Here’s what I know:
A creative life, regardless of discipline, is a lot like a high wire stretched across a canyon. From the ground, it looks like freedom and mastery reign up there, and the hardest part is in the beginning as we’re learning the ropes.
It’s true, it takes a lot of miss-steps and failures in the early stages. We have to be willing to do something badly before we can do it well, but it’s not magical. It takes time and work to hone these skills.
And this is also true:
The starting point of a journey across the High Wire is where there’s least risk. We are close to the anchoring point, the wire is at its most stable, and there’s still solid ground just below us. Our mentors and supporters are close by.
A fall here is no big deal, we may be bruised but we can climb back up and start over. The same is true as we near the other end. We’ve accomplished the great feat; our reputation will hardly suffer from a slip now.
So here we go.
We’ve mastered the ropes. We’ve learnt that balance is the opposite of stasis. We know it takes constant adjustments, and a high level of attention even as this becomes intuitive rather than conscious. Our path stretches out before us, and the wire thrums in response to our every move.
Yes, there is freedom and mastery here. We hear our supporters cheering us on, and our audience calling us lucky. Each step is another success, and we’re moving with confidence and grace as the ground falls away beneath us.
We are dancing on this wire.
Here is the delight we dreamt of, and we can identify and connect with our peers as their High Wires separate them from the crowd.
As we move further out from our starting point we carry more and more responsibility on our shoulders. Some comes with our successes, some we’ve chosen. But we’re good at this. We’re strong. We can handle it.
Then comes the middle stretch.
No one seems to mention what happens in this zone of the High Wire.
Gradually, the wind picks up, until it’s howling down that canyon. The wire becomes more and more subject to the pressure of forces outside our control. The ground is a long, long way down. We have a lot riding on our shoulders, and we’re beginning to tire.
This is where the doubts creep in, and our energy begins to burn out. Can we do this? How much further? Should I have chosen a different path? A ‘sensible’ one based on solid ground instead of this one that becomes scarier by the moment?
What was once uniquely individual can begin to feel lonely and isolated.
We see other Wire-walkers. Sometimes our paths cross and we can offer each other support. But no-one wants to show the full extent of the inner wobbles, or admit how difficult this journey sometimes feels. Because what if it’s just us? There’s a necessary element of competition and showmanship in all this, isn’t there? There are certain stakes involved, hoops to jump through. Winners and losers. Someone’s keeping score.
That at least is the Old Story.
The one about the Lone Genius and the finite resources guarded by watchful Gatekeepers, those arbiters of true success.
But what if there’s a New Story unfolding around us?
Right here. Right now. A Story informed by the remarkable technological growth of a world that’s changing faster than ever before? And yet one which echoes the eons of human history encoded in our DNA?
What if we think again about the myth of individual success?
As human beings, we thrive as a community, and always have. Especially one with shared values and a broad range of skills and perspectives.
Even the grittiest of pioneers, determined to carve a homestead from the American West, didn’t set out alone to conquer a new land. They joined a wagon train.
Instead of enduring the unsteadiness of a single High Wire, what if we came together to form a Web?
Flexible, responsive, supportive and useful.
That’s what I’m wondering. How about you?