There’s a parable you may be familiar with, one involving a group of blind men and an elephant.

In the parable, the men have never encountered an elephant before. Each one comes in contact with a different part of the elephant’s body, and draws conclusions based on that part.

The one feeling the elephant’s leg concludes it’s like a tree trunk.

To the one feeling the trunk, it’s like a thick snake.

Another, feeling the tail, decides it’s like a rope.

The one feeling the ear determines it’s like a fan, and to the one feeling the tusk, it’s like a spear.

The parable is meant to illustrate that what’s true for one may not be true for another, and that we can learn much when we’re open to sharing different perspectives.

However, today it occurred to me that this metaphor also provides an interesting lens for looking at creative projects. For some of us (ahem, me), there’s a tendency to want to define the thing too quickly, before it’s had time to take shape.

We look at the business that’s wanting to be created, and say to ourselves “it’s this” or “it’s that”, before we’ve given ourselves time to feel around and get a sense of what it actually is.

We look at the book that’s wanting to be written, and declare “oh, it’s about this” or “it’s about that”, before we’ve felt around and found all of the edges of the story that wants to be told.

We look at the art that’s wanting to be made, and immediately form a picture in our minds of what it’s supposed to look like, before we’ve freed ourselves enough to muck about and discover what’s longing to be expressed.

I’m continuing to learn that the act of creation isn’t about the product at all, not really.

Instead, it’s about feeling around in the dark, and groping for our own edges. It’s about leaning into the discomfort of ‘not knowing‘, and feeling the stretch as we expand ourselves enough to allow something new to emerge.

It’s about gathering a sense of our own selves and our own limits, and discovering those places where our edges come in contact with the edges of others.

Not as a way to label, divide, or otherwise create separation, but as a way to truly see ourselves as part of the whole, and as a way to honor the staggering, beautiful Mystery of it all.