Arrival Is Not the Point (True Creatives Never Arrive)

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arrival is not the point

In the early stages of any endeavor, we look forward to arrival. We set out with a goal in mind, and that is what keeps us moving forward. We long for the day when we come into our own and it feels like things are much less difficult.

I quit my job and started this blog with the intention of affecting change in the world. I want to help you bring more of who you are to what you do. It is meaningful work for me for many reasons, but it is also hard work. I started building this blog one post at a time, and this community one person at a time. Though I have big intentions for this work and for what this movement can be, it takes a long time to build.

As I feel the tension between where I am and where I want to be, I can easily idealize that future moment when everything will be in its right place (which is also a fantastic song). The problem then is that feeling “arrived” becomes the point, and we forget about the process.

Arrival is not the point.

We see (and hear) this all the time in the music world. A band makes some amazing music— maybe it’s just one song, maybe it’s a whole album. They blowup with radio play and sold out tours. They get invited to play on Letterman and Leno. They meet the president and even the Pope.

Now they have really arrived!

And then they have to make more music, so they make more music that sounds just like their old music. That’s what the fans want, right? But it’s not actually what the fans want. It may work for a couple years, but sooner or later they have to push the envelope again. They have to stretch themselves. They have to reinvent their music. They have to risk.

Your work in the world will always be growing.

If you can complete your work, you aren’t dreaming big enough. Part of your work is to always be growing. If arrival in a given endeavor or project becomes your focus, you lose sight of the deeper longings.

Another way to say this is that a true creative never arrives (if you don’t think of yourself as a creative, then you need to reread the Meaning Manifesto). There are moments where everything feels just right and everything is in its right place. But it’s important to remember that there is always another step to take, another risk to grab hold of, and another dream to realize. As soon as you start thinking that you’ve “arrived”, you lose your edge.

“Arrival” is synonymous with stagnancy.

When you take a risk to make something new, people are moved by it. We want you to continue to step beyond what is and has been and into the next unknown of what could be. This is where you will find your next great work.

This is art: not copying a technique or style, but creating something that has never been before.

I am in favor of cycles of rest and retreat between periods of effort and output, but I want you to arrive at a destination, mark that achievement, and keep moving to the next.

Arrival is not the point — continued innovation, creation, and risk toward your hope is.

In the comments, how do you keep moving forward? Where do things break down for you, and how do you find movement again? Click here to comment!

Dan Cumberland is on a mission to push you into the places meaning, life, & work intersect. He is the author of The Meaning Manifesto. Read more about him here, and connect with him on facebook and twitter.

There Are 4 Comments On This Post.

  1. Emi

    It’s interesting how there are so many voices in the world that exist vying for our attention and tempting us into stagnancy. I think stagnancy also has to do not only with “camping out” at a certain point but not moving at all. The romanticized ideal of “getting there” threatens our inner drive to keep growing, moving forward. At the same time, the idea that there are so many other tantalizing options, prevents us from reaching our potential.

    In reality, it is natural to keep moving onward (as seen by time). It’s as if the world wants to distract us so much to the point of “no action”. I reckon that that may be the toughest battle; of trying to shut out all the voices that say “you can’t” or “do this instead” or “you got this” and listening to yourself and realizing that you want to do this one thing and put your everything in it.

    It’s hard work!

    • Emi

      a good quote I found posted on a friend’s instagram
      (@cat_mcconnell)

      ” If it’s both terrifying and amazing then you should definitely pursue it.”
      -erada

  2. About that pull or feel that we have to “arrive” somewhere…:

    I think we never actually get to “there”, we only get to here.

    That causes me to exhale a bit.

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