•••Each day is new, with no mistakes in it. Take a picture.•••
Hmmmm. Starting points. That’s rather interesting, isn’t it? But where am I in The War of Art?
Well, apparently, I’m at a starting point. Funny how things work out.
OK, here’s how I got to Starting Points this evening: I took a look back at something I wrote on May 21st. A few days before that, I created a folder on my computer and named it “Start.” Since then, I’ve filled the folder with documents—41, as of this writing, and each document (except the one called “Fiction Practice”) has a date for a name. When I feel the need to write, copy down something that seems important or worth coming back to, or just have something to say, I open a new document, type the date at the top, then save it with that same date for the document’s name. For the past three or four days, I’ve been venturing back to the beginning to see if there’s anything there worth dealing with.
Tonight, I found something. Here are my words from 052117:
Last night I finished reading Sally Mann’s memoir, Hold Still. Earlier today I finished reading The Beautiful Mystery, a murder mystery by Louise Penny. I few minutes ago, I reread a few pages in Jon Acuff’s Start.*
Acuff talks about maps and how important the starting point is. You can’t figure out where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. The monks in The Beautiful Mystery had the priceless first book of plainchant in their possession and didn’t know it. What made it priceless? The dot on the very first page that established a starting point for the neumes, predecessors of musical notes. And Sally Mann? Every aspect of her life and art revolves around her father and the love he so stingily kept to himself. Mann’s relationship with her father was the starting point for everything that followed in her life.
Once we figure out what our starting point is, we have a choice to make. We get to decide on which path we take that first step.
That all-important starting point: it seems to harbor a secret that few of us have discovered. It moves. It disappears. It’s erasable.
Isn’t that a paradox, though? In the first paragraph, I gave three examples illustrating how critical it is to figure where we are before moving forward.
OK, back to the here and now:
I guess what I was getting at is this: If the starting point is so important, why isn’t it static? Further, if it’s not static, we can pick any starting point we want whenever we want. In other words, today is new with no mistakes in it (and yeah, go on out and take a picture).
Let me go back to what I wrote for a moment. In The Beautiful Mystery, the start for the cloistered, plainchant-singing monks was immoveable, and it went back hundreds of years. In fact, I’d go far as to say that all was good until one of the monks decided to make a new start. So perhaps it (static start vs. changeable start) is not as straightforward as one would like to think.
But then there’s Sally Mann, who seems unable to move her starting point, perhaps because she is unaware that it is her starting point. One day not all that long ago, it hit me that the verses from the Bible that deal with the “sins of the fathers,” like Numbers 14:18, The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations, likely hits much too close to home for many of us, but that’s not to say I believe that God punishes children for the sins of their parents. Parents punish children: every single day, parents make decisions that have the potential to cause lifelong repercussions for their children, and a multitude of studies bears this out.
OK, but what about Mr. Pressfield in The War of Art? Today’s reading is the chapter (section?) titled “The Unlived Life.” He writes:
To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. Genius is a Latin word; the Romans used it to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling. A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It is our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.
Every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is Resistance. As powerful as is our soul’s call to realization, so potent are the forces of Resistance arrayed against it. …
Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone.
Unless I’m crazy, Pressfield is telling me to make the next moment the starting point. Unless I’m crazy, he’s not telling me that the starting point is way back there and I missed it.
*Apparently, I was on a tear.