When I was a child, one of my favorite times of the year was the final few weeks of vacation, just before school started. I loved buying school supplies with my mom — especially new pens and notebooks. (I still love buying pens and notebooks!) It was a great feeling: a chance for a clean start.
Well, not completely clean. I’d still be going to the same school. I had an idea of who my classmates and teachers would be. I knew the schedule, and the topics we’d be studying. But! This was the year I’d make it happen. And for now, I had a blank slate. (Or at least, a blank notebook.) Exciting!
A few weeks after school started, my mood would be different. The notebook now had marks in it, and I had a long list of things I needed to do. The excitement was gone; the sense of possibility replaced with a feeling of being overwhelmed. It would take a while for me to feel comfortable with the new routines and challenges. Then, with time, things would settle: neither open-ended excitement nor pressure from being overwhelmed — just a sense of getting things done.
The beginning of every new undertaking has a particular type of energy. An open-ended sense of possibility. This energy allows us to step into an uncertain future. There’s a challenge ahead and we don’t know exactly how things will turn out — but we have wits, some knowledge, some structure, and tools.
The energy-of-beginning is important to getting things rolling, but we can’t linger in it. We need to get to work; to become productive. For me this means establishing near-term goals, work practices to achieve them, and habits that allow the work to become part of my daily routine. The quicker this happens, the easier it is to replace the energy-of-beginning with the energy-of-generating.
This energy-of-generating has a particular character of its own, one I’ve grown to relish. Whatever I’ve achieved has been because I’ve found ways of transitioning from the blank notebook to the (messier, less open-ended) notebook-in-progress. I’ve learned to love it for its own sake. It, too, will pass — but for the time being, it makes good things possible.