I was reading a poem recently, and a turn of phrase caught my ear. I won’t reprint it here, because the specific turn of phrase isn’t the important part.

What matters is this:

As I read that poem, I realized that I can only be affected by the words that are in that poem.

I can’t be affected by the words that weren’t in that poem.

And that got me thinking about the creative process.

The domino effect

One thing… (one thing)… leads to a-no-o-o-ther…

The Miracle of Making Something from Nothing

To get started in any business or project, you need a reason.

Maybe you have a vision you want to bring to life, a problem you want to solve, a skill you want to improve, or an experience you want to have simply for the act of doing it.

Any of those is reason enough.

But I think we often get trapped in the idea of having too much of a plan.

Overprepared for vacation

Good thing we’re only here for the weekend…

Risk Is a Feature, Not a Bug

Sure, when you first start something it helps to have a blueprint or outline.

You need an idea of where you’re headed. You probably have a glimpse in your mind of what you want to make and how you want it to affect people. And you may even see the whole finished product in your head so clearly that the thought of not executing it exactly that way paralyzes you with fear…

So, instead, you do nothing at all. Because creating something less than what you envision terrifies you.

Or, you start writing (or painting, or drawing, or dancing, or singing, or…) and what comes out isn’t exactly what you intended to make, or what you thought you wanted to say…

So you stop.

Or, you keep going… but now you’re going into the weeds, into the wilderness, into this uncharted place where what you’re making takes on a life of its own, and you feel beholden to this new thing…

And you look over your shoulder to try to remember what it was that you intended to make in the first place…

And you get lost.

Creation is like this.

Art is like this.

Business is like this.

Love is like this.

Life is like this.

We all have an idea of where we’d like to go, and what we’d like to look like when we get there

… and then we get stuck.

Maybe we turn back.

Maybe we go in a new direction.

Maybe we never even begin at all… and then we see others doing variations of the idea we thought was “ours” alone, and we get jealous and resentful because who let them succeed when we didn’t even let ourselves try?

And this is what holds us back: the disconnect between what we imagine ourselves to be capable of and what actually happens when we try.

It makes us feel vulnerable when we finally take a calculated risk, put one foot in front of the other (or put a pen to paper, or a finger to keyboard) and start awkwardly moving toward our idealized creation — one step, one word, one image, one letter at a time.

Navigating that much uncertainty can be overwhelming.

(Trust me, I thought I would have accomplished far more in my life by now than I have, so I know how you feel when you think about what you want to do.)


Here’s the thing:

I can only be moved by the words you write.

The world can only be affected by the actions you take.

I have no idea what that poet whose work I was reading deleted from her poem. I have no idea how long it took her to write it. I have no idea how else it could have turned out, or how close it came to never even being written. Only she does. (And maybe even she doesn’t.)

But everything it could have been — or what she wanted it to be — doesn’t matter.

All that matters in the end are two things:

She created a poem that wasn’t there before.

And it made me feel something… which made me think something… which made me write this.

And this might make you feel, think, and do something yourself.

This is how the dominoes of our lives work.

But you have to tip the first one over.

Image: The Domino Effect by Kurt:S on Flickr.

If You Like This Post

… you may also like this post about how to overcome imposter syndrome, or this post about a 30-Day Challenge that can help you start accomplishing big goals in small pieces.

The 30 Day Challenge That Actually Works



Sarah Weissman · March 16, 2016 at 6:41 pm

Just got around to reading it as it was saved in my Archive. This is gorgeous, Justin!

    Justin Kownacki · March 16, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Thank you, Sarah! I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I hope you’re making something you’re excited about right now.

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