One of the most difficult parts of writing stories is figuring out where to begin, and one of the most important things to remember about writing stories is that they don’t start at the beginning. They start on the brink of change.
There’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer. Since I was a child, I’ve been highly imaginative, drawn to the arts, and very much a “head in the clouds, feet on the ground” kind of person. The visual is only in my imagination as I stand just a couple of inches above five feet tall, but the fact remains: I dream, and I do.
Like many others, my twenties were the years of exploration on my own terms. I stopped listening to the Shoulds being thrown my way, and openly reclaimed my right to be fascinated with the world and people around me. I left home, worked for a mouse for a little while, traveled across the country to work events at Comic-Con, got a job at an entertainment magazine, went back to school, opened and closed a business, and the list goes on… If I wanted to do it, I gave it a shot. I rose to greatness and crashed to rock bottom, but didn’t give up.
All of my trials and errors led to an awareness that had been inside me all along, but had become muffled by the sounds of outside opinion that I’d falsely taken as my own. “It’s not practical,” “It’s not safe,” “If you take this route, you’ll fail. Do it this way.” Practical, safe, and an adopted fear of failure put me on the edge of forgetting who I was. These outside opinions were also extremely fickle.
Years ago, when I started writing as an unpaid intern, they all said it was a great opportunity until it had gone too long without pay. Once I started getting paid as a staff writer, they all said it was a great opportunity until I wasn’t getting paid enough. I had a little more patience and was still finding my footing, but happiness was fleeting, and it wasn’t even my own that was under question. It was the voices around me that had to be pacified, including the ones coming from the office. Add to that the things I knew I could have done differently, and you’d find a jumbled mess of unhelpful noise.
My ultimate decision to leave the publication wasn’t easy, but it was the first in a series of choices that introduced me to the person I was becoming. I started making my own rules; started saying no when I wanted to say no, and yes when I wanted to say yes. I stared fear, doubt and uncertainty in the face, and kept going. I valued advice given, but let my heart speak the loudest and allowed my mind to be its adviser. I succumbed to my artistic calling. I stopped believing in big breaks. Every new opportunity is a moment to take a chance, and every moment is a chance to craft your story line-by-line.
When the term “Beginner’s Mind” crossed my path for the first time, it was as if my sense of child-like wonder had graduated to new meaning. I’d been this way my whole life, had defended my right to not “grow up” countless times, and this phrase put it as plainly as ever. It refers to the Zen concept of having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. Apply it to daily life and endless possibility becomes a practice.
This phrase has been popping up in my writing since I was a teenager. When I started using it, I was learning self-acceptance. This state of being wasn’t something totally understood, but I felt that if I incorporated it into my life, then one day it would click. At its very core, it just means being authentically yourself and being in the moment. It’s something I continue to work on every day.
My story is about taking ownership of my powers: my strengths, determination, desires, wondrous curiosity, and love. Love for myself, for another, for friends, passion, energy, and love itself. My story includes the want to help others do the same. That’s where Maverick’s Canvas was born.
That being said, my story is not the rule. No one’s is. With different paths come different struggles and successes. However, anyone can create a platform that’s specifically built for them, and along with that comes the ability to provide powerful inspiration.