Like a new coat of paint over a tired life, starting over, forgetting the past, sounds like a great idea. The messy slate of mistakes is wiped clean, and ahead is a shiny new start. We can put on a new face, a new attitude, a new beginning It seems like we can create a whole new identity with as little effort as a new website.
Not long into the new, it is overwhelmed by the old–habits, ideas, behavior–the old us. We bring our old selves into our new lives and leave muddy footprints in our path.
When I went to Catholic school (I’m not a Catholic, but that’s another story), I loved seeing my friends go to confession. They’d say their prayers and their sins were wiped away. Poof! Just like that, they were brand new and sin free. Unfortunately, the old habits didn’t vanish, and my guess is that the same sins got repeated in the confessional time after time. And since there were different priests, no one really noticed or cared, and little personal growth resulted.
And that’s the danger of new projects. They seem free of the past baggage, but they are not free of us. We show up with our past, and relive it because it’s familiar. In a few days that new project takes on the fingerprints of the old us. If we don’t like the old us, we’ll hate the new project, too.
I have friends who are start-up junkies. Addicted to new beginnings, these eager people will start up a company with the fervor of Ron Popeil selling the Veg-O-Matic. But they aren’t good at running a company, which seems tedious and boring, so they dash off to do another start-up, leaving the clean-up team to handle the rest.
Any beginning feels like the creative part. And it is. But the road-test of creativity is showing up every day to do the hard work. The book I am writing is hard work. It’s satisfying, and I enjoy it, but it’s not riding rainbow unicorns. It involves saying “I can’t go to the movies with you, I’m writing,” or thinking, “I need to re-write this chapter, it’s not working, even if it is the fourth re-write.” And I am deep into the re-writes of several chapters, each time realizing that I need to tell a story that is understandable and that readers can relate to.
Creative work is hard. We want to give up, we get bored, we want to do something fun and new. Yet what gets the work done is moving steadily ahead, when it’s not fun and not new. Learning from your mistakes and getting up every time you fall is what the real work of creativity. And it pays off.
–Quinn McDonald knows that books aren’t written, they are re-written. She learned that from her editor, who made her re-write several times. And sure enough, the book got better.