact, just play and act while on stage….
    I do agree with very much of what you say. I did not actually analyse myself, until recently…

    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Dear Gerry,

      It is so awesome to hear from you, thank you for reading and commenting.

      That is fascinating how the different experiences of being a soloist and then being part of a band create a different kind of interaction. Like each role comes with its own sort of ‘way of being.’ I’ve never played in a band but I always imagine it must be a fantastic experience to play and to interact with an audience.

      Thanks again for your thoughts, I really appreciate them. ;)

      Peace, my friend.

        1. Allison Marie Post author

          Haha, that is so fantastic! Isn’t it interesting all the sides of ourselves that art opens up? So wild.

          Also, good to know you’ve not murdered anyone! lol ;)

  6. Donna Cameron

    Allison, what a lovely post about the importance of embracing risk in our lives. Very inspirational and beautifully written! You reminded me of a great quote by Gregg Levoy: “You’ve got to be willing to boogie with the bogeyman.” Thanks for a Sunday energizer!

    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Hello, hello, dear Donna,

      I am so happy to hear from you! Thank you for such an awesome comment – it means so much to me.

      I LOVE this quote! I never heard that one before but it is so perfect. Haha, I am totally going to keep that one in mind – it’s a great way to embrace those chances, right.

      I am so very, very glad this post resonated for you. And I sincerely thank you for taking the time to connect! Here’s to the ‘boogie’ my friend. ;)

      Wishing you so much peace and inspiration,


  7. Joy

    Allison! Thank you so much for writing this out…and so well-timed for me as I am embarking on a new adventure this week of teaching a class I’ve never done before. A stage of sorts, in front of teenagers and I keep going back to planning things and am realizing that I will need to be doing a lot of “winging it” – which for an anxious person is terrifying, but I’m becoming more comfortable with it daily. Thank you for writing exactly what I needed to hear this week!

    1. Allison Marie Post author

      OMG, Joy!! That’s so awesome – I’m totally thrilled that this was so perfectly timed for you! How freaking cool, I LOVE when that happens. ;)

      Sounds like you are about to begin some very beautiful and important work, my talented friend. I think the world of teachers – you are such an inspiration. Thank you for all you do for the youngsters. It takes a big heart and a gentle soul to do what you do.

      I wish you every blessing along your new way – please know I’m sending you lots of peace, love and light, always – and especially this week. If you feel like it and get a minute, let me know how it’s going! ;)



  8. Robert

    Great post Allison, I can relate fully to it :)

    Many, many years ago I played in a marching band, the band master was fond of saying ‘right or wrong, play it strong’.

    When we expose ourselves we will make mistakes, even professionals screw up now and then, as beginners we have to overcome the fear of mistakes and just do it, with passion. In music, if you play timidly, the whole piece will be awful, if you play with passion the good bits will stand out strong and firm, interspersed with occasional errors. It is clear which is orefered :) The same principal applies in whatever we do.

    It requires a thick skin and a sure self confidence in our art to rise above the fear of criticism. We must take onboard constructive criticism and not allow negative criticism to poison our hearts.

    Find the fire in your soul and live life on your own terms; face your fears, they are nothing but constructs of the mind!

    We do art to share it and satisfy our need to create. Take the stage and play it strong! :)

    Namaste, peace and love


    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Dear Robert,

      Thank you so kindly, my good friend, I am really glad you connected with this one.

      And I am so loving the quote from your band master ‘play it strong’! How perfect! Reading your words here “the good bits will stand out strong and firm, interspersed with occasional errors” I thought to myself – Love really does smooth things out. That is so true, isn’t it.

      Your points, too, about criticism are crucial. And I thought it was so poignant what you wrote: It takes courage to rise above the FEAR of criticism, not necessarily the criticism itself. That is so spot on, my love. It is always about our fears, not about what others may actually say. They are just words but we are the ones who give the words meaning. It takes self-confidence and bravery to allow yourself to learn what opinions are constructive and apply them, and what opinions are destructive and dismiss them.

      Thank you, as always, for your light and warmth.

