There are times we’re so buried in the thick of our lives that we lose focus of what’s important, what we actually need, what enhances our lives, and what holds us back.
So much seems to call our attention, drain our time, seduce us into thinking it’s the-most-essential-thing-in-the-world-ever-and-if-we-don’t-attend-to-it-right-now-very-bad-things-will-happen, that we end up reeling dazedly from task to task, project to project, day to day, feeling like we’ve had our head in a washing machine on its fastest spin cycle. About 50 times in succession.
It’s immensely helpful then to re-evaluate what we have, what we need, and what we want.
A great way of doing this is to simply consider this question:
What if we started all over again?
Take this basic example to get us started – Clothing. If you lost your entire wardrobe, every item of clothing you owned, how would you start again? What are the first ten items you would purchase? What if you only had a hundred pounds or dollars? What do you actually need to go about your day?
This may seem like a trivial example, but it explains the principle of this exercise very well, and can reveal a few unexpected truths.
If you did start again with your clothes, do you think you’d manage perfectly well with less than you do now? Maybe only half the items you have now? Only a quarter?
What about furniture? If you lost all you have and could buy just five pieces to get started again, what would they be? What are the core essentials, the things you genuinely don’t feel you could live without?
Moving on to your creative life, what about your art materials?
If you lost everything and were starting all over again, what would the first ten items you invested in be?
This will vary depending on your main art forms of course. A writer may need only a laptop, whereas if you’re a painter you’ll need brushes, canvases, a variety of paint and so on.
Or do you?
What are the true essentials you need to create?
Any one of us could be given nothing but a pad of paper and a pencil for a week, and create interesting, expressive work, whether it be words, sketches, plans, designs, musical notation, interior schemes, choreography for a dance performance, a new fashion line, or a thousand other things.
The list of what can be created with just a pencil and paper is endless.
How would actually feel if you did lose everything overnight?
Does the thought fill you with panic and dread, or actually give you a sense of freedom and the opportunity for a new start? An opportunity to actually get rid of all the stuff that’s been overwhelming you and holding you back for years?
What if you lost your entire back catalogue of work? It wouldn’t take all your talents with it.
You’d be no less creative, in fact, again it may unburden you from trying to replicate past glories or live up to expectations you’d created.
You could create anything you wanted. Yes, even all those things you were too afraid to try because of what other people might say and think.
As well as helping us realise how little we actually need to be creative (and how little we need to live perfectly comfortably and happily in general), imagining this scenario of starting over again also helps us see how much we have to be grateful for.
I don’t mean grateful for all the stuff you’ve acquired.
I mean grateful for the things you can’t measure or replace or put a price on.
– Your ability to create with the simplest of tools, or no tools whatsoever, just your imagination.
– Your creative talent that you’ve nurtured and developed over the years, the artist you are today because of all you’ve ever created up to this point.
– The gift you have to connect with people, to touch people through what you create, and to inspire others to create.
What do you need to be able to use these things? Again it’s very little.
Give this question some deep consideration. Write out a few thoughts around it, let it percolate in your mind a few days and see what comes of it.
What if we started all over again?
Could it be the greatest, most clarifying question we can ask ourselves? The question that will help us refocus on creating what matters, creating what’s most meaningful to us?
There’s no harm in asking, and plenty to be gained.
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