From My Bookshelf — Day 64
We have things to do in this life that have nothing to do with the people we love and our relationships with them. If I write what I really feel, the thinking goes, then I will hurt the people I love. And so, sometimes we write nothing at all. Maybe for some that’s perfectly okay, but for others it isn’t. For many of us there’s a sort of festering in the spot where we carry the untold story. We feel tied up in knots.
Life as we know it would surely cease if we were to stop the endless activity and sit down with our own thoughts and a pad of paper. But maybe the end of life as we know it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Maybe life as we know it keeps those we love dependent on us. Maybe if we pulled back a bit, they’d step up. And maybe we’d be happier. Less—shall I say it?—resentful?
So let’s go back to this book you wrote for your grandchildren, the book you spent hours creating—hundreds and hundreds of hours, I exaggerate not; the book you created with a specific audience in mind; the book that’s only a shadow of what it could be because it was created for family; a document that was alternately pleasant and onerous to write, but was never liberating, never truly intoxicating. It was a story eternally fettered to the ground like a falcon in a zoo exhibit.
But what if it could have flown?
What if after all those Thanksgiving turkeys and elaborate Christmas mornings you put your efforts into something for yourself with no communal gain in mind? If your family ends up reading it and even liking it, all the better, but what if you started out on this adventure with only your own literary vision and your own fulfillment in mind? The tribe might profit from your work in the end—who knows?—but that would be an accidental by-product of this writing, not its raison d’être.
No. Its reason for being—your reason for picking up the pen and showing up at the page—would be this: You want it. You want it. You want the paper under your hand, smooth and gliding like a bedsheet. You crave the pen in your hand, carving out the meaning only you can create.
You are not bad, or selfish, for wanting this for yourself. In fact, your writing’s one shot of coming into its own—of truly offering something fabulous to the world—depends upon the existence of this type of animal selfishness. For in the deep desire to express what is truly our own, we have that one golden opportunity to tell that which belongs to all of us; the universal story of love and loss, of despair and redemption, of our trespasses and our forgiveness.
We give most to others when we are fully ourselves. “Don’t ask what the world needs,” philosopher Howard Thurman once said. “Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
So go on, pick up the pen. Come alive.
Theo Pauline Nestor — Writing is My Drink (pp. 151-156)
After writing out this quote from Nestor, it felt appropriate to share the introduction to a memoir I have been working on. I planned on taking this blog in a different direction, but instead I’ll give this sneak peak into my memoir.
My life has forever been altered by one thing—books. Books contain magic. Books have a mysterious power that allows the writer—even when dead for centuries—to have a conversation with an individual in the here-and-now. I have enjoyed conversations with many of the world’s greatest minds. I have walked away from many of those encounters with awe and wonder unspeakable.
From the very first author who bravely etched his work on a cave wall in some primitive culture, to the likes of Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, and Elizabeth Gilbert; the world is forever-changed by the audacity of one person willing to apply themselves and share what they are learning. Where would we be without these brave souls?
Books have been the catalyst for my life. Books have saved me. Books have opened my mind to a great big world that exists right outside my doorstep. I am forever grateful for the influence that books had on me.
For many years, I had the assumption that reading books was only a one-sided conversation. I considered the author as the expert and myself as simply the consumer. I gobbled up what the author had to say without much regard to my own thoughts. Eventually, unbeknownst to me, this one-sided affair became an ebb-and-flow between two people. I allowed myself the opportunity to formulate my own thoughts and opinions on the author’s words. Before I knew it, this one-sided consumption turned into a two-sided encounter. Somewhere along the way, I found myself. And I have only the great minds of this world—who were courageous enough to write down their ideas—to thank for my discovery.
One of my all-time favorite movies is Dead Poets Society. That movie has continued to shape my life over the years in hundreds of ways; but for the sake of this writing I must funnel my thoughts and say that Dead Poets Society helped me develop my love for reading books and applying my life to learning.
There’s a scene in the movie where Professor John Keating shows the boys in his class old pictures of deceased Welton Academy students. He told the students to lean in close to hear what the boys in the old pictures were trying to tell them. He then whispered:
“Seize the day, boys.”
“Make your lives extraordinary.”
Professor Keating brought literature and poetry to life for those boys. Through watching that film and choosing to “suck the marrow out of life,” I have been on a long and arduous journey to make my life extraordinary. I have found that books serve as my compass on this wonderful voyage.
Several years ago I found myself at a crossroads in my own life. I had spent years absorbing all the information I could gather. Something in me kept whispering to share what I was learning with the world.
“Seize the day, boy.”
“Make your life extraordinary.”
I stood at a crossroads to share or not to share. I felt so insecure like when I was a kid at a birthday party wearing the blindfold attempting to pin the tail on the donkey. I wanted desperately to be that kid who appeared to have magical powers and pin the tail right where it belonged. My hope was to leave the other kids in awe and wonder; instead I heard their laughs and felt their joy in my embarrassing failure.
