I often don't know where I'm going. I have almost no sense of direction. I have never understood concepts like "as the crow flies." If I'm not sure what direction to take, I tend to go the opposite way, because typically my intuition is incorrect. Enter Google maps. Saving grace. A confident voice directs me step by step. But what if Google maps somehow goes haywire? Shuts down--providing instructions that make no sense--even for a person like me who is practically clueless when it comes to maps. Well, you ask for help with someone who has a working GPS or someone who can read maps. You get another app for your phone. You take a next step.
Creative endeavors, I find, can be similar to having a poor sense of direction. I get lost easily there too. Yesterday I met with the artist who helps me with book covers and websites. God, is he kind. Women would pay hundreds of dollars to have their hair fall to their shoulders in rippling curls like his. His eyes are filled with light. He's like the woman's voice on my new Waze app who confidently tells me which turn to take. At lunch yesterday, Alex unveiled the new book cover design. I could have wept, it was so beautiful. At that moment, I didn't care if anyone ever read the book. I felt victory seeing all that artistry come together. Maybe an emotion akin to holding a newborn--a feeling of awe that something had actually been created. The book wasn't just something I trusted would materialize at some point. I felt relief. I'd reached a destination--not fully understanding or remembering all the turns I'd taken through territory that was new. I'd made it to the next stop on the road.
There are so many more steps, though. Even after the encouragment of viewing the book cover, I came home and fell on the sofa exhausted, my mind racing with all that lies ahead--tasks that I don't know how to do. Alex had shown me several of the websites he'd designed lately. "You know, Priscilla, you're going to need a new website fairly soon. The codes on your site are outdated since I designed it in 2015." Looking at his new sites, my heart deflated. They were hip and colorful. My site seemed vintage in comparison, even with the header I love so much. "I think we can tweak the site now--enliven it and feature your new book, so let's move toward that. And I have some great marketing ideas that will help too." More uncertainty. No clue how I'll get there.
Years ago, I gave a woman one of my books. She and I had shared many of our creative challenges along the way. When she took the book, she looked down at the cover and I saw her shoulders slump, her lips tremble. I heard the slap of flipping pages as she thumbed through the book, then handed it back to me. Her eyes reflected a film of tears. "I can't take this," she said. "I want to be happy for you, and I am on so many levels. But your book represents all the ways I've fallen short--not pushed forward with the ideas I have. I should have a book too" I could have kissed her for being honest. I knew how she felt. Sometimes it's easy to look at another person's path and focus only on outcomes. It's easy to lose sight of all that's come before a project's completion. People aren't likely to be fully aware of all the hours invested, the money spent, the self doubt. Most creative pathways, most life pathways for that matter, are filled with uncertainty, injustice, random things that go wrong. Unexpected breakdowns. Getting lost.
Some days, when I'm overwhelmed, I do fall on the sofa and eat way too much microwave popcorn and watch dumb shows about delirious clones. I escape for a while. Let my anxiety fall away. "It's okay," I tell myself. "Remember all the roads you've traveled, and never once have you been lost forever. Celebrate where you are now. Hold your newborn bookcover and be glad."
Oh, God, smooth out your road in front of me, straight and level so that I will know where to walk.~ From Psalm 5:6