Today, I relaunch my Monday Inspirations series and take it in a new direction. Rather than write about the things that inspire and shape the stories that I write, I’m focusing instead on inspiration in a broader sense. Love, fear, dreams, faith — all these and more are on the menu in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!
This week, I’m thinking about the challenges that we face when we embark on new paths and leave their “cozy comfort zone cabins,” to draw on C.M. Cipriani’s wonderful phrase. As Cipriani says, it’s easy to stay snug and bundled in our little comfort zone cabins, but if we want to make magic happen, we need to bundle up, abandon our comfy spots, and trudge outside.
Perhaps you’re like me, and you’ve harbored a dream of being a published writer for as long as you can remember. Maybe you’ve always wanted to paint, or dance, or play golf, or learn to cook. Leaping off into the unknown to tackle our goal is an incredible act of faith, but what we tend to not talk about is what happens when we reach the middle.
Many of us have been there, ruddy-cheeked and bright-eyed in the throes of creative passion, trying out our newfound skills and talents… only to get knocked flat by an unexpected moment of failure. The short story that you thought was amazing gets rejected, the sketch that you labored on for weeks just isn’t measuring up to the brilliant image that you had in your head at the start. For beginners, this middle point is treacherous, a morass of despair that can derail our attempts to achieve our most treasured dreams.
This is something that I’ve been contemplating as I venture further into the world of writing, blogging, and publishing. I’ve never finished a novel; it’s much easier for me to brainstorm and plan, to write the first chunk, and then to obsessively polish and tweak it before moving on to actually complete the darn project. I’ve been trapped by that nasty midpoint more times that I care to admit, so when I found this quote from Ira Glass, host and producer of radio and television show This American Life, I had to share it. Glass, I think, sums up the conundrum perfectly.
The video below has some cool animation, but it can be a little disorienting at times, so I’ve added the full quote below the clip.
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one piece. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You just gotta fight your way through.
“You just gotta fight your way through” is going to be my new motto, my reminder that I won’t achieve my dreams without a lot of hard work and dedication. So roll up those shirtsleeves and commit yourself to the long haul. Creative brilliance is within your grasp, but you’ve gotta fight for it.
Have you ever struggled with the “treacherous mid-point”? How did you make your way through it?