      Namaste, peace and love your way, guy, ;)


  9. Fashion Assist

    Oh it’s so true dear Allison, taking the stage is all about facing our fears….
    and it’s funny, in theory I know this but I don’t always act on it.

    Your reminders today of what it looks and feels like to do this; to sit in that empty chair and begin, have been extremely helpful and empowering for me ♥

    So I’m now making myself a wand out of an old chopstick; a visual reminder that my art is legit and that it is “I” who needs to push “me” forward—nobody else! Lol…but in doing so I’m fully aware that it may take a few real good taps on the head with my new chopstick wand, to actually get “me”, myself, fully out there…lol…and maybe a good, hefty, steel toe boot too!

    And I’ve now written out your closing your words on piece of lined paper and attached them to my inspiration board—in plain view for chanting as I wave my wand and tap my head…
    “Put yourself in front. Take the chance, take your place.
    Take the stage before you can forget your lines.
    Take the stage while you’re still writing them.”

    So as always thank you so much for filling my head and my cup with the wisdom and encouragement that I need to begin…and keep beginning! ~ xo

    1. Allison Marie Post author

      My beautiful friend,

      It is TOUGH to act on this! Trust, I feel the very same way. And it’s wild because it seems every time I bust through a wall of fear related to some project – I am always met again at some point by yet another wall to crash through. I think a good bit of the attraction to and resistance to doing our art is the appearance of ever more challenges. We often need to be reminded of our own strength.

      I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to know that this piece helped you to feel more powerful. That is the BEST. Because you really, really are, my friend.

      Haha, I LOVE your chopstick! I am totally making one, too. Freaking adore your spirit. ;) And the steel toe boot – that would come in handy for me as well!

      When I read that you put these words on your inspiration board I literally put my hand on my heart and smiled. So damn happy to know this! This means more to me than I could ever say. It is my biggest joy to share words of inspiration with you.

      Thank you, too, for filling my cup with your light and warmth. You rock my world, friend.

      Cheers to many, many beginnings,

      Allison XOXO

  10. Batya

    Making your art is taking the stage.

    Shakespeare said: All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players…
    What a great reinterpretation of that timeless statement!

    Sometimes–and for me it’s rare–we don’t make art to be front and center. It bubbles out. It needs to go somewhere. It hurts more not to make art. More often, me being me, when I make art, I want the attention, acknowledgement and accolades, though I tick off the failings: every mismatched seam in my quilts, every unplanned splotch in my watercolors, every dropped stitch in my knitting, every poor phrasing or misspelling in my writing, every sour note in my song.

    I am my own critic. I cut to the bad before I can be cut. My stage can be a minefield…

    …if I let it be one.
    I’m learning to turn off the critic and be … Just Having Fun!

    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Hello, hello, dear Batya,

      Love a grand Shakespeare quote! And a beautiful one this is. ;)

      I really appreciate that you share this because it really does hurt me more to hold my art back – you nailed it. And even if we don’t do it to be front and center I think we need, also, to not be afraid to let other people see that we value creativity, even if it’s just as simple as sharing with another person what our passion is. This can feel like exposure but it can light another person’s light, too. By opening up about our creativity (clumsy as it may be) we allow others to open up about theirs. What a great world that would be if we stopped holding back so much beauty.

      What an awesome insight, here, and one I can fully relate to! : “I cut to the bad before I can be cut. My stage can be a minefield…

      …if I let it be one.” I totally understand, my friend!!

      Here’s to having the FUN!! ;)

      Love your spirit and light, thank you dear Batya.

      Peace, always, always.

  11. Carl D'Agostino

    I felt much this way about starting a blog 4 years ago. I wasn’t computer literate enough to create things to post. I spent many hours in failure, learning and frustration. I am so glad I took the steps. Hey, I can do this too.

    1. Allison Marie Post author

      Me, too, Carl! Thanks for sharing that. When I first started I was wildly excited when I figured out how to upload a photo to my blog. It was literally one tiny step at a time.

      The frustration is totally real. I’m so glad you took the steps too, because if you didn’t you wouldn’t make so very many of us smile with your wonderful creations. Thank you so much for that.

      Take care, my friend. Keep smiling. :)


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