The Most Important Step

I want to share with you something that came to my mind as I was painting (for the first time in days) that I’m sure has been said before, but I present it to you in a riddle. You are blocked you say. You’re having trouble working, getting inspired, you stress over every piece as you strain for perfection. If that is you, as it is me, I offer this analogy.

In your imagination, or for real, stand at one end of a long, straight hallway. Now walk straight to the other end. Of all the steps it took you to get from one end of this long hallway to the other, which, in your mind, was the most important step?

Tree w/ Clouds (plein air) 8x10 oil on board MTMcClanahanNow imagine that each one of the steps you took, from one end of the hallway to the other, was a painting of yours, or a sculpture, or a drawing, whatever your vocation happens to be. The hallway in this example is your artistic road and can start from any point in your life, but the end is always, well, the end (of this mortal existence anyway). Considering that each step represents a work of your art, I repeat the question, which painting/sculpture/drawing was/is the most important. Think back to when you were about halfway down the hallway, in the process of taking one of those steps. Imagining this, which of all the steps, from beginning to where you are right now, to the last you will take at the far end, was/is/will be, the most important?

The answer (or at least in my opinion the answer) to this question will completely change the way you look at your art. It will take away all your cares and worries and put in proper perspective your art and your life. That’s a big pronouncement but it has made all the difference to me.

I was scared today but started painting anyway. I was going to put paint on canvas no matter what. It was cold, late, I was uninspired and afraid of what the results would be. But, come hell or high water, I was determined that paint would be spread by me, on that canvas, before it was dark.

Once I began, everything rapidly changed; my feelings changed, my outlook brightened, my fears fell away, and I was in heaven. It became apparent to me that these “blocks” to my working vanished not because I was painting and painting well, not because I could see ahead that this may be a successful piece, no, my fears retreated simply because I had begun. Once I realized that the first step is the most difficult and the most important, then every other step in the process, every other painting, holds no power over me. The most important step behind me having been conquered, every present and future step/painting now loses it’s perfectionist’s hold on me. No longer do I gauge my self worth on the current work, or even on past work, but I am who I am because I faced the enemy, and I began.

You see, it is impossible for me to fail now, because I’ve already succeeded. I took the first step.

“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” Basil King

MT McClanahan

An artist and perpetual thinker, MT McClanahan finds inspiration through connecting ideas across a broad range of topics. He especially enjoys philosophy and how art and life interconnect. He is the founder of TPT and his paintings can be seen at

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