No one begins
without thought of some end
or chosen path in mind
there is an inner current
on the senses of time
a moving out
onto the sea
of wide possibility
anchored to a hope
the far country
will be home
I have always loved that quote about the journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step. I love the sound of it and the idea behind it. But until not so long ago I didn’t take it seriously. A single step? Could one small action really make a difference? In the past several years, as I became aware that I am entering a new season of life, I’ve had lots of ideas. Creative endeavours of all kinds have filled my mind. I’ve imagined what I could do to start building the foundation for my future work. Some of those ideas were good; some weren’t. But they shared a common thread: I didn’t follow through on any of them. I would have a thought, tell myself that I was going to do something about it, and then find myself having a conversation in my head about all the reasons it wouldn’t work. As I said in last week’s post, it was quite comfortable to stay in that place. As long as I could talk myself out of doing anything, I could stay away from all the challenges that come your way when you try anything new. I could avoid the possibility of failure.
Towards the end of last year I realised that the frustration of not doing anything had begun to outweigh the benefits of staying in my comfort zone. I knew I had to decide what I loved and wanted to do, and take some action. For some time I had felt called to be more intentional about my writing. My first step was to find some courses and workshops to attend. I spent time online and received some suggestions from people. And this is where I began to learn the power of that single step. I attended a creative writing course that I found online, and the facilitator suggested I try my hand at writing magazine articles. I joined a writer’s group (with the same wonderful facilitator) and met women there who are as passionate about words as I am. Some are already published authors and offered valuable advice, insights and thoughts on my writing. I started to feel as though I could take myself seriously. And so, with some trepidation, I wrote my first article and submitted it to an editor for consideration. I was scared. But I did it anyway, and the editor decided to use my piece. What a boost to my confidence. A short while later I submitted something to another magazine and that one was accepted too. Each step has led to the next and I am slowly forming a picture in my mind of the way forward. I am struggling with finding the time to put it all into action, but thankfully I have people in my life who remind to look back and consider the progress already made.
The poem at the beginning of this post is one of mine. (Poetry is what I love most to write.) The far country seems a little closer than it did at the start of the year, even if on most days I wish it was even nearer. I am not sure of quite how I will get there, and I’m sure that when I do it will only be one stop along the way. What about you? I would love to hear from you about your journeys. Send me a note in the comments section and tell me your stories.
I am a person who tends to see the can’ts. Like giant lumo painted signs, I find them everywhere. I’ve made many decisions based on these boundaries, a lot of them sensible and necessary. But I am discovering that some of these can’ts are not helpful to me at all: I can’t do that; I can’t be that kind of person; I can’t say that. Can’t also likes to invite its cousins couldn’t, never and won’t to stay in the recesses of my mind. There they lurk, waiting until I have an idea or a dream. Then they pounce: You couldn’t possibly achieve this, you’ll never manage that, you won’t get there. “Who do you think you are?” they ask. “What makes you think you have anything to contribute?”
As I said in my last post, I am beginning to discover again a sense of my own strength and capacity. I am finding it easier to replace those can’ts with cans. Doing this is liberating; it is also hard. Part of me wants to stay in those shadowy corners, where I expect less of myself and can find all sorts of reasons not to do anything other than what I already know and enjoy. Why make the effort to push through into unfamiliar territory? It’s uncomfortable; it’s tiring and, worst of all, it’s sometimes downright scary. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that staying with the known would be settling into a kind of laziness and mediocrity of the mind and spirit. So I took some risks, tried some new things. Breaking through the resistance, so ingrained in my thinking, took effort and determination. I didn’t expect to succeed, but I did. (More about that in future posts.) I was surprised and delighted, but of course a little unsettled too. Now that I had taken the leap, and accomplished what I set out to do, I could no longer make excuses. I had to move forward.
With every new step, come fresh questions. As I explore new areas of competency, I realise how much I have to learn. I know that this will probably never go away. No matter how far down the road I go with any of the things I pursue, I will make mistakes and need the perspective of people on the same journey, especially those further ahead. In the weeks ahead I plan to share more about all of this. For now I am committing to more time to write, and to gaining more knowledge and skill in the process of writing and getting my work out there.
What about you? I would love to hear about the challenges you are facing and the new areas of discovery in your life. Drop me a note in the comments section or get in touch on Facebook.
At odds with my world
its shape untuned
to my new found song
built note by note
step by step on the road winding long
from there to here
my voice no longer suited to its pitch
my strides now out of time
with its settled rhythms
This week has felt like a run from one end of the day to the other. Some of it was planned, people I wanted to see, things I wanted to do. A lot of it wasn’t. I have in my mind the image of a rabbit, zigzagging madly across a field, chased by a fox, looking for a quiet place to hide, but finding instead that it has to keep running. Every week I determine not to end up like this. I set aside generous portions of time in my diary. I imagine the long hours of writing I will do, the reflection and solitude I will practice. I feel excited at the opportunity to follow the deepening call to pour out the words in my heart and the thoughts in my head. But every time I am derailed. This week it was a number of things, all necessary and important, that swept in and upset my plans. My carefully saved blocks of time turned into short snatched moments at the end of the day, when I was tired and feeling used up by all the needs and demands of my life. Once again my creative time had to be stuffed into the holes left after everything else was done. I wonder how to balance it all out. I know I am not the first to struggle with these questions. I know that I want to be available to my family; I care deeply about that. My friendships are important to me and nurturing them takes time. There are my animals as well as my home and garden to care for. So many things clamouring for my attention, things I have chosen to prioritise.
But a shift has happened. I notice that even at the end of the day, when I am tired and tempted to give up, I come here to my little writing space in the garden and I do what I can. Even if it’s only a paragraph, I put some words down. I am beginning to understand that as I keep doing, as I move forward-even in tiny increments-I am making progress. It’s slower than I would like but it’s progress none the less.
“Skyscrapers weren’t invented by people with a lot of land, but by those who had to figure out how to build more offices on tight and incredibly expensive real estate.” (Roger Van Oech)
I am encouraged by that. I think that every day I choose to write is a good day. I can make the effort to carve out more time, to guard more carefully the times I have set aside. But on days when things don’t go according to plan, I will try to let it go and delight in the little nuggets of time that I do have. It’s so easy to get caught up in the image I have for my life and to lose connection with the real life I am living every day. Sometimes I miss the joys because I am so focussed on the unmet expectations. It’s a challenge to practice thankfulness on days that feel disordered and chaotic. But if I can be thankful, then I can celebrate the little victories and enjoy each writing moment, instead of being preoccupied with what I am not accomplishing. That will only rob those moments of their power and life.