An unexpected teacher

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Having not written publicly very often, I’m now beginning to understand this archaic fear that creative people often mention.

What if this is it?

What if the words run out?

What if I don’t have anything else to say?

The cursor is blinking, the words slow and sludgy. In this moment, I am learning to listen. Really listen, in the quiet of this room, to what I want to say. Turns out, I thought I was pretty good at doing this… but it’s not the same as the flow of consciousness that journaling masters. When I want the words to be crafted for other people to read into something that may be helpful or illuminating, that’s really when the fear kicks in.

Listening to yourself is really, really hard. The Buddhists call our incessant, unresolved thoughts the monkey mind, and my gibbering primates are well-trained up there to fill the void. Learning to wrangle and reign them in is not easy. I listen to what deserves my time now, what is worth filing away for later, and what needs to be let go because it’s untrue or unhelpful. I wonder about what I need to write, try to cut through my longings and fears about what you will think, and then try and figure out how on earth I get that down in a coherent way for you to read.

I started the blog on the 12th January; I’ve now passed the 30-day mark. 30 days is significant to me because my previous experience with delivering a similar type of work for people was limited to 30 days.

30 days and I got to the finish line. 30 days and I literally got a ‘commencement address’, a certificate and a medal. I got to change my alarm to a reasonable hour and I got my social life back. I worked hard and learned a heap and was quietly thrilled for those 30 days to be over.

This 30-day mark is a little different. I only just noticed it has passed by counting the days on my chain of commitment. My focus has been on doing the work. I didn’t look for the reward this time. No-one’s going to give me one. This is my mahi (work). My motivation has to be intrinsic. I’m here for the infinite game. The journey is the point.

Thirty days later, I know that I have to fight for the words. The blank page doesn’t get any less intimidating. I can’t plan everything in advance. I’m confronted every morning with what I don’t know. And yet, the discipline of getting up at the same time, looking at my brain-written list of blog posts titles, picking one and starting to thrash is quietly taking its place amongst the daily rhythm of everything else that fills my time.

It hasn’t become a habit, not yet. But in the last 30 days, in my own start to this marathon where it’s the long haul that matters, I am learning:

  • How to cope with a blank page, a new idea, how to communicate what I mean and how to press ‘Post’ without losing my nerve
  • That the discipline is really hard, and really worthwhile cultivating
  • To be vulnerable and lean into my creativity
  • That every day I become a little less scared and a little more generous

The initial silence is the scariest part. Like before I hit my stride in a run, those first minutes feel awkward, clunky, frustrating. My imposter is at full volume. But then, the magic starts to happen. Where I feared I would stay silent, I find that I have something to share. Better than that, I have found the confidence to share it.

I’m still really scared. And yet, in my bones I know this is a good thing to do.

“Are you paralysed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
Steven Pressfield, the War of Art

Throughout these 30 days, I have learned by feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

Here’s to just getting started.