I was recently presented with the idea that Life is here to serve us; we’re not here to serve it. I think I’ve spent most of my Life living this idea backwards. Having this notion is like now having a new pair of glasses to see Life in a totally different shade…now I wonder how I can fully experience my most ecstatic, realized self by allowing (not expecting) Life to serve me!
I’ve been thinking lately about writers and the thought occurs to me that as writers, particularly aspiring writers who are not already getting paid for our work, we’ve really got it cush, yet we think we’ve got it tough.
As aspiring writers, we inadvertently sabotage ourselves, or at least hold our potential at bay, because we have both a wishful desire to get paid as a writer, and at the same time, we privately wonder why anybody would pay for our writing. What is profoundly insightful or insatiably intriguing to others, to us may seem commonplace. And we fall into the trap of thinking that if we thought of it, then anyone else can think of it too….so therefore our thoughts are not remarkable…and therefore our words are not worth money….and because they are not worth money, of course no one will pay for them. And voila! We’ve conveniently justified not writing. Because why bother anyway? Only people that are already getting paid for their writing, get paid for their writing, right? Wrong!
This is a classic case of a thought thread beginning with a statement of truth, but very quickly veering off track into a self-deluding lie, albeit one that tastes palatable and so therefore must be true. It’s too easy to assume because the seed of our thought started with a truth that the end conclusion will also be a truth. But that just isn’t the truth!
Herein lies the flaw: Just because anyone else can think of your same thought doesn’t mean they will, and even if they do, it doesn’t mean they will do anything with it, and even if they do do something with it, so what? Is your take on the same motif going to be EXACTLY the same as someone else’s? I hardly think so! But, by far, the biggest lie in this line of thinking is assuming that our thoughts are unremarkable and unworthy of monetary consideration because everyone else has the same thought potential as we do.
So that’s true: everyone else does have the same thought potential. But potential is where the truth ends. If we don’t turn that potential into writing that someone else can read, it remains just that–potential. And how much money do you think potential alone ever made anybody? Zero! Potential has to be turned into something. This is what distinguishes writers from thinkers. And the ‘something’ it gets turned into may or may not command money in the marketplace. But that doesn’t matter.
When you’re a writer (that’s not already getting paid for your writing), you can’t use whether or not your writing is going to get you paid as your impetus for starting to write in the first place. You just have to write and let your stuff get filtered thru the universal sieve of the marketplace. We all know that people get paid for crap writing all the time, but crap is subjective. If that crap is generating money for its author, then it is withstanding the test of the marketplace, period! The only difference is degree and as an aspiring writer, we can’t afford to concern ourselves with degrees; we should instead be concerned with breaking the barrier from not getting paid into getting paid, assuming of course that we are writing in the first place! And even after we break the barrier and start getting paid, degrees still really don’t matter, at least degrees relative to other writers. The only thing that matters is our results relative to our desires. And for promotion and marketing: they’re a numbers game. Promotion and marketing are a hedge, that’s it; nothing more, nothing less. We still have to write.
It’s like this: We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take, and as a writer we have to take the shots (i.e., write the stuff) regardless of what we think the outcome might be. One of two things is going to happen: We’re either going to produce stuff that people will pay for or we’re going to learn a hellava lot in the process, presumably about ourselves and about writing. And besides that, writing is an art and art works by working on its creator. The more we create (write), the better our (art) writing becomes. So who’s to stay that what we are writing now that no one is paying us for won’t pave the way for us to write something that someone will pay for?
The point is this: Write. Just write. Write regardless. Write with abandon. Whatever happens, it’s a win all the way around.
Money or no money, as writers, we have to be willing to put ourselves and our writing out there. It’s a requirement for the job!
P.S. Please excuse my several instances of prepositions at the end of sentences. If it makes you feel better, think of it as post-positioning instead of pre-positioning!
I wonder what would happen if we changed our idea about ‘failure’ to simply mean a milestone for having tried something big?
And if we try something big and fall short of the goal, does that really mean we failed? If failure means not having met the goal, then yes it does. But I’d offer that our definition of failure is flawed. Shouldn’t the objective always be to do something bigger than we believe ourselves capable? Isn’t life about stretching ourselves, taking risks, embarking on adventure?
Where did we get this idea that the point in life is to be comfortable? Seeking a comfortable, easy life is analogous to striving for planned complacency–and doing it on purpose!
We’ve been programmed to believe that failure is bad and should be avoided, but what if we strived for failure on purpose? And I don’t mean planning for failure; I mean striving for failure. There’s a difference!
