This is part six of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I’m trying to employ an appreciation for difficulty.
It’s been coming up often, lately, as I go about discovering and pursuing “next steps”, following completion of The Videoblogs.
I need to do this. But I can’t burn out. I don’t want to burn out. It will prevent me from doing this.
Such have been my thoughts, in summary.
But I also don’t want to remain static. So, I’ve been working, slowly, on The Next Thing.
The idea behind The Next Thing is big. Unwieldy. Complex. Every time I think I have the core of it figured out — I think again, and realize that I’m just not there yet. The puzzle pieces continue to fall into place.
While they do, life goes on. I remain, overall, still feeling a bit low on creative energy. I find myself having to spend wisely.
The sheer amount of energy it takes to both buttress The Next Thing against feelings of fear of failure and despair — such that it might grow and thrive, away from such poison — and yet also allow the ideas behind it the mobility and mutability they need to develop organically…is great.
Under ideal circumstances, this project would be my only focus right now, other than matters of general living. But not only aren’t circumstances ever ideal (and to be fair, in actuality they could be far more difficult) — I’m not even sure that space is what the idea needs.
And so, we return to the role of difficulty in all this.
I use the term loosely, to be clear. When I say “difficulty” I mostly mean anything that it might be easy to decry as being “in the way” of whatever The Next Thing might be.
Daily responsibilities. Commitments of livelihood. Fears and insecurities, or the historical traumas or inherited circumstances that feel always out of our power (because they are) but also firmly in the way of pursuing or addressing what we know or believe we need to pursue or address.
As I have gotten a little older, however, I’ve grown more able to appreciate these challenges for what they are — steps on the journey. Small victories or failures for re-feeding life what it needs in order to access and process the mysterious part of me, or of us, that engenders creativity or otherworldly exploration.
More than space, for me at least, ideas need time, and life-stuff to chew on.
Yesterday, I focused on presence. On not only practicalities (What Needed to Get Done) but relaxation, and needs of the body and spirit. At one point, an important piece, of the puzzle that is The Next Thing, seemed to fall into place.
Later, I questioned whether that piece was the right fit.
This is common. What excites us as a real breakthrough in a project, creative or otherwise, can sometimes fail us later on in its lifecycle (as soon as a couple of hours or minutes). This can be disappointing, but with practice I have learned that it’s all simply part of the process of ideation and iteration.
Whereas in the past, I would have brooded on such a “failure”, now I am able, usually, to mourn the excitement of the idea and to leave the rest to tomorrow, when perhaps I’ll have the proper perspective to identify the new strand of the idea as neither the one piece of the puzzle that brings it all into focus, or a completely false match.
It’s rarely one or the other, despite what we might want, or how we might have been led to believe it at works, in mine of any other profession.
I have a different measure, now, of progress. When that moment arrived yesterday, I went deep into the idea. I explored it fully. The process lasted minutes, but afterwards I felt changed. I felt tired. As if I had traveled a great distance.
When I later began to question the actual usefulness of the new idea, to the story of The Next Thing — I paused. The judgment felt premature. I forced myself to, once again, let go.
This was difficult. My compulsion was to seize the idea, to poke and prod it, to turn it constantly over in search of an answer, once and for all, as to whether the entire endeavor — of which it was only a part — was worthy and excellent.
It hurt, to know that I couldn’t get such an answer from one mere piece of the whole, and to realize that it was going to take many more such days to arrive at an acceptable answer to this crucial question, that had nothing to do with this small piece of the thing but which nonetheless plagues me daily, co-opting and yet spurring on all progress — is this truly The Next Thing?
But, as I said, I let it go. As best I could.
Later, the small piece of the idea came back to me, of its own accord. When this happened, because I had been patient, had ridden out the difficult feelings…it engendered some clarity.
This particular piece of the puzzle might, in fact, become a permanent, fundamental fixture of this story. But it is too soon to tell.
Still, handling the natural process of creativity in this way did allow the practical side of my brain had the freedom to take over when its turns came up in the rotation.
Let’s try it. See what happens. If it works, great. We’ll be on our way. If it doesn’t, great. We’ll know that this way isn’t the right one, and perhaps we’ll gain more clues as to where to go next.
I don’t know that we can win such clarity, harness such momentum, if we don’t ride out the difficulty. It takes courage and patience, perhaps, but at least as each small journey is ended along the way, we’re left certain that we’ve done what we could — for the right reasons.
Day 4: Circle Up and Laugh
Day 5: On The Future of Labor