I am the bucket, not the well.

wishingwellI think almost any person who works on a creative endeavor, has had this thought at some point: “How am I going to pull this [insert: event, book, annual report, etc.] off again [insert: tomorrow, next month or next year] and do it in a whole new fresh way? I don’t think I have it in me.”

In my job, I have certainly asked myself that, as my team is responsible for pulling off yearly conferences and weekly services for thousands of people and it’s a challenge to make every year’s marketing concept fresh, appealing and the conference experience unique. When you’re at the end of it—exhausted—and start to think what in the world you’ll be able to do next time, it’s overwhelming.

And every time I’m assigned a new design project, a small voice inside of me asks: Do I have it in me – another fresh idea, a unique spin, a new take?

It asks again in the middle of writing a book, when I wonder how I’m going to finish it, and if that’s all I’ll have. Just one book. Do I have it in me to write another one? What if I run out of ideas?

Let me tell you the answer I hear when I ask, “Do I have it in me?” It’s a clear and softly whispered, “No.”

Well that’s a sad perspective, Lisa, you might be thinking. Of course you have it in you! You’re great! You’re creative! You can do it!

It’s not a problem with my self-esteem. Because the truth is, I don’t have to have it all in me.

I realized this one night, lying in bed, unable to sleep, thinking about where my first book was going and whether or not I was capable of really finishing it, let alone writing a three-part series like I envisioned.

A thought came to me that changed everything: I am not the well. I don’t have to be some deep reserve of possible story lines, or fresh words. I don’t have to have an infinite supply of plot twists and compelling characters. I am not required to be the source of every idea and carry it around with me. Because the well is all around me.

The well is your past. It’s your day-to-day life. It’s the treasure trove of stories that were ingrained in you as a child. It’s the conversation you overhear at the grocery store, or the billboard you see on your drive home from work. It’s the words of other great writers that inspire you. A picture you see in passing in a hallway. The way you feel holding a baby nuzzled under your chest. The quiet thoughts you have when it’s just you, alone in the dark.

I am not the well.

I am the bucket. My job is to pick up and collect good ideas. To curate words. To take them out, sort them and do something good with them. I am not the well.

Once I realized this, it was incredibly freeing.

You can apply this concept to so many situations and disciplines.

I still I ask the question, “Do I have it in me?” all the time. It must be some deep-seated, knee-jerk response to me trying anything new. But now that I know the answer is “No,” I’m not afraid.

And now, when I ask the question, “Can I really write another book?” I feel like I’m able to answer honestly, “Yes.”