I was reminded of this phrase the other day. It is from a quote by the late great Bruce Lee and, like so much of his philosophy, is an idea that can be applied to life outside martial arts. The fuller version of the quote is as follows:
‘Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own and let it grow, be like water. You must be shapeless, formless, like water. Now you put water in the cup, it becomes the cup.’
Personally, I find this idea a great help as I navigate the waters (completely intended metaphor) of being an independent author. The marketplace is so very vast, the voices so many, that we must each find our own pathway through, just as water finds its way through, around, over and under obstacles in its path. Water is soft, yet can wear away the hardest stone. It can join with others to become a torrent, or stay alone as a trickle, yet still it keeps flowing.
As we promote our work and seek connections, so too should we be clear and transparent, just like water. Share honestly of ourselves and be flexible. Keep flowing and moving forward. Don’t stay in one place or become attached to one idea – to do that is to risk becoming stagnant or drying up completely.
There are many water metaphors – a flow of ideas, a torrent of information, drowning in kisses (I like that one). When creating, words like flow or stream are used to describe how it feels when ideas move through us to emerge as words or images or sounds. This is also a flow we aim for when practicing martial arts – that movements come naturally, without effort or conscious thought. Fighting the flow, or trying to make it something it is not, can cause it to stop, as can consciously aiming for the flow. Instead we must become the cup, letting the idea take shape.
It can be difficult at times to do this, because it requires a certain amount of letting go. It requires trust, openness to new ideas, taking the path less travelled. But when it works, and flow becomes effortless, it is worth it.
Be like water.