A Welcome Landing Place

Revisiting the why behind our work

Apr 30, 2023

Motivation Writing Creative Process Creativity Art
black and white photo of human palm with leaf

Photo by Ullash Borah

It’s the last full week of April. This is around the time of year where my motivation to keep going with my goals and resolutions that were set at the beginning of the year begins to take a deep dive. Especially around my creative goals. And it doesn’t help that Mercury is in retrograde. The old insidious questions I try hard to push to the back of my mind resurface—what is the point of all this? Why am I wasting my time? What do I even have to offer? The inner voice can be the harshest critic. All the experts and articles say that at this point, when the impetus to keep pursuing your dreams has waned and the routine of everyday life begins to take its toll, you have to come back to your “why.” The reason you’re doing the chasing to begin with. It will be the only thing left when all the other players have left the ring.

Maybe my why is not strong enough, I think to myself. Maybe it’s not important enough. Or could it be that I need to revisit it and see if it still holds true? What I don’t hear the articles mention is that it is ok to change your why. It is perfectly acceptable to have a different why this year than you did last year. It is YOUR why and yours alone. And no one can enforce it but you. That is both its gift and its curse. Others can encourage and support you, but only you can show up, day in and day out, and do the work.

Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.

~Isabel Allende

When I really think about it, there is nothing physically hard about coming into my writing room, sitting at my desk, opening my laptop, and beginning to type. It could not be simpler. What makes it difficult is the mental and emotional load I bring with me into the room, all the stories I tell myself before I ever sit down to write. All the self-doubt and self-sabotage. Memories of past failures. Of having tried and given up, over and over. These all lay heavy overhead, like the somber clouds of an approaching storm.

Even if I were able to break through these clouds, there is another element that I face when I sit down—the silence…

The stillness and isolation that fill the room. Ironically, I need these in order to write, but if I’m not careful, they can become suffocating. The space they open up can quickly be filled up with my thoughts, cascading from my mind all over the floor. This is the reason our why is critical to any goal achievement. It serves as the anchor, grounding us, bringing us back to shore and onto solid ground. Without it, we can keep floating in the sea of our nagging inner dialogue. That is no place from which to create anything substantial.

Motivation can only get us so far at any rate. It, like our emotions, ebbs and flows, often unpredictably. The other ingredients we need are a stubborn persistence, a deep-rooted faith, and good habits. I must admit, I don’t have all three of these on a daily basis. Most days I maybe only have one, but it’s enough to carry me through. Does the voice of self-doubt sometimes echo louder than the others and win out? Absolutely. Do I come back, bruised and disheartened but believing that I can still create something worth putting out? Wholeheartedly. If I believe in nothing else, I believe in the power and beauty of words to move us.

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

~John Keating

Lately, however, I’ve come across another underestimated ingredient that gets a bad rep—feedback. When we creatives make something and put it out into the world, often what helps us continue to do so is receiving feedback from said world. This is not to say we cater our work to the whims of our audience, definitely not. But having our work affirmingly resonate with others is a gratifying feeling. Knowing it is making a difference, however small, in the life of someone else can add fuel to our almost extinguished fire. There is dynamic power in that symbiotic relationship between creator and consumer. This is especially important for the beginning creator looking to grow in self-confidence. She may need positive feedback to help propel her forward.

We can certainly choose to create in a vacuum, not sharing our work and keeping it to ourselves. But for those that desire to offer it up for consumption by others, that response to our work is beneficial. Unfortunately it also comes with criticism, but that is the risk we take in choosing to share. Receiving feedback of any kind also lets us know who our audience is, who they are made up of. We may have a population in mind when creating, but we can’t predict who will be moved by the work. Us writers cannot anticipate how our words will land in the minds and hearts of others. How much resonance the life experiences we write about will have with the reader.

Maybe that alone is why enough—to put something into the world that will find a welcome landing place.

To create knowing it will find its home and have the potential to plant seeds of insight, affirmation, or knowledge of some kind that will help the reader. Writing with the intention of expressing our shared experience of humanity. Being able to offer something that someone else will recognize and validate, and possibly treasure. This is a why that can motivate me to keep writing, to keep creating. Because we need each other’s gifts, whether we realize it or not. Both the person creating an offering and the one receiving it are blessed through this reciprocal exchange. We are receivers of each other’s heartfelt contributions.

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

~Pablo Picasso

I firmly believe that God planted gifts in us not so that we would store them away, but that we would use them to glorify Him and lift each other up. On days when the stillness feels confining, I have to believe that these words have a purpose outside myself; that they will find resting grounds in homes I will never visit and hearts I will never meet but hope to bless. I must trust that God will carry them where they need to go, bind them to the ears that need to hear them. I only need to show up, sit in a quiet room, and “bleed” words, as Hemingway said. And just maybe, if my words find their home, so will I.