What Are You Waiting For?
One of my favourite books is Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.
In it, Dr Seuss writes of “a most useless place” called “The Waiting Place”…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
There’s always a time when we find ourselves waiting. Now, I’m not talking about waiting in a queue or waiting for something arrive or anything like that. Of course, there are times we have to wait. That’s life. And for sure, there are things in life that we should wait for. But …
The type of ‘waiting’ I’m writing about here about is the waiting for something to happen with our creative life. It’s a silent waiting that borders on procrastination but isn’t. It’s a waiting that takes up our mental space and creative thoughts, but never materialises into anything. It’s the to-do list that never seems to get ticked off. We’ll be doing other stuff, for sure, but we’re also using the ‘other stuff’ to distract us from the waiting we’re really doing.
With me now? Good.
Ok, so, here’s the thing: we might know what we’re waiting for but we don’t always know why we’re waiting. Oh, sure; there’s plenty of reasons the we might say (the time’s not right, I’m working on it, I’m busy at the moment, etc.). Yet when we push past the excuses, we’re not actually waiting for anything. We say we are, but there’s deeper emotions at play.
When it all comes down to it, the emotions above (and those like them) are holding the reins because you’re careering towards a new and uncharted destination — The Unknown. And rather than go to The Unknown we decide to take a detour to The Waiting Place instead.
But as Dr Seuss so wisely informs us — it’s a useless place. Why?
Because NOTHING HAPPENS THERE.
Zip. Zero. Nadda. A whole big lot of … nothing.
So why would we rather put ourselves in The Waiting Place instead of The Unknown?
Ultimately it comes down to safety and security. There’s a warmth in what we already know. The islands have been charted. You know the inhabitants. You know the pitfalls and dangers, and you know exactly how to overcome the challenges that await you. It’s a board (bored?) game where you know the answers and strategies. It’s the road already travelled. Sure, there’s be subtle differences, but ultimately you already know the set up, the journey, and the destination. And because it’s already travelled: you already know the outcome. There’s nothing new here. The mountain been conquered and you’re just climbing it again.
I’m a total sucker for The Waiting Place. It’s safe. It’s nice. There are days (months even) where I’m happy to be there — even though there’s a nagging in the back of my soul that’s telling me to get the hell out.
But creativity isn’t necessarily about being safe. It’s about diving — nay, hurtling yourself — into The Unknown. It’s about pushing yourself, stretching your boundaries, digging way underneath the surface and finding that gold. It’s exploring the things that frighten us. It’s discovering new territories and concepts and ideas and ideologies. It’s breaking out of what you already know to incorporate the sheer bizarreness of something new.
It’s about the fear, the panic, the excitement, and the thumping of your heart that ultimately creates what we all long for: our unique personal expression of creativity.
See, when we create within The Waiting Place, we create safe.
When we create within The Unknown, we create something that is yet-to-be-known.
And yet, here’s the rub: once you’ve created in The Unknown, it begins to transform into The Waiting Place, and you have to thrust yourself back into The Unknown by taking a risk.
That’s what it all comes down to.
Are we willing to risk what we know to discover all that we are yet to know?
I hope so. That’s why we create. It’s why I write. It’s the stories that I haven’t been told. It’s the songs I’m yet to write. It’s the styles and instrumentations I haven’t explored, and the time signatures I generally don’t write in. It’s the words and phrases I’m yet to piece together. As much as I like The Waiting Place, I get excited by The Unknown more. Why? Because it’s where great things can happen.
So, if you’re in The Waiting Place, it’s time to sell up and get out. Make that call. Enter that competition. Research that idea. Catch that ride. Make every day your creative day. Make the opportunities happen. Ask the big questions. Put your hands on the tools of your choice and create something, even if it’s not that great. Do it anyway.
And when discovering The Unknown becomes the normal, you’ll no longer be an inhabitant (and even a slave to) The Waiting Place.
Don’t thank me — Thank Dr Seuss.
Until next time,
Blog ya later!
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