Like many writers I know, I had big dreams for myself when I began my first book. I imagined myself winning all the usual awards, appearing at the top of bestseller lists, and being invited to speak to thousands of people. I was embarrassed to share the specifics of these fantasies with anyone. As a writer, I knew a cliché when I saw one, and it seemed to me the story I dreamed for my life ought to be as original as I aimed to make the stories I crafted at my desk.
But what could I do? From where I stood, all I knew of the life I believed I wanted were those elements I could perceive and understand from a distance. Awards, massive sales, and large crowds seemed to match the bigness of the life I wished for myself. I was not interested in living a small life, which to me meant a limited life. There was no limit to what I could feel or desire or imagine. I had encountered no limit to how happy I could be, how interested I could be, or how curious I could be. Why then should I accept any other limit on my life?
For a very long time it seemed that all I could do was dream. I dreamt so often I got tired of dreaming. What had once served as a bright beacon for me in the night of my search had become a siren song. The more I pursued it, the less I found it. My life felt small and incomplete.
By and by, I found myself writing blogs. Blogs seemed small to me, because they weren’t books and I didn’t think anyone read them. Plus, I was writing them for a small magazine. Except the experience of writing them wasn’t small. It was the first time I’d written about creativity and spirituality and I was surprised how complete my interest was in this subject, and how peaceful I felt after I finished each little essay. That’s enough, I’d think. I was worried for myself, as it all seemed so small, but I couldn’t argue with my own contentment.
Then one day, a few months after publishing the first blog, I was sitting with a new friend. We found ourselves talking about writing when she mentioned how much she enjoyed my blogs. “You read them?” I asked. She laughed and said she had indeed read them. She went on to describe how comforted she felt after reading them. Hearing this reminded me of how I felt after I wrote them. How unexpected, I thought, and how satisfying.
I was surprised how content I felt to know that what I had written had reached and moved exactly one person. Yet it was also quite familiar. The experience of meeting this one reader was as full and complete and big an experience as a conversation with a friend, or cooking a delicious meal, or getting a new idea.
I would go on to meet more readers and sell books and speak to larger and larger groups of people. Yet no experience was really any bigger than any other, they were just different. My imagination is limitless, but it remains incapable of predicting the future. Just as I cannot perceive all the many details that make up a story until I write it, so too I cannot actually dream anything bigger and more complete than life itself.
“A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com