Holding On: Turning Empty into Full

I’ve been working. A lot. It’s been exhilarating. It’s been edifying. It’s been a heck of a lot of fun. It’s been very tiring. 

Not everything has been going my way either, I’m having to adjust midstream. I’m pushing too hard at the rocks to notice the hard places, now I’m deciding to get flexible and sneak through the hard places. A wiser man than I once told me: 

“You’re not exhausted. Just wait ’til you get older, and you’ll be just holding on.”

I had an idea of what this meant, but did not grok it and I’m not much older now. But, today, when the lack of sleep is a disappointment and not a point of pride, but mostly its an afterthought. When you have in front of you more than you are confident you can do, but you are certain it must be done because it lives in your guts and your blood, you have a chance to hold on. Your worth, and your work are no longer tied to how good you look doing it, instead you can only keep going. It is the way a musician talks of songwriting as if it is no more remarkable than collecting the recycling. A dogged, workaday quality that understands humbly that is your self not your image or your comfort that makes your work worthwhile. In this state you are prepared to hold on, to do, to make, to act, to write, to create. You may not be without judgement, but with judgement (at least for the time being) overcome. And you will not be without fear, but with fear overcome. 

For me this means taking on projects, and projects with deadlines (even some imagined ones). And freeing myself to explore and learn while I work with and for other people. Anyone who ever had a career has understood that learning means screwing up. Just because you can’t offer a guarantee doesn’t mean that you aren’t right for the job, take a risk. Don’t be afraid to risk other people’s money if they want your work. For those of us with little experience as freelancers and artists and creatives it can be especially hard to remember, they hired YOU not your CV. The worst that could happen is that you learn and have to work harder to establish your reputation in the future (sounds like fun). 

Am I doing the best work I ever have? I don’t think so. But the important distinction is that when you are prepared to hold on you no longer wish you were doing better, instead you just keep working. 

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