Whenever I finish something, whether it is my newly minted MFA degree or a book or a play or an article, the inevitable question people ask is: “What’s next?”
This question used to bug me. It seemed to miss the point of gloriously finishing something. You know, the basking and lolling part of the process. It seemed to poke a hole in my bucket as if anything I do (or did) would never be enough.
And then I realized I was holding the bucket all wrong.
First of all, people ask the question because they are interested. That’s all. If I ascribe a bunch psycho personalizations, I am digging a big hole for myself.
As a dear friend once said, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
Next, my job as a writer is to begin again. That’s what we do. Every day. We wake up. We put words on paper. We tell the story. Again and again.
One of the smartest books on advice to writers is a little one called Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It is cult classic with good reason. This is not a book about finding your inner child, this book about the real challenges artists face everyday when they get up and face their easel, their keyboard or their wheel.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is: “Artists quit when they convince themselves that their next effort is doomed to fail. Quitting means not starting again and art is all about starting again.”
“Art is all about starting again.” Think about that next time you are gnashing your teeth about your next project and wondering whether it will be a success. Just start. You must start. Be curious.You won’t know what that story will be if you don’t start.
When the sun comes up, start. Life is all about starting again. And again.