Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Trusting the Muse

I’ve written extensively on my thoughts about The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, but I’ve written almost nothing on the companion book Do the Work.  While I find the first one more inspirational and helpful, there are gems in the second book that I haven’t thought about in a while.  One of the main ideas is, “Trust the soup.”  The “soup” is the inspiration, the Muse, the creative urge.  When I think of soup, I don’t think of clear broth, I think of something thick and murky, like tomato soup.  The soup isn’t transparent.  You don’t know what’s inside.  With all due respect, maybe fog is a better word.  You just go in not knowing what you will find. 
When I write, it’s like this.  I just go in, not knowing what the result will be.  But my Muse is leading me, beckoning to me, and because I love and trust her, I continue into the soup, the fog (sometimes fog is called “pea soup” because of the thickness of both).   Once when I was 16 I was with some friends, Dave and Mike.  We were driving around on a foggy Friday night and we were in the thickest fog I had even experienced.  We literally could not see more than two or three feet ahead of us.  Mike, our driver, slowly crept forward until we were out of the fog. 
That’s what creative efforts can feel like sometimes.  We go forward slowly.  We know the general direction and most likely we’re going the right way, but we still can’t see more than a few feet in front of us.  We Keep Going anyway.  What choice is there?  To stay in the mire, in the fog, in the soup?  We trust that going forward, even slowly, will lead us somewhere.  That’s why I keep writing.  That’s why I haven’t given up on my house on the beach.  I keep moving forward even though all I can see is a few feet in front of me.
I wish I were given more.  I wish I knew I was going the correct way and the most direct way.  But I don’t.  So I Keep Going. Sometimes I may slow down, but I don’t stop.  I need to reach my house.  I need to have a life with my Muse.  This isn’t just something I want.  This is what I need.  Sometimes I feel as if my life literally depended on reaching my goals.  I don’t wish that kind of intensity on anyone, except for anyone who wants to live the most fulfilling life possible. 
The other thing Pressfield says is to stay stupid.  The word “stupid” is a strong word, even offensive to some.  It’s almost a swear word.  And I’m a smart guy, but I need to stay stupid.  I need to be smart enough to be aware of the danger, of the risks, but stupid enough to not care.  Maybe stupid is also not the right word; maybe “stubborn” is a better word.  The word almost doesn’t matter.  Words rarely do (and I’m a writer, so that seems like an odd thing to say).  What matters is action.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, my words are my actions, and my actions are my words.  More accurately my actions are writing words (blogs), reading words (studying), and speaking words (podcasts and teaching).  Words are my currency and I need to read, write, and speak a lot of them until I get to my house.  And I’m stupid enough to believe that if I just read, write, and speak the right number of words, then I will get to that house.  The problem is that I don’t know what that number is, so I have to act as if the next word I read, write, or speak is the one I need.  If it’s not, I Keep Going. 
This may be true of all of us who are trying to reach a goal.  Maybe the next interview is the one that will get us the job.  Maybe it’s the next piece of art that sells or helps us find our vision.  Maybe it’s the next hour, or the next half hour, or even the next ten minutes of study that brings us understanding.  Maybe it’s the next day when we finally make the right connection personally, professionally, spiritually, or financially.  Maybe only a little more effort is required, not a lot.  Or maybe it is a lot.  Fortunately, we only have to do a little at a time.  Really, we only have to and we only can do one thing at a time.  We just need to Get Started, even before we’re ready.

That’s the third thing he says, by the way – Get Started before you’re ready.  Jump in.  Do it.  This doesn’t mean to not plan or to be foolish.  But sometimes planning and thinking are just reasons to not move forward.  Often when I write, I have no idea what’s going to appear on this screen.  Every day I chase my Muse.  I have no idea where she will lead me.  I don’t care.  I trust her.  I Keep Going.  That has worked for over 800 blogs and it will work for my house on the beach.  I trust the soup.  I trust my Muse even more.

Monday, February 23, 2015

"A Thousand Years"

“Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave?
How can I love when I'm afraid to fall?
But watching you stand alone,
All of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow.

One step closer

I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don't be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What's standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this

One step closer

I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don't be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more
And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

One step closer
One step closer”
Christina Perri – A Thousand Years
With A Thousand Years by Christina Perri playing in the background, I realize how short and how precious life is, every moment.  I also realize we are always at risk for losing sight of that, but at this moment, at least, I’m not.  Although today is filled with a lot to do and a lot done, it’s important to not lose sight of my goals either.  Life, true life, can be overwhelmed by the 1,000 things to do instead of the 1,000 years we can live in the short time we have here.  I want to enjoy every moment I have.  I don’t want life to be engulfed by rushing and stress, or sadness and regret, or anger and impatience.  Things come in their time.
When I was a kid there was a preview on TV for a made-for-TV movie, in which a man has cancer and he says something like, “I want to really live life and be grateful and enjoy the gift of life!”
I felt annoyed.  Why does it take a crisis to awaken us to our mortality, and our immortality?
Right now I’m waiting…and sometimes it seems like I’m waiting 1,000 years for what I want.  It’s okay. I’ll wait.  And while I wait, I’ll work.  If it takes 1,000 years then God must know that’s how much time I need in order to be ready. 
Maybe I need to learn to manage my thoughts and not let my thoughts manage me. 
Maybe I need to learn to laugh at myself and cry with others more. 
Maybe God has more that He wants to teach me. 
Maybe there are more people to help.
Maybe there are more books to read.
Maybe there are more pages to write.
Maybe it will take 1,000 years for me to become the man I am supposed to be.
I can wait.  I can wait for my Muse. I can wait for my house on the beach.  I can wait for God’s plan to unfold. I won’t die every day waiting for you.  I will live.  I will Get Started and Keep Going.
“One step closer.”

