You Are What You Do (Part One)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I am a writer.

I love the way that sounds.  I love imagining a Hemingway-esque life abroad, traveling to new places, sitting in eclectic coffee shops with oversized glasses that dome around my face.  There’s a faded leather journal open in my lap with beautiful words of poetry that flow effortlessly from my pen.

I picture days spent curled up with a good book beside a window that is speckled with tiny drops of rain.  (There’s something irresistibly evocative about rainfall.  It makes us feel things more deeply, I think—or at least it makes us think we feel more deeply.)  I love to imagine the moment when I see my name on the cover of a book, my life goal as an artist, as I sign my well-practiced signature on the crisp, unmarred page.

But let’s be real.  That’s really not what writing’s about.  That’s kind of like thinking that every day as a professional actor in Hollywood is going to the Oscar’s.  It’s a perk of the job, but it’s still a very consuming, absorbing, strenuous profession.

Writing looks more like this: I get an idea for a new story. I become really excited about it.  And then I stare at my computer screen, watching the blinking dot of the mouse, my arch nemesis.  I write a few thousand words before really taking the time to plan where the heck I’m going.  Then, I go back and lay out the whole plot and try to fix it up.  I take a break.  Read a book.  Try to critique the book because I’m jealous of the writer who wrote it.  Then I’ll watch a movie for inspiration but end up critiquing the movie because the book was better.  This continues until I’m much further along on my manuscript.

When my book is done…Wait.  That’s a false start to the sentence.  My book is never done.  

Writers continuously get better as they read and write more.  Every day, I am a better writer than I was the day before.  It’s not something you lose.  It’s only something you gain.  Writers, and anyone for that matter, are the sum of their experiences, so the more you experience, the more colors are on your palette with which to paint word pictures of the world.  Therefore, I’m always a better writer at the end of the book than at the beginning—meaning that I have a very difficult time letting go of my work as “finished”.  So when my book is as “finished” as I’ll let it be, it hits the gruesome part.  People tear it to shreds, tell you where your plot was ridiculous, point out flaws in character development, overused words, parallels to your favorite book series…everything you don’t want to and need to hear.

This is the vicious cycle, my friends.  Sure, it’s great fun to dream about influencing the world through the written word.  It’s even fun to think about being blessed by success and seeing my book make the bestseller’s list.

But that cannot and should not be the goal.

What happens when success becomes our ultimate focus?  What happens when the probability of our prosperity becomes a factor in determining our actions?  

You no longer are what you do.  You are what you strive for, which isn’t the same thing. be continued!!

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