Originally published on my website, 20 May 2022
Many moons ago, in a previous life as a youth worker, one of my favourite activities with a young person was drawing a huge, craggy mountain on a whiteboard with cute coloured markers.
I’m a city girl. Most of the young people I worked with were city kids. But the concept of “climbing a mountain” was something we could all grasp.
You don’t just run up the side of a vast mountain in your shorts and house slippers without a map or a plan, I explained. To climb a mountain, and hope to succeed, you need to check you have a few things first.
We talked about the:
1. Plan: what was the best time to set out on this quest? Was it best done at 4pm in the afternoon, or should we think about setting out early? Who needs to know we are doing this? Do we need some support, some people with us or advising us?
2. Equipment: to climb a steep wild mountain, we may need certain things. Like, a map. Water. Proper shoes.
3. Noting the steep/tricky parts: some parts are going to be easy. We just need to keep slogging on upward, following a trail. Other parts may need a bit of thought: which path? Do we need a rope? We may even need a helper.
4. Breaking up the journey: it’s a bloody big mountain. Maybe there are some hills on the way up? Places to rest and celebrate. Marking those up can make the whole thing look less daunting.
5. Define the win: where’s the flag at the top? How will we know we achieved what we set out to? Where do we need to climb to?
6. Reality check: No one is going to swoop in with a helicopter, fly you to the top and pat you on the head. This is your mountain. You need to climb it. Folk can give you advice and support, you can collect more resources and equipment, but in the end it is going to be a matter of one foot in front of the other.
As you can probably suspect, this exercise was never about climbing a mountain.
Once we talked through the analogy, we defined what the “win” (the flag at the top) was. For this group of young people, it was usually “finishing year 12”. For other young people it was the job they wanted to get. We would map out some of the “hills” on the way up (which could be: finding stable housing, finishing year 10, TAFE, getting help with a challenge they had).
By the end of the exercise, we had a pretty cool picture on the whiteboard. We’d mapped out the slippery places, where a rope might be needed (and discussed who/what service that rope represented). We marked small wins on the way up. We figured out what equipment we had, what new things would be useful. And we had the real talk, the talk about what my role as their supporter was (ie… I was NOT flying them up there in a helicopter!).
Breaking a task down in this way was helpful. Young people love stories. They love a chance to draw on a whiteboard and have a laugh.
Why do I bring this story into this space?
‘Cause… stories are awesome?
Every person launching themselves on a creative journey faces their own particular mountain.
1. Plan: Have you taken a moment to plan the journey, or are you running up the side of the mountain at 4pm in your house slippers?
2. Equipment: What do you have? What might you need?
3. Noting the steep/tricky parts: do you know where the challenges lie? Are you slipping and tumbling down a challenging spot right now?
4. Breaking up the journey: Have you taken a moment to break it down, mapping out the hills on the way up, the places where you can pause to rest and celebrate and woo-hoo the sky?
5. Define the win: what is your goal, that flag at the top?
6. Reality check: are you putting one foot in front of the other (really?). Or are you waiting for the helicopter to descend from the sky to whisk you up?
Let’s take a moment to reflect on where we are at on our particular creative journey.
Are we staring up at the mountain? Do we see our mountain? Are we lost in the foothills? Upside down in a ditch? Skittering up a cliff without a rope?
Maybe it’s time to talk mountains?