by Jennifer Paros
Several years ago we had Venetian blinds in our
living room that were old and had deteriorated to the point where
they could no longer be opened and closed using the handle. Instead,
we would fuss with the remaining nub at the top corner of the window
frame in order to adjust them. One day I began daydreaming that I
was in our living room struggling to open the blinds.
I stopped, aghast that I was
daydreaming broken blinds. I was so used to their broken state, that
even when I had the ability to experience them as working (in my
imagination) I did not take it.
We have great power in our minds,
even to the extent that we can become so used to what is, we forget
to purposefully imagine something different or better. I was letting
where I’d been dictate where
I was going, unconsciously committing to an old idea
filling the space in which a new one could be growing.
I’ve had this experience
in my writing and illustration work as well. I’ve felt stuck, when
in reality it was actually just an issue of focus, and what I was
focusing on. In other words, what seems like a shortage of a good
idea was actually just a matter of me in my own way. Here’s an
In my first years at art school I was
starting to consider myself a bit of a surrealist, and was creating
pictures that were complex, with layers of worlds peeling back to
reveal yet more worlds. Each piece took a great deal of time and
became a struggle as I worked to figure out and keep straight what
was happening in the compositions. In the end I usually liked the
pieces, but rarely enjoyed what I often found to be a torturous
process. Then one day I became quite sick of it all and decided to
do something simpler. I let go of the idea of complexity, and in
came new ideas that I liked more and were easier to work with.
These ideas came as a result of me letting go. I got out the way of
the flow of new ideas by releasing my fixed stare on what I had
thought my pictures needed to be and what they had been. I
allowed myself to imagine something new.
Not too long ago I had a dream in
which I was making cookies and I happened to put in an extra cup of
sugar. Quite upset I
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2009
shouted out, “No! No! No!”, only to
find myself suddenly aware I was dreaming. I awoke to the fact I
was asleep, and I thought to myself, “Why am I choosing to dream a
mistake? Why am I choosing to dream something I don’t want
Sometimes, it takes a while to
realize we are focusing on the opposite of what we want, and that’s
why we feel “stuck”. And just as with my broken blinds, often we do
it simply because it’s what we’re habitually used to, an idea with
which we are almost too familiar.
New ideas can come from
our experiences, and yet they also develop on their own–not unlike a
baby. The seed is planted, and then the rest of the process informs
and directs itself. No expectant mother creates her baby
cell-by-cell, bone-by-bone using cleverness, willfulness, skill or
previous experience. Her resume is irrelevant when she’s pregnant;
the work is being done for her. That’s the allowing part. She’s a
key player, clearly, but yet more than anything, she’s letting
something happen in her and through her.
And so it is with writing or any sort
of creative endeavor. We are critical players doing much and some
of the most important “doing” we’re doing is getting our old habits
of thought out of the way in order to allow the new to grow.
Being “stuck” actually
affords us the opportunity to awaken to what we’re focusing on and
no longer allow where we’ve been to determine where we’re going.
It’s time to get
un-stuck from where we were.
More Author Articles...
Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of
Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.