The Virginia Woolf novel To the Lighthouse features the character Lily Briscoe. Lily stands out in the book’s social context; she’s a young unmarried woman in the late 1920’s with no aspirations for husband or children. She’s also a painter.

This book contains one of my favorite passages in all of literature, near the end of the book, when Lily is working on a painting. She’s attempting to paint the family around whom the book’s plot revolves. She hesitates to begin. She stands there, brush in hand, contemplating the possible mistakes.

“One line placed on the canvas committed her to innumerable risks, to frequent and irrevocable decisions.”

And yet she continues.

“Still the risk must be run; the mark made.”

I love that part of the book because it encapsulates the fear that so often comes up when we try to create something. While an idea or a work of art is still in my head, it’s perfect, abstract, and alive in a way it will never be again once I bring it as fully as possible into the world. Often that thought is enough to paralyze or exhaust me.

Lily Briscoe feels the fear, names it, and then proceeds. How wonderful.

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