Planning for failure is using this idea as a means of justifying and explaining your failures in some kind of twisted logic where failure becomes the new success. “Well, the point of the exercise was to fail, and there I failed, so I succeeded.” No!
Striving for failure, on the other hand, is deliberately choosing projects or goals that are bigger than you, that feel scary, that are beyond our capability to handle and that have an element of unknown. Of course, when we do this, we are likely to fall short of our goal; but more importantly we will have tried something big. We will have stretched ourselves. We will have expanded our consciousness. And maybe, just maybe in the process of trying something bigger than ourselves, we can make a difference in the lives of people around us–in our families, our communities, villages, towns, cities, etc! ‘Bigger than ourselves’ by definition will have a ripple effect even into the lives of people we don’t know.
It’s like this: If it isn’t scary, it’s not worth doing. If at first you don’t succeed, then you were not challenging yourself enough. No one ever achieves something big by being grandiose. We accomplish big things by being willing to risk failure, by not being afraid to put our heart and soul into something that just might not work, by being willing to try. Trying is not dying; trying is the opposite of hiding (1).
(1) Thanks to Seth Godin for the perspective on trying.
I just reviewed: ‘Without Notice: Life Can Change in a Moment’ by Bonnie Karpay on Amazon! The author, creator of the Relationship Quotient, very skillfully harnesses the power of story to illustrate what she calls the “5 C’s”, making them digestable, memorable and thus easier to actually apply in our lives and businesses.
A quick, easy, and compelling read, this is a realistic tale of divine transformation where we watch the main character slowly come to realize that his impossible situation is really a brilliant opportunity. For a debut novel, the author very skillfully lays a contrasting context by rendering the essence and energy signature of a character leading a house-of-cards life, so that when it falls apart in one cataclysmic event; it paves the wave for his healing, self-discovery, and ability to face his own truth.
Ultimately, in the end, it illustrates to the reader that meaningful relationships really are at the heart of a fruitful life.
Click here to take a look inside the book!
Setting an intention is totally different that planning.
Setting an intention establishes the WHAT, but it leaves the HOW up to a power greater than yourself to conspire on your behalf.
Plan(ning), on the other hand, is usually an attempt to grasp an understanding of HOW things will work out.
If we all had to know HOW it was going to work before we started, we’d never get started!
Set the intention; surrender the plan!
I spend a great deal of time thinking about the impact of my life. I once had the very powerful experience of writing my own funeral eulogy as a coaching exercise and it was unforgettable. At first blush that may sound morose, but the point is to project what you would want people to say and feel about you, how you impacted their lives when you still had clay feet; and to let this be a governing light by which you can live your life now.
I’ve also heard it put another way, which is to write a 200-year life plan. Again, at first glance, this seems ridiculous; the vast majority of us don’t live to be 100, let alone 200 years old! But that is precisely the point—the impact of our lives reaches well beyond the limitation of our physical existence.
While it’s impossible to always live our lives congruently with our own long-term projection of ourselves, that doesn’t mean the projection (or plan) isn’t worth having. And having a plan certainly doesn’t alleviate our lives of friction and conflict. Actually, I’d suggest having a planned legacy might create more collisions, because when we’re working toward (or on) that which is part of our soul work, the obstacles are a necessary and essential part of the process. If it weren’t for the obstacles, we would have no milestones—nothing over which to triumphantly prevail!
I read this recently in an issue of Backpacker Magazine:
We make choices, and nearly all of us start out incubating some grand, youthful ambition. We want to write novels when we grow up, or scale unclimbed peaks. But then we do grow up and we become practical. We choose [paths] that are easier, more conventional. We limit our adventures to what fits in the vacation schedule. (Bill Donahue)
WTH? Personally, I can’t stand the idea of getting to the end of my life (whenever that may be), looking back and living with the realization that I didn’t do anything that mattered, that I didn’t make a difference in the people’s lives that intersected with mine, that I didn’t live my life authentically to the best of my ability, that I didn’t stretch myself beyond what I thought were my limits; that I lived a wasted life, squandered my gifts, skills, abilities and opportunities, and that the only legacy I might leave behind is bitter resentment and bad memories for all the things I could have done better or differently and instead chose only actions in service of myself and my own immediate gratification. Yuk!
This is not to say that I have the expectation I won’t ever violate these ideas in the course of my life, and it’s certainly not to say that I am above situational regrets or having to fight on the battleground of my own frailties and weaknesses; BUT it IS to say that somehow in the grand sum total of my life as I lived it, I want the fact that I had one to have made a difference! And the only way I know how to do that is to have spent some time purposefully contemplating what I want the end to look like, so that I have a guide for the middle.
