“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,Shunryu Suzuki
but in the expert’s there are few.”
We are all facing a challenging time right now.
Our world has been altered, in a way none of us saw coming.
Our very way of life has been attacked, by something none of us know how to control. This has led to lost lives, loss of income and work, businesses disappearing, and a loss of our everyday ‘normal’.
It has led to isolation, discomfort, anger, frustration, sadness, hurt and more.
It is meaning, we all have to face the world differently.
New Beginnings and the White of the Page
If you create, you know that each project starts life as a blank canvas. Whether it’s a book, a painting, an idea for change, a sculpture or something else – the process is essentially the same. A seed in our mind needs nurturing, to grow. So, we create, to bring this idea to life.
Without a commitment to this simple first step, there is nothing.
But the first step is hard. To make it, we need to confront our tendency toward procrastination. We need to face down our self-imposed fears of ‘not being good enough’. We need to fight the pressure of not knowing. We need to wrestle with wanting everything to be ‘perfect’ and just so. We need to step up, to the call to action.
As a writer, I have learned to get excited by the white of an empty page (my blank canvas), rather than be intimidated by it. For me, there is something Zen-like and energising, about starting afresh. Learning lessons from previous work, but trying to approach today with the curiosity of a beginner’s mind. Trying not to let what I know restrain me creatively. Trying not to be caged by my own inner voice.
I know there is a lot I cannot control about my writing. How many people see it, how many people will like it. If anyone is moved by the words I have laboured over.
I know there are also aspects I can control. Showing up to do the work, making time to focus, trying to be true to an idea, doing the best work I can today, trying to make what I create just a little better than yesterday’s work. And repeating.
I have embraced what it means to write, my way. I will continue to give it my best. Knowing there will always be room for improvement. I will continue to be inspired by others but also strive to stay true to my own creative journey. I will write whether lots of people, or no one but me, reads. I am a writer, after all.
Broader Life Lessons
I try to let this mindset spill over into my life. I often fail but I continue to try.
There are lots of things in life that are not in our gift to control. That never will be. This is an inconvenient, but universal, truth of what it means to live.
All we control for now, is how we will turn up for our part in the journey. How committed we are. How much work and effort we’ll put in. How resiilent we will try to be, both for ourselves and for others. How much we will try to be of service to the world around us. Whether we will choose to be part of the problem, or the solution.
Yesterday’s successes and failures are gone. Tomorrow’s aims and goals are the future – perhaps they’ll come to fruition, perhaps not.
We can change course as we go. For now, let us commit to action. This creates momentum.
From action and momentum comes that strange and wonderful feeling of flow. For the writer, words, sentences, and even whole chapters feel like they write themselves. For the artist, clean lines flow from the brush, colours appear, and our tools take on a life of their own.
Momentum and flow turn up only when we help them along, by putting one foot in front of the other. By striving to do our best work. By striving to give our best effort.
Embrace the Journey
Embrace flow, embrace momentum but also embrace the effort along the way as part of the journey. A necessary price of entry that we all have to pay.
Know that you will get stuck but do your utmost to reset and get unstuck. Know that you will never have all the answers. Know that you will not be guaranteed much of anything in life. Take the lumps and bumps, learn your lessons but stay committed to the journey that is your life. Trying to make the best of it you can. Knowing you will fail often but will keep on trying to do your best, regardless.
Treat today as your blank canvas, your chance to start afresh.
Parts of this article have been influenced by a conversation between Arianna Huffington and Greg McKeown that you can listen to here.