I’m a starter. When I read, I place a bookmark where I’ve left off. “I’ll finish later,” I tell myself. Sometimes I do. Often I don’t. Bookmarks wag from my unfinished reading like my first grade teacher’s tongue when she admonished, “Tisk, tisk, Richard, put some gasoline in your tank.” I wish I had my current wisdom back then to tell Mrs. Higgins, “I love the rush of a new idea. My work will be completed in it’s own time.”
Why are beginnings exciting? When we start projects we give ourselves permission to make mistakes. Writers are encouraged, for example, to get thoughts on paper or digital media to create a “shitty first draft,” that Anne Lamott defines in Bird By Bird. Revisions, the work of writing, will follow in due course. With each revision, our labor increases as standards for accuracy, relevance, and importance shift from the writer to the reader.
“Tisk, tisk,” readers of our finished work might say, “This is not what I wanted.” We don’t have similar admonishments for first drafts because we only have to please ourselves.
When we begin projects they belong only to us. Our beginnings embody who we are, what we represent, and what we will do (our essence). We find comfort in what we create because we don’t have to satisfy others. Sometimes we create a thousand new ideas. Each creation represents our essence. At the birth of an idea it is not relevant which idea will take root and grow to completion. I suggest that you start many projects and trust that some of them will flourish to completion.
This season we watched a small thistle grow in our garden. Each day she grew by inches. Soon, blossoms the color of sunrise emerged. Then, before we noticed, wind had distributed thousands of her seeds. Each seed held her essence. Next season some of her seeds will sprout and grow in environments that are conducive to this thistle’s essence. Other seeds will land and attempt to grow where the environment is unsuitable and where they are not wanted. “Tisk, tisk, Mr. Seedling, grow in the field where you belong, not in my flowerbed,” says next year’s gardener.
When we start projects, our objective is to generalize what we want to create. Often, like the thistle, we don’t know the conclusion of our journey. As a result, our beginner’s mind sees what is possible rather than errors and omissions in our work.
A friend recently returned from his first visit to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. He described experiences of grandeur. My friend noticed his impressions of the cathedral’s architecture, not what was missing. He held the beginner’s mind as he visited something he had not witnessed before.
When I sing new songs and play music I have composed for piano, especially at recitals, I perform mostly for myself. My audience absorbs what they want to hear. They don’t experience my mistakes. Their beginner’s minds transcend my shitty first draft. They enjoy what is possible rather than what was present in my performance.
Appreciate the passion and creative freedom of starting projects. Find comfort in your slowly maturing completions. Like the thistle, send a thousand examples of your essence outward on the wind. Some of your ideas will stick and grow. Those that grow will mature to completion, in their own time, and in environments that are conducive to your essence.
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a life coach, musician, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.