The Problem of the Blank Canvas

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend who was working on a project for a friend.  They were supposed help paint a design on a table our other friend had made out of a slab of hard wood he had come a cross.  My friend doing the painting though was stressed out, and did not know where to start, they wanted to make it the best they could so they were worried about how to start it, and not make any mistakes.  They cared so much about the project the only the best would be an acceptable outcome.  The desire for the perfect outcome was actually hindering them from starting, because they did not want to make any mistakes.

Through out life we come across a lot of blank canvasses. They could be open field holes in disc golf, they could be climbing routes with a lot of different holds as options, it could even be a blank page for a blog post that you just keep putting off til you have just the perfect topic to write.

Standing in front of a blank canvas is always intimidating. We all want to do great things, but we just do not know where to start.  We also do not want to screw up what we have or make mistakes.  This is why you will often see people fret over which routes to take or how to begin, because there are many options and we do not want to make mistakes. Blank canvases are hard to start.

Maybe that is why we like things that have one way to do them.  The disc golf hole that has one line to the basket, the climbing route that has just the one sequence through the crux, or the training plan that tells us exactly what to do when to do it and when to rest.  Having one way to something takes away our anxiety of choice and allows us to focus purely on execution.  However life does not always make the routes we take so clear.

To me there is nothing more daunting than a blank calendar, to me this is the ultimate blank canvas.  I know time is finite resource and I sure want to make the best of it, and I only get one shot.  So in times like this I think to the way I have to play those open field disc golf holes.  I think about the end target where I want to be.  Then I have to pick the method to get there, and it is not always a straight line. Next I typically look out to the horizon and pick the place I need to start towards, then I have to fully commit to it the execution.

I think this is a helpful outlook to the open fields, and the blank canvases in life.  We pick and end destination for that part, then we need to visualize the path we are taking to get there.  We look to the future and the horizon to find our point to aim at, and then execute on the follow through.

In the end like with making a painting, or climbing a route, you need to pick you point of attack and just start. Not every painting will be a masterpiece, not every throw is an ace and we don’t send every route.  The important thing is to start, and that is the hardest part.


*the table at the top is the table my friend made.


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