Stupid and Scared

“I feel stupid and contagious…” –Kurt Cobain

When I taught creative writing to graduate students I used to tell them that they should write a from a place where they feel stupid and scared. If you feel stupid, it just means you’re writing at the limit of your knowledge. And if you feel scared, it means you’re writing to the limit of your ambition.

I must be doing something right because I feel plenty stupid and scared. I had a conversation with two other people at CoMotion Labs today, a UX designer and a PR professional, and we all admitted to feeling like we have no idea what they hell VR is all about. This is a symptom of working with a medium that is practically brand new. Nobody is an expert at this point.

The irony is that it is precisely this dumb and fearful state of being that makes VR so  exciting right now. Feeling stupid is just a symptom of becoming more aware of how much there is to learn. Feeling scared is a sign that you’re starting to better see the hill you’re about to climb.

Human beings have developed a clever way to surmount our individual stupidity and cowardice, and it’s called community. Collectively we can achieve things that no individual can achieve alone. This is one of those simple ideas that I seemingly have to relearn over and over again.

In a few days a bunch of people are going to convene for a VR hackathon, every one of them an expert at something and a newbie at something else. I’ve come to understand hackathons as knowledge-generating vortexes. I’m planning on attending and blogging from the event and what I’m most excited about is learning.

Humility, curiosity, and a willingness to own up to one’s ignorance are going to prove more valuable than expertise, trade secrets, and previous success in the early days of VR. The key is to keep pushing forward, learning and accomplishing in increments. There’s a word for pressing ahead while feeling stupid and afraid: courage.