Pushing Past the Devil and the Empty Well

Waiting for inspiration is the devil in disguise. That feeling of limitless potential, of the world laid out before you, begging to be discovered, explored, colonized, made real; that feeling intoxicates me into inaction.

How can I improve on that feeling of endless possibility? How can one person, crude in aspect and clumsy in skill, take even one tiny part of this bounty and hope to make something worthwhile by simply changing its form? How can one person possibly improve to the point of mastery in any craft?

Here’s how: Empty the well. Put the effort into drawing the bucket up from the depths. Feel the coolness. See the clarity. Smell the earthy depths dissolved in life-giving liquid. Drink deep. Put the words on paper. Remove the bits stone that aren’t parts of your statue. Take what you think you’re capable of and go one step beyond. Overextend. Exhaust yourself with the very act of creation.

Screw up more often and more gloriously than you thought possible. Relish failure, but learn to do something better next time. Explode on the launch pad if you must, but try to get something off the ground.

And when you have no ideas left, when you’re confident in your worthlessness, when you know the Impostor Police are coming for you and you wait for their insistent knock, when your well runs dry, only then will you see that you still have something left to give. Ideas will still come to you, but you might not see them as valid.

Like this bit of writing. 259 words as of the previous period, and all because I despaired of having something to write. Platitudes suck, but that doesn’t make them less true. Leap and the net will appear. Show up ready to work and something will happen, even if it doesn’t fit your ideal mind-projection of how your life will be. Grass grows through cracks in concrete, forcing the man-imposed construction back to its component bits, imposing Nature’s will quietly and persistently.

You will get there. Wherever you’re going, you will get there, even if you don’t recognize it at first. Put in the work. Don’t stress about success – “success” is a myth that kills dreams instead of creating them. You will never pause and say “I’ve made it. I can stop now.” No. You will always strive for something, and in that striving is your greatness. Success is not a plateau, it’s a cliff that you jump off every day and hope you’re fast enough to build a bridge, or a parachute, or a jetpack, or anti-gravity boots before gravity realizes you have nothing to stand on.

Get up every day and do whatever makes you you. One word follows the other, and before you know it you have a novel’s worth of words collected from the scraps that fell out of your head. Or a game’s worth. Or a portfolio’s worth of music or visual art. Or a spectacular app. Or a home.

Try things. Experiment. Gamble. Throw caution to the wind. Push. Blow past the limits of “acceptable” and “possible” into new space. Keep at it. Make it work, or if it just won’t work, take the idea and the bits that seem OK and start building something else.

Failure is always an option. Failing to start is not.

Start something. Finish it. Start something else.

Go. Do.

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