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Doing My Best

“If you try to do your best, there is no failure.”

Mike Farrell

“A problem is a chance to do your best.”

Duke Ellington

“Just do your best. I find that if I set that goal for myself and no one else, I feel good.

Cobie Smulders

I’m doing my best.  Sometimes we do our best but it doesn’t seem to help.  In her book Loving What Is, Byron Katie says everyone is always doing their best at all times.  With all due respect, I don’t see that, not in others and certainly not in myself.  But now I’m doing my best and it seems that things are getting worse.  Or maybe they just seem like that.  Maybe life is hard sometimes and we have to get through it.  No, we have to do more than get through it; we have to decide how we are going to deal with the challenges that life brings.  So how can I do my best?
First, I just can.  There’s an ocean of information and advice in books, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet on how to do almost anything better.  We can learn how to manage our time, our money, how to get a job, how to improve relationships, how to be a better parent, how to be a more effective student, how to invest more wisely, or…or…or…well…anything.  The word “Google,” named after the Internet search engine has become a verb, meaning to look up something.  I can “google” (small g) anything.  Literally.  All the advice and ideas are out there.  Most of it is free and I don’t even have to leave my home.  If I’m a more visual learner, I can “YouTube” something, for example, organizational tips or how to fold laundry or braid hair or change oil, or…or…or…well…anything.  There is a plethora of resources available literally at my fingertips.  And they can help me do my best.
The second thing I can do is be grateful.  Yes, life is hard.  It’s hard for you and it’s hard for me.  But usually there’s something, no, several things that are good in our lives.  It may be our job, our health, our relationships.  It may be the simple ability to read this blog and know that if I can read, then I can access information and ideas and create change.  If I have health, I can take a walk or get a job or clean my place.  There is so much to be grateful for.  Being grateful does not mean being unrealistic or ignoring my problems.  It requires a true assessment of my life, good and bad.  When I practice gratitude I may realize that there is more good than bad and I may be more able to formulate solutions for what I want to change.
The third thing I can do is to create a plan.  In order to do that, I need a realistic understanding of my current situation and I have to be objective.  For example, I might say, “I’m $100,000 in debt.”  It doesn’t help to add, “Oh my gosh!  It’s hopeless!  I’m doomed!”  Rather, just write down what your situation is (yes, write it so you can put things in order on paper).  Write it objectively, almost as if it were happening to someone else.  That might take some of the sting out and maybe in this process a solution will come. 
Finally, the fourth thing I can do is take action.  Almost any action will do.  I have found peace, relief, and solutions in the following ways:
·      Writing
·      Studying
·      Creating a list of goals for the day or even for the next hour
·      Washing the dishes
·      Folding the laundry
·      Making my bed
·      Exercising
·      Helping someone
Buddhism says that we don’t have to suffer.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I don’t think we have to suffer as much or for as long as we often do.  We don’t have to stay in the mire of depression or discouragement.  We can take action.  We can Get Started and Keep Going.  We can do our best.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I Haven't Forgotten

“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”

I miss writing.  I really do.  It feels like I haven’t written in weeks even though it has only been two days since I published my last blog.  I’ve told this story before, but when I first started writing these blogs, I excitedly told a group of friends about this then-new undertaking.  Rather than sharing my excitement and enthusiasm, they were skeptical.  They said they had seen me start things before and not finish them.  Their skepticism stung, but it also made me afraid to quit.  I had written about 20 then.  Now I’ve written over 800.   The next sentence was going to be, “And I’m still going strong.”
I’m not.
But I am still going steady.  I’m not writing as much as I was, but I’m still writing.  I’m still afraid of quitting, but not for the same reasons.  I’m not trying to prove something to a bunch of guys I’ve hardly seen since then.  So what am I doing?
I’m doing what I love.
I love to write.
So I’m writing.
I think life should be approached this way.  We should keep one eye on the future, but we should also keep an eye on our hearts.  So I’m doing what I love.  And I’m looking to future in which I live in a house on the beach and I write a lot more and I spend a lot more time with my Muse.
Now I can’t do that as much as I’d like.  I’m starting school and it’s already a lot of work.  And in some weird twist of fate, the extra needed hours at work that I’ve been praying for are suddenly coming.  I have little or no time for them, but I’m going to have to make time.  It was what I wanted, what I asked for, even if it was not how I pictured it.  So time management is going to be crucial.  At the same time, I have to keep my eye on the future, because it’s coming and I don’t want it get here without my Muse being there, without my house on the beach.
If this blog, like many of my blogs, seems self-indulgent, then I apologize and I don’t.  I think all of us have to make choices about what we want.  Then we have to decide how we’re going to get there.  Then we have to Get Started and Keep Going. 
The point is I haven’t forgotten.
I haven’t forgotten my Muse.
I haven’t forgotten my writing.
I haven’t forgotten the people I love.
I haven’t forgotten my commitments or my goals.

I haven’t forgotten how to love.