Writing (and sharing) is such an endeavor. By writing, we put ourselves out there. We risk the fear of being laughed at; of being made fun of; of hearing our loved ones stab who-does-he-think-he-is daggers into our hearts.
After reading thousands of books on hundreds of topics I have committed myself to sharing. I have decided to gladly put on the mask at the birthday party, take that tail, and wander all around the best I can searching for that donkey’s ass.
What books have taught me—and why I am forever grateful for them—is by sharing your ideas with the world you can allow another person the opportunity to learn and grow. And then, as a result, hopefully they are willing to share his or her ideas with the world.
As I said, I stood at a crossroads in my own life to share my ideas or not to share. I clumsily put one foot in front of the other by creating a blog (www.mysteriousflow.com) and sheepishly sharing it with friends and acquaintances. For several awkward years I continued to develop my voice and hone my craft. I became addicted to the instant feedback that writing a blog offered. I loved the euphoric highs when someone left a positive comment and I also learned the dark obsessive thoughts that came as a result of reading negative feedback.
After several decades of journaling and years of blogging, I have made the decision that it was time to write a book of my own. I felt I had developed enough as a writer, and as a human, to finally have something to offer the world.
I changed my occupation on social media to “Writer” to convince the world (and myself) that I was, in fact, a writer. I set out on a journey to write a book. I wanted to give back to this craft that had such a huge impact on my life.
And so I wrote…
For several years I wrote with the hopes of publishing a book but I was only successful at producing a long list of excuses. It’s not that I didn’t write; I dedicated myself to writing. But I seemed to lack real direction.
I started a novel that I was certain would change the course of religion on this planet as we know it. The relationship between the characters in my novel would profoundly impact the relationships of all humans around the world. After reading my novel, Democrats and Republicans, Atheists and Southern Baptists, Israelis and Palestinians, would all finally agree to bury the hatchet and live in peace. After seeing the profound shift in my characters’ lives, how could the world not stand up and take notice? I was certain my novel would alter people’s thinking and change their lives.
Needless to say, I became stuck. I gave up on the life-changing novel and focused my attention on my own life since that’s what my novel was about anyway. I put so much pressure on writing the perfect novel that I choked it to death. Instead of letting the story flow organically, I made the mistake of overthinking it.
I believe all things happen for a reason and that every experience is not to be considered bad or good. Instead, every experience is good because reality always gives me what I need in every moment, even if I think otherwise.
So I found myself caught in a frustrating dilemma: I had such a reverence for books and I also wanted nothing more than to add my contribution to the world and give back a piece of what I was learning. I saw the effect that my writing could have on a small scale with my blog so I had to keep pressing forward. I simply could not give up on my desire to publish a book (or many books, in fact).
I set goals for myself, which I taped around the house in various places. I spent nearly four straight months getting up super early and writing whatever my Muse had for me that day. I wrestled with current ideas and also with struggles from my past. I went to bed eager to see what my Muse would bring up the next morning. I was convinced that after months of faithful writing, an outline or some kind of structure would emerge out of my efforts. Unfortunately, my old habits took over and I slowly lost hope.
I expected my Muse to lead me to a destination one breadcrumb at a time. I expected each new day to bring with it another layer of clarity I didn’t have the day before. But when that clarity didn’t show up, I lost focus. Oh, I still believed I was a writer. I still had faith I would contribute to the world with the words I arranged on the page, I just came to accept the timing wasn’t right. I continued to post blogs and I wrote as often as I felt inspired to do so, I just didn’t force myself to push out a book that wasn’t authentic just for the sake of saying I wrote a book. I accepted the fact that publishing a book wasn’t a part of that season of my life.
You may be asking right about now, well what’s with all the “Carpe Diem, Seize the day, boy, make your life extraordinary” talk if I was unwilling to pursue my dream of becoming a published author at all cost? I can say, I didn’t give up on that dream, it was simply an issue of timing. I had a deep knowing that I was already a successful author and that it all would materialize when the time was right. I still have that deep knowing to this day. I’m certain my desire to write books wasn’t given to me by the Universe in vain.
Once I was able to get out of my own way, the writing took care of itself. I was able to compile much of what I wrote over the last few years into the book you hold in your hands today. I was able to let go of the roadblocks and join the conversation with my very own contribution.
The pages that follow are my first public printed contribution to the world. This is my attempt at wrestling with ideas and allowing you to be a part of that conversation. This is my blindfolded attempt at pinning the tail on the donkey.
Hope you enjoyed the sneak peak.
Have a blessed day.
Peace and Love,
Ah writing…can’t live with it, can’t live without it. It’s an audacious endeavor. Writing takes guts mixed with arrogance soaked in humility. You have what it takes Trav. I like your start here, now grab me by the literary throat and shake, and don’t let me go!
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Oh, and Carpe’ Diem! (One of my favorite movies too!)
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