Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it. — Goethe
Lately I’ve been reading through old journals, and I noticed that a surprising number of my favorite pieces were written within a few months of each other. There was, in 1998, a period of magic, it seems, where poem followed story followed poem, where I was in what athletes call “the flow,” and my pen seemed to tap into a place of wisdom and delight. And it set me to thinking about what was going on back then.
It was certainly a time of emotional turmoil. I was infatuated with an infuriating man and fraught with longing. I was trying to figure out my place in the world and questioning everything. The past was pushing up against me, asking me to decipher where I’d been. The future was as blank as the pages in front of me. And existential questions of love, life, and purpose were breakfast staples. But that could just as easily have described the next year, or the last one. So what was it?
As I read my raw, unpolished poems, and also the really awful writing that filled the space between them — the whining, the complaints, the randomness — I suddenly saw it. The magic. The trick. It was so astonishingly simple.
I showed up.
That’s it. I showed up. Like clockwork. Once a week, a friend and I sat down with pen and paper, willing to go wherever they would take us. It wasn’t about the result, not about this poem or that story. It was just about words. About being available. Being home. Setting the table and opening the door in case inspiration decided to stop by. About writing, whether it did or not. I can remember the nights when we parted like this:
“That was pretty bad.”
“Yeah, it was.”
“But we did it.”
“Yeah, we did.”
But in the spaces between…magic happened. In the consistency of habit, in the willingness to receive whatever came — good, bad, and impossible — poems came, and stories, characters I could not have expected or imagined.
So what dream is waiting for you to show up? What small gesture can you make on its behalf?