I need to write 20 lines today. Twenty sentences that matter, “genius or not.” Though if you don’t know where you’re starting or where you’re heading, you really won’t get far.  It’s best to know at least one of those. Knowing where you are gives you self-knowledge, the ability to take stock of your abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Your limits, although no one wants to cop to those. And also your true interests and loves. Knowing where you’re heading seems to be what most people want – a forward vision, goals. Trouble is that things change. A stubborn insistence on specific goals and destinations means that as things change, your vision becomes narrower. The old goals may not mean as much as they did, whether or not you’re willing to admit so.

I think knowing where you are, taking stock as I said, is the more important thing. Goals are important, but mostly as something to keep you motivated and encouraged to keep going. Knowing that these will change for one of many reasons is a healthy thing to acknowledge, as much as changing one’s mind in Western culture seems to be a sign of weakness and indecision.

So make a goal that realistically corresponds with your position, your abilities and your nature, but understand that that goal may change.

I had decided a few years ago that architecture was a more “practical” and “realistic” career than painting. This might be true. Statistically and demographically it probably is. There is most likely a higher percentage of people trained in architecture making a living in architecture than there is a percentage of people trained in painting who make a living painting. That’s probably true. But that doesn’t make it right for me. I love architecture. I love design and the way the quality of a space affects one’s life. But this doesn’t mean I have to be an architect.

I still paint, not as much as I used to, but I find that writing is the best way for me to unite my disparate interests. Writing can be stressful, of course, and just as in painting or design, facing a blank page can be daunting. Starting for the sake of starting is a good idea. Starting wherever you are. Starting without taking stock of where you are and what you have is not the best idea though. Where you are means a lot of things: geography, age, financial position, and so on and so forth. It’s good to be realistic, but not to let those things completely limit you. A goal, again, is a good idea, too, so long as that doesn’t limit you either.

Writing 20 lines a day is a good idea, but the idea that it doesn’t have to be genius-level is good to remember. It’s practice, in the same sense that meditation is practice. It’s not the kind of practice like baseball practice that kids might have, as in practice to get better at something, it’s practice for its own sake. I may become a better writer, but that itself isn’t the goal. Actually, in this case there really is no goal. But I can’t help but think that I will get better at writing, or really at fleshing out ideas and, as in meditation, get closer to the self that you learn about by forgetting the self. Like they say in Zen, confusingly, the no-self self. But that can’t be the goal, and again, that’s confusing. Just as much as studying the self by forgetting the self.

This writing is like digging, it’s like decluttering, and again, it’s taking stock. I might say this writing practice has no goal, but perhaps the goal is to help me in figuring out where and who I am. It’s not cheesy, self-help BS, it’s just asking questions, locating that starting point. Maybe that is the goal for this after all, and there are other starting points and other goals to come. Or maybe I’m just going in circles. If that is so, even knowing  that and coming to that conclusion is a good thing too. Perhaps the starting point and goal should be forgetting the self, forgetting myself and all that I’ve learned and taken in over the years. Forgetting who I’ve been and allowing new goals to replace the old ones that I am still clinging to, consciously or not.

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