16: A life of possibility.
- December 4, 2016 -
Whenever I find myself working through a temporary bout of writer’s block, one of my favourite remedies is to simply sit at my computer, open up a blank page, and write without stopping for 500 words.
While I’m doing this, I don’t limit myself by time, and I’m not even particularly concerned about the precision with which I hit my word count. The purpose of this exercise is not to, say, get closer to completing a certain piece of writing, or even to convey any meaningful information. Quite simply, the purpose of this exercise is for me to recognize that, no, it really isn’t so difficult to get down to work, and that, yes, I am capable of doing it.
Over time, I came to realize that this was precisely why it has always been such a successful exercise for me: because, each time, I show up to the task without any expectations as to what might come out of it.
I have no expectation that what I produce during that period of time will be any good. If anything, I expect that the opposite will be true: I expect that what I write won’t be very good at all, that it will be embarrassingly lackluster, and that it might even be so bad that I’ll want to delete it as soon as I’m done.
.. But I let it be all of those things, and that’s what matters. I make room for all kinds of messy possibilities, I invite them in like a gracious host, and I dive in without taking the work too seriously.
. . .
As we grow older, we don’t often allow ourselves this kind of exploratory freedom. No, the older we get, the more we start requiring our inputs to lead to outputs. We expect that the things we do — that everything we do — will produce tangible results, and we consider ourselves to have failed if they don’t.
This, I think, is one of the greatest differences between life as a child and life as an adult: unlike us, children simply don’t think in such limited terms. They have no expectations when they sprawl across the floor to play with their toys, go running around outside, or spread their crayons across the kitchen table and start to draw.
They don’t have an extended inner-debate about whether or not they should do something. All they have is the desire to explore, and, within a split second, they make the decision to act on it. They don’t know precisely where it will lead them, but they have a kind of deep-seated, implicit trust that it will lead somewhere.
By the time we reach adulthood, we lose sight of this blissfully present state of ease and acceptance that was once so central to our lives. In its place, what we now have are lists of things we should be doing, places we should be going, and goals we should be meeting.
For the vast majority of us, the freedom to pursue possibility, to simply try something out and not expect it to lead anywhere, is rarely on any of these lists.
.. But what might happen if it was?