Without warning, unknown sailors—or pirates, or your family, or your friends, it doesn’t really matter—tie you up. You can’t move your hands and feet. They toss you overboard. You sink. Air abandons you. Your sun sets unnaturally quick and it gets darker as you sink.
Try to move your hands and feet again. Your wrists and ankles hurt from the rubbing rope. But if you struggle enough, maybe you can loosen the ties that bind you and survive. To give up means death.
So you struggle. And struggle. And struggle some more. Your chest tightens. Your ears hurt.
You feel the water pressing your eyeballs inward.
And then it happens. Your ropes loosen and you free yourself. You rush to the surface, explode into the world, and gulp precious air.
Then another boat finds you. You’re safe. With your two feet firmly planted on the deck, they throw a celebration in your honor.
“You deserved better,” says one. “You’ll be famous,” says the Captain. “I don’t know how you did it,” exclaims a third.
Then, in a flash of inspiration, you wobble atop the waves on your table in the middle of the dining room, crystal chandelier swaying above your head, and you recite the poem you were forced to learn in grade school—“The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—“I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
The next day it happens all over again. You’re tied up, thrown in, you struggle, then you celebrate. Knowing this, would you choose to continue this cycle? Listen to what the Greek poet Homer and the Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson thought before you answer.
Here’s the thing. Accepting the reality of what you just imagined is the key to your life. You are your own happiness because your art–and life–is the sum of what you accept and the difference you create while on your voyage.
To struggle is your destiny; to take from your life is your privilege; and to give back your uniqueness is your responsibility.
Like any committed artist, you’ll struggle to represent your reality, your big ideas, to others in ways that enhance their perspective and yours. Still, your voyage is to create a lens that brings beauty into focus, allows for meaningful change, and heals real and perceived pain.
Don’t believe me? Don’t think it matters? Try this:
- Think about this phrase: “nude descending a staircase”. Jot down your reactions and images that come to mind. Pay attention to what your inner critic tells you.
- Now, look at this painting and jot down your reactions:
- Then, read this poem:
Nude Descending a Staircase
by X. J. Kennedy
Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
A gold of lemon, root and rind,
She sifts in sunlight down the stairs
With nothing on. Nor on her mind.
We spy beneath the banister
A constant thresh of thigh on thigh–
Her lips imprint the swinging air
That parts to let her parts go by.
One-woman waterfall, she wears
Her slow descent like a long cape
And pausing, on the final stair
Collects her motions into shape.
- Now, think about the phrase “Nude descending a staircase” again.
Did anything change? That’s why it matters. Your big ideas, your creativity, your art matter more than you know. Sharing them is what I call “doing great things.”
Now go do great things . . . and let me know how to help.
Sean Giorgianni is the curator of ReadHeavily.com, a blog that asks readers to improve their lives through the art of reading. He’s also known to lead Twitter discussions on writing and literature.