Fire the arrow

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Let’s talk about overthinking.

Right now, I’m following Julia Cameron’s 12-week course, Walking In This World. You may have heard of her more famous book, The Artist’s Way, which is a classic guide to discovering your creative self. Walking In This World is the sequel. I read The Artist’s Way and loved it, but this felt like a better place for me to start.

Cameron wrote this in Chapter 1, and it bonked me over the head with truth and relevance:

“Think of your project as ‘the arrow of desire.’ Imagine yourself eyeing the bull’s-eye, pulling back the bow — and then thinking about it. Worrying about it. Considering whether you are aiming exactly right or whether you should be a smidgen higher or lower. Your arm begins to get tired. Then your arm begins to get shaky. If you manage to finally shoot the arrow, it does not sail with confidence and strength. You have that in your vacillation about exactly how you should shoot. In short, you have mistaken beginning something with ending something. You have wanted a finality that is earned over time and not won ahead of time as a guarantee. You have denied the process of making art because you are so focused on the product: Will this be a bull’s-eye? We forget that intention is what creates direction.”

Good, right? Can you identify? I can. Even as a kid I defaulted to thinking versus doing. I love to float around in the realm of ideas. It’s why I was such a good student: I got to play with ideas while someone else mapped out the steps, guidelines and goals. All I had to do was show up and do the work.

Well, this last year has shown me in painful (but ultimately helpful) ways that some problems can’t be solved by thinking. Or reading. Or researching. Or asking for advice.

Some problems can only be solved with action.

We forget that intention is what creates direction. — Julia Cameron, Walking In This World

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Bull’s eye photo by Pablò on Unsplash

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7 Comments

  • I’ve made that “one continuous mistake” my whole life. I’ve “thought” a library of novels and short story collections. Not one – not a single one – has ever been actually written, let alone published. I’ve got to fire that arrow.

    Reply
    • I hope you won’t be too hard on yourself. Especially given all the writing you HAVE done. Here I am, on the cusp of 51, still learning this lesson, too. We’re in this one together, and I’m sure we’re not alone.

      Reply
  • That’s a very interesting concept and one that hits pretty close to home for me! I’ve also never heard of either of those books by Julia Cameron, but I think I need to check them out.

    Reply
    • I’d heard of The Artist’s Way for years. I’m glad I read it and I think it’s important background, but this book feels like a better fit for me.

      Reply
  • You’re right; that is a powerful paragraph. It speaks to me as well, as I suppose it does to most of us, at least at one point or another. I am the world’s worst over-thinker, even though I know it’s to my detriment.

    Reply
  • Recovering perfectionist here and that sure does resonate. I had forgotten about The Artists Way among many other to-read books. I’ll have to check both of these out.

    Reply

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