I’m a (Catholic) student of the Jewish ethical practice known as Mussar. Our main class text is Ramchal’s (Rabbi Moses Hayyim Luzzatto) The Path of the Upright. In the introduction, Ramchal tells his readers that his purpose is not to teach something new, but to remind us of what we already know.
I was reminded of this concept while reading Paul Jarvis’ charming little motivational book for Creatives, The Good Creative: 18 Ways to Make Better Art.
See, while I’ve been at this “creative” business of writing and publishing for decades now, and can truthfully say that there is nothing in Jarvis’ book that I haven’t heard or read before, it never fails to surprise me how easy it is to forget some of the most basic principles in one’s field, especially in a moment of panic or self-doubt.
Surely half the reason for making a habit of lifelong learning–something all Creatives need to do–is because so much of what we think we’ve learned we’ve forgotten. Or we’ve developed such bad habits that it takes continual reminding, and conscious effort, not to make bad decisions when we really know better.
This is true especially in areas where we’re vulnerable. For example, I’m a detail-oriented perfectionist by temperament. It’s a personality trait that enables me to go deep, for sure, but has also tripped me up more than once. (Like Hamlet, those of us who “think too precisely on the event” have a tendency to put off action, sometimes till it’s too late.) In which case it’s invaluable to be reminded, repeatedly, that we all need to “launch before we’re ready,” as Mr. Jarvis puts it (one of his 18 “ways”), or else we may never launch at all.
Me, I was so grateful of the little nudge that I jotted it on a Sticky note and slapped it on my monitor:
Some of the other “ways” Jarvis discusses include, “Focus on the work, not the outcome,” and “Self-promotion isn’t evil.” (I have to remind myself about these constantly, too, so thank you again, Mr. Jarvis!) And the book is fun–the material is presented in a simple, humorous, even breezy manner, which I found to be just the ticket at a moment when I was beginning to wallow in self-doubt.