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The Security of Baby Steps

Updated: Sep 16


I’ve been meditating on the balance between inspiration and action, working on a project when I’m fired up compared to powering through to the finish line when I’m tired or uninspired. Figuring out this balance is key to understanding when to let inspiration and creativity flow and when discipline will help me complete a project.


Journaling has always been a part of my life, but since I started writing morning pages (an exercise from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way) repeating themes have emerged. One of them is fear. Fear of finishing, fear of success, fear of failure. Fear is such a vulnerable feeling to admit because it suggests weakness. But fear, when looked squarely in the face, reveals areas of action. It bears repeating—fear, turned inside-out, reveals action.


Fear of failure, for example, when unmasked, is nothing more than a viewpoint, either what you think of yourself or what someone else thinks of you. Imagine all the actors who receive bad reviews for one play, then receive rave reviews on the next. Which opinion should they take to heart? My answer is neither. Because what counts is the experience of a well-lived life. Of course, advice and critiques are part of learning a craft, whether it’s writing, painting, dancing, music, acting or any other creative endeavor. Certain opinions teach valuable lessons on how to create a better product or how give a better performance. But what I’m talking about is stopping the flow of creativity because you’ve handed over your power to fear. That’s dangerous because it can cause you to give up pursuing your artistic dreams.


As I analyzed my own fear, I realized it was my creative power that shook me the most. What I mean is summed up in this question: who will I be if I fully embrace my own creative power? The answer so far is: I don’t know. I don’t fully understand who that person might be, what creative power actually means to her, where her creative power lives. What this means, I think, is that I don’t actually believe I’m capable of a certain type of creativity.


Luckily, I don’t have to grow into this person all at once. Baby steps are the perfect metaphor for what I’m going through. I’m wobbly, excited, crying when I fall down, and exhilarated when I make it across the room. Visualizing the person I want to be has helped immensely, too. Still, growing is difficult. It requires pushing yourself out of your shell with the unknown world above—will I find rain? Will I find sun? What is rain? A little (anthropomorphized) seedling might think. But it’s worth all the risk and all the pain when the seed grows into a mighty oak.


The first draft of my second novel was finished this past Monday, and I’m in phase one of the editing process. During this time, I’ll also be writing another short story and/or painting something new. Finishing projects is important, whether or not they become great works of art, because each project teaches something new. Each project helps me grow. I’m finally embracing this idea, fear be damned! Who will I be on the other side? I have no idea. But each step on this path releases its own magic.


Until next time, wishing you baby steps towards growth!

Jan


*When I wrote Close To Dark, I wrote a short story that explained how Alida’s mother and her friend Teddy met. Teddy is one of my favorite characters because he protects Alida, my main character, and acts as her father and friend when she has no one else to turn to. The story is titled “Calling Gaia,” and it’s included in the paperback edition of Close To Dark, which you can purchase here. Thanks for reading!


*Artwork by Natalie Shau


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