I am reminding myself it is okay to be a work in progress: to begin, to carve and craft as I go, to collect and synthesise, to draft and revise, like forming a poem. It is worse not to begin.
With writing a poem, you capture the image, the association, the string of words that comes in the middle of the night. And from that, you start, draft, craft and revise again. Miss that spark of ignition and you might miss the critical association that could begin your poem. Then, you might hold back from developing it for fear of not achieving the illusory perfected whole poem in your mind.
In a recent inspiring post, Starting with what you have, Chris Guillebeau provides a valuable way to break the feeling of paralysis around starting something: ‘Don’t look at what you think you lack, look at what you have and find a way to make it work.’ He provides some excellent examples about how and where to start for business, writing, art and travel and they are mostly small, focussed, like a kernel, something obtainable or possible.
So I am reminding myself, it’s okay to be a work in progress, starting with a piece, a step, a chunk, an idea and learning from there. You might need to do some planning, preparation, reading and research to guide how you start and where it leads, but make a start from that essential spark.
Take this blog, for example. I have learnt from reading and watching others and their blogs, from listening to podcasts and reading blogging experts. I have the spark of a connecting idea. I’ve worked it over time, mined it, mind-mapped it, associating and gathering ideas. But starting here each time, there is more. I am engaging with writing, blogging, flickr, posting, comments and generally putting what I have learnt into practice. Already the connections and response have been beyond my dreams. I have talked about stars and their shining light and I feel very illuminated. Where the light goes and what it illuminates is another thing, but it’s out there, into the dark, an offering.
Not starting is about a lot of things: a desire for perfection, what Danielle LaPorte in an article in fear.less calls a fear epidemic: ‘Everyone is struggling with the same thing: ‘fear of being his or her true self’, a lack of authenticity and all this becomes a form of resistance that can develop a perfectly normal appearance that absolutely freezes you. Creative work suffers from this incredibly and can seem unnecessary or frivolous. You wonder why you would do it and undermine your own creative thoughts and plans.
Apart from finding a small way to chunk your start and become a work in progress, Steven Pressfield, in the final words of his wonderful book about resistance ‘The War of Art’, suggests that starting is a responsibility: “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
So let’s get that work in progress. Before you know it, the posts are connecting around a theme you can stitch together into some larger work; the poems you are posting could become a self-published book and in any case, you realise, more people are reading them this way; you find you are writing a novel or a memoir through what you post; getting your photos up there makes you start thinking in images again; you find a reason to write and that breaks the hiatus of many years; you find a business idea developing from the responses coming back to you; you create a creative course to get people writing or moving through something. Suddenly you are moving, not frozen.
So what are you considering starting? And what happens if you don’t?