sit the fuck down and stop trying.

image via instagram @jkbren

Ever had something you really wanted to do — a passion, a dream, something you wanted to create — but didn’t know where to start?

Maybe it’s still living on your back burner right now, nessled under the category labeled tomorrow or someday.

That’s most of my to do list.

Case in point: you shoulda seen all the bullshit I did on my way to sitting down to write just now.

I organized my to do list (somehow this never leads to me actually doing any of it), washed the dishes, responded to all my text messages, posted an instagram story, sat down to write, wrote a few sentences, changed the water filter, made some tea, thought about moving my laptop into the living room because there’s more light in there, and then I caught myself.


I wanted everything to be squared away before I started.

I wanted to have an idea.

I was afraid of this moment.

// This is the moment I dive into the wide open ocean of possibility with no directions to follow or anyone else to tell me what to do. The moment I’m confronted by the mess of my mind and the massive overwhelm of trying to make sense of all the shit swirling and growing inside & around me. The moment I wonder if I’ve used up all the good ideas, or if all those other times I made stuff were just flukes and now I’m fucked.

Of course, this is also why I love it —

To muck through muddled thoughts & confusion until I finally get a hit of inspiration and one Idea jumps out in front of all the others, and I follow it and build a structure for it to live in, carve away the cute but unnecessary extras, and polish polish till all that’s left is a shiny product I can hand deliver to the world like Look what I made!

But then it comes time to do it again, and I am pummeled by a creative amnesia wherein my wild brain compares itself to my most recent final product, forgetting that everything started from this blank slate of overwhelming possibility.

// Inevitably I sit there for a while, trying to figure out how to make something good. This is something like swimming in a sinkhole of my own creation. Eventually I get sick of feeling stuck, and that voice looms ever closer to my ear, reminding me to just. fucking. write.

Something, anything.

Because I remember that I do not, in fact, actually know how to make anything good.

See, I know my grammar and syntax, how to mix colors and lay paint, how to beat match and blend harmonies, how to sing from my diaphragm and unclench my throat.

But none of that actually makes good art.

// So then my creative amnesia brain looks around for the answer, and sees the bouquet of wildflowers on my desk. And I remember (again) that those stems did not have to struggle or worry about how to make those blossoms. They didn’t have to think about how to build themselves out of light, water, and air.

This is just what life does.

The biological term for life’s magical organizational force is called negentropy. It takes disparate elements and organizes them into cohesive structures and functions. None of nature’s works are “original.” Flowers are water and sunlight, remixed and channeled by negentropy through each unique plant as a spontaneous expression of mathematical elegance.

It is the opposite of randomness. It is intelligent. And it is mysterious.

We don’t know why or how it does what it does, but we see the fruits of its labor everywhere.

Similarly, when I create something, it’s never out of nothing. I’m crafting my memories, emotions, experiences, inspirations, and subconscious inklings into a new form that (hopefully) invites us all to see life in a new way.

We can observe the mechanics of how something transmutes raw material into new creation. And we can gather the tools and skills of our craft to help shape and guide our creations as they come through us.

But the fundamental function of this process is a mystery.

And the difference between us and plants is that we can get in the way of it. We can do the dishes and organize our to do lists and make tea instead of sitting down to write.

So our most important job?

Showing the fuck up, so the mystery can do its thing.

There’s nothing we need to figure out to get it to do its thing. Its thing is it’s thing. That’s just what it does.

But it can’t do it if we’re not there for it.

// When I finally sit down and start writing, after I shake the dust from my mind and get into a generative flow, at some point it will hit me: an insistent succession of words pouring into my brain faster than I can type.

And instead of struggling to figure something out, I’m scrambling to keep up with this moving train of ideas, hoping to catch & pin them down on paper before they roll right past me.

Then I go back with my grammar and syntax, and polish them up into a structure, like how I might dip a pretty glass into the river of inspiration so you can have a drink.

But the pretty glass is not the water.

Before I drown you in aqueous metaphors, let’s go back to the plants:

The mess of your mind is your raw material, your soil + sunlight. Your tools are your watering can, your southern exposure, your daily watering habit.

I cannot explain the part that makes good art.

But it will show up for you if take your dreams off the backburner, sit down, and show up for it.

Again. And again. And again.