Free Time

If you were to visit my personal website, and if you poked around the interviews, and the Author2Author archives, and my books, and my blog, and Author magazine, and my coaching and workshops, you might conclude that I’m a pretty busy guy. This is an illusion I must maintain as a respectable adult. Most days I am not even a little busy, which is exactly how I like it. When I actually do get busy, if I have a chapter to finish and two clients to meet and an interview to shoot all in the same day, I feel as if my life has been hijacked.

Mind you, I like doing all this stuff. I wouldn’t have agreed to do it otherwise. The problem is I agreed to do these things the day, or the week, or the month before. Now the day itself has arrived and I find myself yearning for free time, for a great blank page of an afternoon where I may ask myself, “What would please me most at this very moment?” I am nothing if not responsible, however, so I suck it up, and follow my schedule, and then collapse in the evening as if I’ve just spent the day laboring in a coal mine.

It’s a happy kind of collapse, honestly, since I enjoyed doing everything I did. It’s very confusing being me sometimes. Because the only thing I dislike more than being busy is being bored. You see the problem? The solution, if you can call it that, is a kind of practice I learned from writing. Writing is all about filling blank pages. Every single moment on the page, every chapter, paragraph, and sentence is different than what has been written before. The only way to succeed, to enjoy, to thrive while writing is to give the scene or sentence I am crafting my complete attention.

And by complete attention I mean disciplined forgetting. I must forget about the past and all my grievances with it; I must forget about the future and what I fear might happen there; I must forget about other people and what they like and don’t like; I must forget about my chores and my children and all my loved ones; I must forget about everything but the story I’m telling. In such a holy instant I meet life completely, neither bored nor fatigued, just aware and alive and interested. Time, no matter what I’m doing, is not actually an impediment to such an experience – there can never be too much or too little of it. The only impediment remains my attention, a thing so free it can lead me at any moment into heaven or hell.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group coaching.

 

Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Time to Remember

Having written well over a thousand of these things in the last nine years, I have come to the conclusion that the personal essay is the form with which I am most artistically comfortable. It took me a while to admit this because for the first thirty or so years of my writing life I saw myself as a fiction writer, poet, or playwright – that is to say, an entertainer. While personal essays can and should be entertaining, their success depends on the depth of the lesson they provide. In the end, every essay looks at something I’ve learned that I think someone else might find useful as well.

Back when I saw myself as an entertainer, the idea of offering lessons in my work not only seemed to contradict the First Law of Writing – show don’t tell – but was personally repulsive to me. I did not want anyone to teach me anything. I’ll figure it out my life, you figure out yours, and in the meantime let’s amuse one another. Though in truth, the stories and poems I loved and valued the most always did more than merely amuse me: they reminded me of something I had forgotten. In fact, no sooner was I reminded of it I would forget it and have to go looking for it again in another story, poem, song, or movie.

I suppose I finally let myself start writing the essays out of desperation. My cyclical amnesia was fatiguing, and writing required me to remember on purpose. Turns out, I could! Turns out the very best way to memorize something is through repetition. Though not, in this case, rote repetition. Every time I return to the desk, the lesson, what I’m remembering, has changed – or at least it looks different to me, like a child who grew slightly while we were apart.

You may be wondering what “it” is I’m remembering. I’m sorry, that’s private. Actually, there’s nothing private about it because it’s the only thing anyone remembers. It’s just that you’ll remember it in your own way, and I wouldn’t want to interfere with that by defining that something that can only be felt. After all, I can’t write all the time, and some day I might be wandering around the world, having once again forgotten, and you and I will meet in person or on the page, and in your own way, in your own words, you’ll remind me why life is worth living.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group coaching.

 

Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Forgetting Stories

Starting stories is usually a lot of fun, but finishing one can be a little disorienting. And I don’t mean the process of finding the story’s best ending. The story and I are still in active conversation while I’m finding its ending. While we may be looking for the perfect moment to say goodbye, we are still talking to one another, and there is more I have to learn about the story, and there is still more the story has to teach me.

But then the day, the hour, the moment comes when there is no more for us to say to one another. That story, hopefully, is going to go have other conversations with other people called readers, but those conversations are by and large none of my business. They will happen in other homes and other cities and in the sanctity of other minds, and to wonder about those conversations is to burden my imagination with an unsolvable mystery.

In this way, I must forget about the story. This is not easy, maybe, since I loved the story. That’s why I wrote it. I loved meeting it at my desk and seeing where we went that day. Forgetting can feel like rejection. Writers don’t like rejection. It lives as a shadowy enemy for much of our life. I want that story to find acceptance somewhere. I want everything I love to be accepted.

This forgetting is not rejection, but rather making room for another story. I can only have one conversation at a time if I want to give that conversation my full attention. I never feel better than when I am giving life my full attention. To do so, I must temporarily forget everything else: other stories, other obligations, even my loved ones. I’ll remember everything by and by, but in the meantime, like a reader picking up a new book, I must clear my mind of memories and what might or might not happen in the shadowed future. For now, I must accept that this next story is as important as the last story, is as important as any story, and so a new conversation begins.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group coaching.

 

Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter