It’s a nervous time when you begin writing. Where do you start? What are you trying to say? How should you put it and when will you know whether the message is going to get across? Words, if they stumble out at all, do so in fits and starts, peering around the corners and, at times, retreating uncaptured.
Enter the genius of Mark McGuinness, UK poet, writer and creative coach. When he finds it difficult to begin, he says to himself
‘It’s not this, but ….’
And he writes something.
Commitment is scary. By putting something on paper we commit and anxiety about commitment can make it difficult to begin. If we knew, however, we could write something that would never end up in the final copy, maybe we would feel more freedom in our creating. We could perhaps enter worlds of invention without fear.
By not committing to the first output being the final outcome or, taking it a step further, ensuring that what he writes is definitely NOT the final outcome, McGuinness gives himself the lightness to release something. Anything.
It’s not this, but …
And it applies to more than writing. Painting, too, is a creation that can often be worked. Let’s not commit ourselves at the start. Let’s ease our way into it, thereby claiming the liberty to be wrong, to paint something ugly. If we know what we begin with is definitely not what we will end up with, then it doesn’t matter if our fumblings don’t take us directly there. Only towards the end should we firm up to meander less, refine to gain direction, polish to make a point.
‘What I’m going to write now, what I am going to paint at this moment, are NOT what I am wanting to say. These beginnings are NOT it, but I am going to launch in, nevertheless.’ A rough start, an outline, a phrase or sketch can be the beginning. And if the pressure of even that being correct is removed, so much the better.
So then, phrases like
It’s not this, but …
What I want to say is not this, but …
What I want to depict is not this, but …
perhaps, with greater confidence, become,
My final product is not this, so ….