So how has this year counted? When my year began, I did not have any idea where it would lead me. I can not say I was brave enough to make a change only for myself or my art; my change was not so noble. My change was a practical one, based on other changes we faced in our life. But as I reflect back on the last year, I realize that I have traveled a journey so personal and so internally developmental that I cannot imagine who I would be now without all that this year has given me. I have been forced to come to terms with myself, to face who I am and how that truth does or does not line up with the person I would like to become. I have taken steps toward becoming a better version of myself: more true, more ambitious, more open. And I have practiced bravery in my journey, facing so many fears as I began to share my writing and, in doing so, reached harder toward my dreams.
But this is not a year-long process, now arrived at completion. I have another year to consider now: the year that comes next. Growth begets more growth, if our lives are committed to the journey towards our truth. So many messages surround us which tell us to get comfortable, settle in, hold on tightly to what we know and have. They tell us to decide where our lives are going, and then gird up as much protection as possible in our material things and in forms of control we can take over our circumstances. We surround ourselves, in order to close ourselves off from the possibility of more change coming. I have known people who live like this, tucking themselves into their lives to weather whatever change will come their way, instead of walking forward bravely to see where they might end up if they were to look change squarely in the face. I have been this type of person myself, in other years.
The changes to which I refer are not the big, bold situational changes, which uproot you to a new place, or change your career entirely. Those changes are necessary sometimes, to shake up all that you know and set you on a completely different course. But there is another language of change which is often harder to hear. These are the whispers I am hearing lately, suggesting smaller, more subtle changes within myself and my daily choices and actions. It is so important to practice listening to these whispers, and what they are telling me is that a beginning is only a beginning. This may seem so obvious, but for me it has not been. I am learning that the immediate relief and pride I feel at one beginning only leads to the discipline of continuing, which is in turn followed by more necessary beginnings. Life as a journey versus a destination. I began by sharing my writing, but I know deep inside that that was only one beginning, and another beginning hovers, waiting for me to to be ready. Now I must begin to complete my stories and to work on my novel and to push myself harder towards my dreams of being published. This process of beginning and then beginning again must be what makes our creative lives truly worth living.
My next beginning is here and now. I am scared to start anew, again. I am so quick to forget the bravery and pride I felt at my last beginning, so quick to feel overwhelming fear and dread in facing another beginning. But I am pledging to myself, and to you, here and now, that I will focus my energy and effort this week on this new beginning. I will put time and effort into my stories and spend hours with my "bottom in the chair," and see what I can make of this time. It helps me to imagine what I would tell you, as you face your own beginnings. I would tell you to be brave, to "begin anywhere," to follow the whispering voice within, to believe that your bravery will lead you into your truth and the fulfillment of your dreams.
Whichever beginning is next for you is always going to feel the scariest, because it is the one you have to face now. Whether it means putting pen to paper to write even one word, or taking a class, or sharing your work, or sending your writing to publishers, or even just saying the words aloud that you are a writer, every step brings its own terror and obstacles. And the same is true of every art, every level of beginning in your creative practice and goals. The ultimate goal is to be able to create bravely, from within your deep, true self, and this is not about one year or one beginning - it is the practice of a lifetime.
What is your own next beginning? I would love to cheer you on, if you care to share!!