Journeys, Steps, & Other Relevant Clichés

June 18, 2013



Tomorrow we drive to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for my younger sister's wedding. My younger sister's wedding! It feels strange, because I swear it wasn't that long ago that said sister was born, and I was carting her around on my hip and sewing her doll a fashionable, but velcro-heavy wardrobe (yes-- once upon a time I was very crafty). 

I'm really grateful for these time markers, like Katie's wedding. As easy as it is to get fixated on The Want, and where I'm trying to go, I like the opportunity to remember where I've been: proof that I've slowly been moving towards the person I want to be. Somehow, it's reassuring, especially to a person afraid of stagnation and the ticking of the clock. 

In this life I'm really lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of talented creative people, constantly inspiring me with their drive and vision. Perhaps unavoidably, there is a lot of talk about goals, dreams, and future projects. Almost everyone I know who falls into this Creative Maker and Doer category suffers from a similar problem: 

The list of goals & plans gets written faster than they get achieved. 

We get the idea right away, but the steps to actualizing it take time. This is reality, but sometimes it starts to mess with our heads, and causes us to feel really stuck. And the stuck-ness ripples out, and makes us do all kinds of crazy things, like decide to give up on a project, or think really self-destructive thoughts, or stop taking action altogether. If I had a dollar for every stuck-feeling creative person, my coop groceries would be permanently paid for. 

I wish I could give us all some form of a mild sedative that tricks our brains into focusing only on the tiny (and very doable) steps ahead, rather than seeing the gigantic and seemingly unclimbable mountain (I promised clichés in this post and I'm delivering). Because, the only important thing is that we are somehow moving FORWARD, not that we have arrived at our fabulous destination. The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu was right: 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  

If we could just all keep our heads down and make those single tiny steps every day, and somehow work hard to not get frustrated or ahead of ourselves, I think there would be some pretty kickass results. Recently I read this Brain Pickings article on creativity and habit, and was especially taken by this quote: 

We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently. Anthony Trollope, the nineteenth-century writer who managed to be a prolific novelist while also revolutionizing the British postal system, observed, "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules." 
--gretchen rubin-- 

So, maybe it all comes down to identifying the tiny steps we need to take, and then preventing ourselves from analyzing our progress for a while. Do more, think less. Make one small step every single damn day, and insist to yourself that it's moving you somewhereThen wait until your little sister gets married, and be reminded of how far you've come since you were belting showtunes at the piano as a kid, or making that shitty piece of choreography in college comp class. Take a deep breath, and keep going. 

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