Enjoy life now... it has an expiration date.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Newspaper column for March 2009

Wisdom of the ages: ancient advice on an age-old obstacle

When I find myself waiting for inspiration before writing or painting I think of a favorite quote: "The muse comes to the moving pen."

In other words, don’t wait for inspiration; begin, and inspiration will follow. A guarantee of sorts... action brings inspiration.

In practice, the quote appears to hit the mark. I’ve noticed more times than one, as I sit expectantly at my computer staring at an empty white page, a kernel of an article does indeed present itself to me. Then, as I make a tentative beginning, somehow, from somewhere, the first few words are joined by others until, to my surprise, a full article appears.

This makes me wonder: how many articles have I not written, and how many pictures have I not painted because logic would seem to dictate that inspiration must come first and the beginning second. And why did I have to grow as old as I am now for this to sink in? (I hope I’m not the only one who’s taken their sweet time assimilating this little gem of truth). So now, after following the advice of this quote, I not only have a subject for my column (which Gary, my always time-conscious editor, will surely appreciate) but also a new truth to ponder.

Of course this is not, by a long shot, the first time I’ve heard this principle. Taped to my monitor is an impressive quote that reads, " Boldness has genius, power and magic. Engage, and the mind grows heated. Begin, and the work will be completed." This comes from a gentleman named Goethe who lived from 1749 to 1832. If Mr. Goethe knew this truth a couple of centuries ago, why do I, and apparently many others, still wrestle with its implementation today? Continuing on the same subject comes another quote: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." (Chinese philosopher, around 531 B.C.).

So, here we have Mr. Goethe, from a couple of hundred years ago, and an ancient Chinese philosopher from a couple of thousand years ago telling us the same thing: Don’t wait for inspiration! Get off your butt and get started! Do something! Modern day psychologists and those in the success coaching industry agree that if there is one universal human failing it’s procrastination. And procrastinate we do, on the stuff of our dreams, the implementing of our goals, because, at least in part, in the back of our minds many of us still think we don’t have the green light until we get that heady rush of inspiration.

Part and package of the begin now, don’t procrastinate doctrine is the underlying idea of a deadline. A literal deadline. At some point we will be exactly that: dead. Dust, kaput, finished, done for, pushing up daisies, kicked the bucket (whether we finished The List or not), curled up our toes, bought the farm, and all of the other euphemisms that tell us the deadline has arrived, we have run out of time. Not the most enjoyable or pleasant of subjects, but realistic and potentially motivating: Time is limited! Get started!

Think of the Biblical parable of the landowner who, before leaving for a long journey, gave out talents (money) to his servants, various amounts according to their ability. Each man used his money differently, and each made a profit, except one, who, afraid, buried it. Today we’d say that he let fear of failure keep him from taking the first step. So the talent remained unused. A sad waste. Better a failed attempt than no attempt.

A can-do approach, like that of past president Theodore Roosevelt (someone well worth reading about) could be our most valuable asset.

Among the quotes Roosevelt left us is this jewel:

"Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘certainly I can!’ - and get busy and find out how to do it."

This no-procrastinate, get-started-now approach is also backed up by the renowned philosopher Aristotle who said, "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them."

That’s all the green light we need.

Copyright Teresa Houston, March 2009.


The Weaver of Grass said...

I do so agree with you Teresa - if we wait for things to happen they won't come our way - we have to be the instigator. This applies to so many things in life.
Where writing is concerned I always find that once I have got going I can write away - it is the getting started that is hard.

Laure Ferlita said...

Bravo!! Bravo!!

And to your wonderful quotes I will add the following:

"We should be taught NOT to wait for inspiration to start a thing. ACTION always generates INSPIRATION.
Inspiration SELDOM generates ACTION." - Frank Tibolt

I have changed the last line to Inspiration SELDOM generates ANYTHING and have this by my art table!

Thanks for an awesome reminder, Teresa!

twincedar said...

You make some good points. A lot of food for thought here.

Jan said...

Well, you're a lot younger than I am and it took me a looooong time to realize that just beginning puts a big dent in the completion of something! I think we all must be born procrastinators!

Teresa said...

Weaver: That first step is surely the hardest!

Laure: Great quote!! Hadn't seen it put that succinctly, but it's the heart of my column! And THANK YOU for your post about my post! You're such a sweetheart!

Jan: I really doubt that I'm "a lot younger" than you! But I am (and trying to make that a "was") a first class procratinator!

"JeanneG" said...

Wow so much hard thinking today. I'm not sure I am ready for that. My mind is still a little foggy from my cold. But I'm afraid I hardly ever find myself without something to say.

I am one of those who speak first and realize what I said after. So I guess that puts me in the "action first" camp. Sometimes I need to stop and think first. I have seen my hubby do a double take many times after I said something he was surprised by.

Great conversation all. Thanks.

Teresa you sure do come up with some very nice quotes. You must read books of quotes too.

Lynne said...

Gosh there's loads in there Teresa. Plenty to think about. I tend to be a procrastinator. But fortunately Mike is a doer. I think I will go and ponder on your words now.

twincedar said...

Hi, Come over to my blog, I have something for you if you want it!

Jo Castillo said...

Thanks for this post. Wakes me up a little .... a little push to get me started.

Rosie said...

Love this article, Teresa. It is all so true - I'm so guilty of putting off doing things because I let negative thoughts overtake me sometimes. I have loads of things around the house 'unfinished' that I must try to tackle. As for writing it is best just to start something, anything - it can always be altered later or even scrapped - to give a boost of confidence and to get your work started:)

Lin said...

AMEN Teresa, AMEN!! Hence, the daily practice!! LOL I tried to leave a comment on your painting below this post, but for some reason, I couldn't .. anyway -- I think this is coming out stupendously!!! What miracles you bring forth, Teresa! Fresh, incredibly shaded and pefected!!! LOVE IT!

And I hope you're doing well! Miss you!

Artist Unplugged said...

First time visitor to your site....very, very interesting! I found your site through Twin Cedars post. The Gracie portrait is very lovely. I have just copied down your five most influential books so...I'm hooked! Have a great day!

elizabethm said...

Now this is the perfect post to read on the day I arrive home from London, work put aside! Thank you. I agree utterly but it is good to see it expressed so eloquently.

Teresa said...

ElizabethM: Congratulations... you've a new life ahead of you... how exciting!

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