Living a life guided by an intentional legacy is not an easy life , in fact, it may be harder. But it’s fuller and purposeful. And if my choices are to pay the day-to-day price of a purposeful life now or to live a careless, unguided one—well everything comes with a price and I’d rather pay the price daily than the balloon payment at the end!
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like this, “If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”
Since then…I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many day’s in a row, I know I need to change something.
Your time is limited…Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition…Everything else is secondary.
-from Steve Jobs at the June 12, 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address
So I spent 21 days in a funk and if there is anything good I can say about a funk, it is the coming out of it. The brightness of feeling alive and connected again stands out sharply against the dark backdrop of feeling like a blob of existence. I didn’t plan for 21 days (do we ever plan for a funk?); to be truthful I didn’t even realize it was only 21 days. I would have bet money on 45 days and felt sure that I was being conservative.
Getting out of the funk wasn’t easy. Somehow, I was under the grand illusion that I had moved thru other funks, traumas, tragedies and catastrophes much easier than I was working thru this one. This only served to whip me further into the gridlock. I also relentlessly dug the trench deeper by obsessively wondering when it was going to be over. What I finally learned is that I had to take action–in particular, self-care action. Oh how this was elusive! The whole time I was in the funk, I thought I was taking care of my self by resting (read, sleeping) alot, mindlessly escaping into TV and solitaire. It is clear to me now that was a cleverly disguised form of admission into the funk and it was easy to get away with it because it “looked” so normal. Normal just means alot of people are doing it; it doesn’t mean it’s sane!
A vital component of recovery from the funk was relating to other real people. We all have people in our lives who could fit in the “not-real” category, as in you’re supposed to be close, but you never really feel like you know them. So I purposely got with the REAL people in my life and shared the REALity of what had been going on in my world. Sharing with others has a way of diffusing the potency of the funky feelings. It also pastes next steps vividly on billboards!
I had to inventory my funk! Repeatedly playing the circumstances over and over in my head wasn’t working. And neither was trying to answer my own questions with the same mind that created them. So I had to sit down and take stock. This exercise helped me to get clear on WHY I was feeling so bad. It was laughable when I finally saw it for what it was. My character liabilities were in full swing with my full participation, but not my permission! I was bathing in woe (self-pity), obsessing over not meeting others expectations and what they were thinking of me (pride), feeling entitled to better than what I got (entitlement), stubbornly unhappy with what I had (ungrateful), fervently wishing the circumstances could be different (resistance) and waiting to be struck wonderful again (unwillingness).
After having a good laugh at myself, I once again felt worthy of good and this started the re-connection. It was a little like plugging into a faulty socket; the juice is intermittent at first, but with a little concerted effort and attention, it eventually starts working the way it was designed–to be of maximum service when plugged in-to. Funny, how that is reciprocal!
Voila! Now we were getting somewhere!
Again, I’ve had a lapse in writing and I can tell it in my mind and body. I have that messy feeling that comes with the territory. In part, this is because it’s been so long since I’ve spent much time writing and this, in turn, is because I’ve been completely consumed (and am still recovering) from a HU-MON-GOUS first annual event that I produced recently—that’s my day job.
I vacillate between being energized and deeply exhausted, creatively inspired and being blocked. In reading about Resistance in Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, I am learning just how elusively cunning Resistance really is. I’ve heard invisible thoughts saying things like,
‘Nobody cares about what you have to say.’
‘Everything that’s worth saying, somebody’s already said it.’
‘Writing is a waste of time. You’ve got way bigger priorities right now.’
‘It’s been so long now since you’ve posted anything, you’ve lost all your momentum.’
Even as I write this, what I’m writing feels stupid.
And here’s a real whopper, ‘If you were really going to write, you’d have already started; so apparently it’s not THAT important to you really.’
So F YOU, Resistance! I’m writing, even if it’s crappy. And I do have other priorities right now, but that doesn’t mean writing ISN’T a priority! Writing is always nourishingly therapeutic for me and if I’m not willing to take action on things that replenish me, how can I expect to have any surplus for anyone else? If I don’t do the things necessary and essential for me to feel full and vibrant (as opposed to depleted), I am destined for the black hole of self-serving, self-absorbed, self-righteous, self-pity and self-loathing. Yuk! No thanks, I’ll pass! And ‘passing’ requires effort against the grain of Resistance.