Your first step
Last week, I wanted to write about Prof Alice Robert’s concept from her Ancestors book about how people come together to build something and find meaning in the made and the making. It’s a straightforward concept, but I couldn’t get the first words for the life of me. Eventually, I decided to leave it for a couple of hours and returned to the post with a clear head and the words I wanted.
A friend once said to me that, for a writer, the blank sheet is a dangerous enemy. I would agree. However, a blank sheet is also a place of adventure and excitement because, as I have learnt so often, what you start out aiming for often comes out as something completely different. It is creativity in action, and it can be scary and wonderful.
The first step is the most difficult.
Although I am talking about writing, the idea is also symbolic. You have an idea about something you want to make or do and find you cannot take it any further. Your mind blanks out, and you cannot take the first step.
Elif Shafak has Shams, a Persia poet who was active in the early 1200s and reputed to be Rumi’s spiritual instructor for a short while, provide some excellent advice in her book The Forty Rules of Love:
Fret not where the road will take you. Instead, concentrate on the first step. That is the hardest part, and that is what you are responsible for. Once you take that step, let everything do what it naturally does, and the rest will follow. Don’t go with the flow. Be the flow.
You never know where your first step leads.
Shams gives us so much to think about in this rule. Initially, it seems as though there is a contradiction between “letting everything do what it naturally does” and “don’t go with the flow. Be the flow.” However, that’s not the case when you write because your words, which may have no relationship to your original idea, are unique and become the flow you create.
So, take that first step when you intend to create change and make a difference. It’s your role as a leader and a changemaker. You may alter course often and end up in a very different place than you intended. But it does not matter: you have made a start.
Roberts, A. (2021). Ancestors : A prehistory of Britain in seven burials: A Prehistory Of Britain In Seven Burials. London, UK: Simon & Schuster.
Elif Shafak. The Forty Rules of Love. London, Penguin, 2015.
“Shams of Tabriz’s 40 Rules of Love.” The Vision Weekly, 4 Nov. 2011, thevisionweekly.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/shams-of-tabrizs-40-rules-of-love/. Accessed 25 Oct. 2022.
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