What if I just sat here and wrote, despite the pointlessness of this content, despite being hungry and tired, despite the noise, despite everything else in the world? What if I just sat here and wrote? What would happen? What, if anything, would I discover?
That’s what I wrote the other night when I couldn’t write. I couldn’t. I just wrote a page and half of, what I thought was, meaningless material. Okay, it was garbage. I got tired and stopped and then I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to write again because I did such a lousy job the other night. And that fear, that dread that I felt about ever coming back to this, was, while not overwhelming, strong enough to pay attention to. I had to make a choice. I could decide that I have nothing more or nothing new to say (possibly), or I could Keep Going. Maybe what I’m writing now is nothing more and nothing new. The thought of even trying to write created a sudden fatigue, the kind my kids get when I ask them to do a chore. Steven Pressfield says that we can use this resistance to show us what we should be doing. That is, the thing we don’t want to do, the thing that makes us suddenly tired, the thing we’re avoiding, that’s the thing we should be doing. Why?
Honestly, I have no idea. But the feeling that’s keeping me from doing it is the most reliable indicator that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Why?
Will I be a famous writer some day? Will I make a million dollars? I don’t know. Maybe not. Even…probably not. (I hate that thought.) Then…why?
I still have no idea. But I also have no idea why I was raised in one of the healthiest, most educated, most prosperous nations on Earth. I have no idea why I was born into this time or place with all its advances in technology. Almost all the information in the world, history, literature, philosophy, science…it’s literally at my fingertips. Why was I born into this time and this place? Why was I given all these privileges?
I still don’t know. What I do know are these things:
· I have been born with certain advantages in health, in intellect, in technology, in circumstance. I recently wrote that life is not a gift, but a loan. One day it will be taken back. What then do I do with it? Here’s what else I know:
· I can do whatever I want with what I’m given. I can use my advantages well, I can abuse them, or I can ignore them. The choice is mine.
· I’m happier when I use my gifts well. To do something meaningful, however it pays off or doesn’t, always creates an initial and ongoing resistance. But in the end, when I use my gifts well, my time, my mind, my talents, I’m happier.
I’ve often wondered what the purpose of life is, especially when I’m aware of the materialistic culture in which I live. I don’t know if I have the answer, or if there is an answer. Perhaps there is more than one. In The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis says that we must suffer so that we can truly find God. He says that God even seems to leave us for a time so that we can learn to trust Him even when we don’t feel His presence. I think writing, or anything worth doing, is also like this. The inspiration seems to leave for a while. The energy is gone. I keep working anyway. Sometimes, when there are deadlines or impending assignments we have no choice but to Keep Going.
For much of the last 24 hours I’ve had an upset stomach. I think some of it is nervousness. I start a new class tomorrow and there seems to be more reading than I’ve ever had. In addition, I’m moving towards my final project and I still don’t know what I want to write about. Finally, I still need to improve my academic writing and so far this has been a constant struggle for me. This master’s program has been my cross, my suffering. I hesitate to use those terms. I’m not being crucified. It’s not suffering comparable to what millions go through every day dealing with starvation, illness, sexual assault, injustice, racism, poverty, or loneliness, but it’s suffering anyway, because it’s a harder road than is necessary. I’m not Jesus, but I’m choosing this cross. Not for money or fame or a better job (though all those things would be nice if they came), but for love of the assignment, the literal and spiritual assignments I’ve been given. I’ve chosen history and I’ve chosen writing because, like my Muse, they were chosen for me from the beginning of time. I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to accept this pressure. But I have. And that means I can’t do other things I’d like to do. My time for myself and for those I love is very limited.
For me, however, there is no other way than to Get Started and Keep Going, to use the difficulties to make me a better man and use the advantages I have to make the difficulties easier.