Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that helps people and organizations “generate brilliant ideas.”  In his book about developing a voice, LOUDER THAN WORDS:  Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, he recounts a piece of advice that artist/illustrator Lisa Congden received from her art teacher.

The teacher told Lisa that the thing to remember is that every creative project (no matter what it is) has a U-shape.  You start with a clear plan and great enthusiasm.  As you work on the project, your natural energy starts fading.  Things that seemed so very simple at the top of that U when you began the thing prove to be complex and unclear and the way gets very boggy as the mist rolls in.  Nothing is as straightforward as it first seemed.  At this point, people often lose heart and give up.

But, he said, if you keep slogging on through the deepest muck at the bottom of that U, then your heart starts to fill up again, your passion revives, you start seeing the patterns of this thing and the fog clears.  You find the path opens up again and your energy will return – sometimes stronger than ever.  When this happens, he said, the resulting work is usually far better than ever seemed possible at the bottom of that U.

For this reason, Henry says, you need to be guided by a larger vision for your work.  Your job (as you slog through the Valley of Despond) is to keep your end-goal in sight, even when your view of it is blocked by frustration and complications.

The antidote for the part when you’re running on fumes at the bottom of the valley is to remain focused on your vision and to keep on taking the next step, then the next one and then the one after that.  You keep going until you get through the downer place.

As Henry says, “There will be peaks upon which everything seems so clear and your work is so on target that you want to share it with everyone you meet, and there will be valleys in which you question why you’re even trying.  It’s all part of the process, and it’s never ending….”

Another poem….


And life goes on…

Whatever is happening

Does a slow and stately dance,

Flowing like dark molasses, heavy and dense,

Or else it tumbles like some hip-hopping crew

Zit-zack-zuck, whizzing by,

All the many, many parts

Zooming, on the fly.


Me, I’m just one little bit –

A ‘one’, a ‘zero’, a spectator, really –

Trying (in my way) to see

The whole meshugennah thang,

Trying to go for the grace,

Step-step-stepping lightly,

Looking for the beauty,

And helping other people play.


I can just do little things:

Lend a hand when I can,

Do the small move that evokes a quiet smile,

Turn on the teeny maglight

And shine it on the path,

Turn one small key that opens one more little lock.


And I’ve been thinking…

Maybe that can be a cool thing.

by Netta Kanoho

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6 thoughts on “GETTING ON THROUGH

  1. I love your poem and your poetry in general.
    I definitely agree that it takes vision in order to be truly successful. We have to keep moving forward even if the path seems foggy or unclear. Doing the little things and creating micro-goals also helps us focus.

    Thanks for the inspiration and keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks for the visit and the comments, Ian. My further thought on it is this: Vision is great but the focus does have to be right, I am noticing. Hitching your wagon to a comet going in the wrong direction might not get you where you want to be going. Hee! Please come again!

  2. This is an outstanding article. I have never looked at motivation and inspiration being like a U shape. It seems I am at the bottom of the curve of the U right now but if I can keep striving to get through it will make the good times all the better, This is perfect timing for me to read something like this, just what I need to steady the ship and getting it sailing smoothly again. Thanks

    1. You’re welcome, Ben…keep ‘er steady, Cap’n! Thanks for the visit. Please come again….

  3. This is so absolutely true and I have bogged down in the murky mud at the bottom the U often enough to vouch for it. I find it is better not to talk about your project but just get on with it. What do you think? Does talking about it dull the edge of your enthusiasm for your writing project? Writing can be exhausting sometimes.

    1. Hey Margaret:

      Thanks for your visit.  Myself, I find that I can very easily talk my story right out of me.  As a writer, I find it’s way better to just keep that pen handy and write down what you want to say.  If you talk it out, it’s like you let all the air out of the balloon or something.  Weird!

      Please do come again….

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