Always Something In The Box


There’s an exercise that Patricia Ryan Madson describes in her wonderful book, Improv Wisdom. (Ms. Madson taught improvisational theater at Stanford to standing-room only classes for twenty years.)

Here’s the exercise: Imagine a box with a lid. Hold the box in your hand. Now open it. What’s inside?

It might be a frog, a silk scarf, a gold coin of Persia. But here’s the trick: no matter how many times you open the box, there is always something in it.

Ask me my religion. That’s it. I believe with unshakeable faith that there will always be something in the box.

Steven Pressfield
Do The Work

If I have one creative fear it is this – that I will finish a project, but when I lift up the lid of the next box, there won’t be anything inside. It will be empty, my imagination as dry as the Sahara. That fear is what keeps me from finishing things. Because if I finish them, and there’s nothing else after that, then where will I be?

And yet, if I’m honest with myself, I know that Ms. Madson and Mr. Pressfield are right. If you are brave enough to lift the lid of your creative endeavor, if you move forward, there is always something inside the box of your imagination. Sometimes you have to dig through a bunch of tissue paper to find it, but there’s always something. Even if it’s only tissue paper!

I suppose it’s a matter of faith and trust. You have to have faith that when you open the box of your imagination, something will be there. You have to trust that truth enough to have the courage to lift the lid. And you have to know that if you never start a new project and move on to the next box, you’ll never know what’s inside.

As I move into the end of 2013, this is my goal. I will not let the next box remain unopened. I will not be afraid to lift the lid. Because there’s always something inside.


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