In My Life

When you are pursuing a dream, such as publishing a book, it is very easy to believe that success, however you describe it, will change something about you and your life. I certainly believed it. Actually, I didn’t believe that success would change something about my life, I needed it to change something about my life. I needed it to change not just how I made money, and how I spent so many of my waking hours, but the quality of those hours, whether I was working or not.

The quality of those hours, in my opinion, was not ideal. A quiet and steady despair had settled over me, one that had begun, as all despair does, in the soil of my childhood, but which had spread like a tangle of vines in the busy garden of adulthood. I experienced it so often, there were days I wondered if this was simply what it felt like to be alive. I was an optimist at heart, however, and just as I could dream stories to write, I could also dream a life free of despair. Dreaming that better life was easy. It was so easy I escaped there as often as I could.

There came a day, when I had begun to experience the smallest glimmers of what I considered to be success, that I thought, “I want to be in my life.” I had lived so long swinging from despair to escape that I had lost track of the resting comfort of existence. Strangely, I was not entirely clear what was keeping me out of my life. My life seemed like something I ought to be able to step into as easily as those dreams I summoned for escape. And yet here I was, circling around the center of where I wanted to be, like a player unready to join the game.

Which was exactly the problem. The moment I truly understood success was the moment I stopped asking the question, “What if I’m not good enough?” The instant I stopped asking that useless, brutal, suffocating question, the despair lifted as effortlessly as dreams ended. That is the question that will keep the player from playing, the writer from writing. It is a question that can’t actually be answered by acceptance letters or reviews. It is a question that cannot be answered, because it never should have been asked. It can only be released, and what remains in its absence is life as you know it can be lived.

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

Dreaming Big

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.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Dream World

I rarely have trouble falling asleep. By the end of the day I’m quite done with the waking world. By the end of the day I’ve said enough and thought enough and done enough, and I cannot find within me much reason to say or think or do more. I am ready for the dream world over which I have no command, the dream world to which I must surrender and from which I draw all my strength for the waking world.

But sometimes I am pulled awake while it is still dark, and my thinking mind comes alive with premature industriousness. My poor thinking mind was made for the waking world and all its things, all its words and people and places and objects. It was made to give these things order, to arrange them to meet my desire, and the stillness of my bed confuses it. Now this mind of mine is a dog with all energy but no bone.

I lie there feeling as if something must be done. I know this cannot be, but the feeling is the same as the one I so often carry with me when the sun is up and everyone is doing something. It seems real then, why is it not real now? To surrender again to the dream world feels like I am giving up on that other dream, the dream that all I do in the waking world is very important and necessary and that I am building something permanent.

It has always been my dream that what I do matters. I have always wanted to be Bilbo heading out of The Shire on a great and important adventure. And how I have wanted just one good dragon to slay. I have wanted dragons so badly I have summoned and fought them until I, their creator, declared them slain. What an unsatisfying victory – the end of something that never was, a knight alone on the field, exhausted from fighting himself.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

A Storyteller’s Dream

My dreams often float in and out lucidity, where, as when I am writing a story at my desk, one moment I am living in the dream as I would in life, and the next I am observing that dream and am aware of my manipulation of it—until I reenter it and am living it again.

I had perhaps the best dream of my life two years ago. I was with my youngest son Sawyer, and we were in a terrible place. It was a warzone of a city filled with armed men hunting down their enemies. In this dream, the armed men found us, and lined Sawyer and me up against a wall. The leader began drawing X’s on the wall behind us, to better help the executioners’ in aim. “We don’t have much time,” I thought, and became lucid, my eye a camera now swooping over the scene looking for my way out or how to disarm the men, when I heard Sawyer say, “Don’t worry. I know what to do.”

I was back living the dream, and the men aimed, cocked their rifles, and I understood the moment before it happened that it was Sawyer’s plan to let them kill us. The order was given, and the muzzles flared, and I felt the bullets strike me, and Sawyer and I were not in our bodies anymore. As I moved further from my body, what I was became nothing but a darker and darker shade of blue, which I now saw was the same color as everything else in the world. Soon the world and I had no form at all, only color. “We’re going into the blue, Sawyer,” I said.

And as my own shade reached its darkest, deepest blue, as there at last was no difference between Sawyer and me and everything that was, I heard, “This is the world without any stories.” You would think a storyteller like me would believe he was looking on hell, but it was exactly the opposite. No sooner was I given this glimpse of perfection than Sawyer and I were fading into lighter and lighter blue until we were back in our bodies and walking together in a world made friendly again.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Unfolding

A writer can be as practical as she wants to be. She can talk about Facebook, and Twitter, and blog tours, and strong female leads, and compelling characters. She can sit in a restaurant with her best friends and discuss agents and advances and the pros and cons of indie publishing versus traditional publishing. She can have a great website and a publicist she trusts.

It’s good perhaps to be this practical, to look upon her work like so much ketchup she must sell. It’s good to go to bed at night as her body lays down for sleep in the bed she owns, covered by a roof she keeps in place by selling those books that might as well be ketchup. Because come the morning she must go to her workroom and enter a dream. If she is to keep that roof over her head, if she is to have something to tweet about and FB about, she must believe that dream. She must treat that dream as though it is as real as the chair in which she sits.

Because her readers will. Her readers will go to bookstores or Amazon or B&N and spend real money on real books so they can enter a dream and have it feel as real as the chair in which they are sitting. The writer knows this. She knows these strangers will become some kind of friends when reached by that infinite bridge of the imagination. She knows all her practical commerce is based up on a belief in dreams.

So it is good she thinks so practically. It is good to remember from time to time that she has an actual body she must feed and clothe and house. That’s sometimes easy to forget in her world of dreams. Easy to confuse realities. Easy to look up from her desk and out her window and see a story already told, instead of one unfolding.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Where Life is Lived

For many years, while I was writing my novels and sending them out and getting them back, I would occasionally complain to my wife, “The problem with these query letters and sample chapters is I’m not there. It’s just these words on a page.” On the face of it, this complaint made no sense. I was a writer. My job was to put words on the page and sell them to people. Nonetheless, I was nagged for years by the feeling that I was leaving something out.

I eventually understood that something I was leaving out was talking to people. Whether it was teaching or lecturing or coaching, I wanted to talk to people about the words I was putting on the page. I understood this because while I went for walks and runs, while I stood in the shower or did the dishes, I often found myself dreaming of speaking to imaginary groups. This happened so often that I stopped myself one day in the middle of one of my imaginary lectures and thought, “You need to actually go do this now. You know there’s a difference between doing something and imagining it and you’ve got to learn if you like the difference.”

Writing taught me this. How often on one of those very same walks had I imagined a scene and been certain it would be perfect for whatever story I was writing, only to discover, upon actually writing it, that it was not as interesting on the page as in my mind. As bright and happy and curious as my mind may be, it cannot predict the future, it cannot know in advance every word of the stories it believes I will enjoy telling, and a single, innocent word can sometime reroute the entire direction of 400-page book.

As it turns out, I do enjoy talking to people, though the experience is in fact different than the dream. That difference is where my life is lived, where dream and experience meet. Sometimes it feels like a collision, other times like a union, but the result is always the same. I get to meet myself once again, both the intention and the result, both the dreamer and the dream.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Dream World

I rarely have trouble falling asleep. By the end of the day I’m quite done with the waking world. By the end of the day I’ve said enough and thought enough and done enough, and I cannot find within me much reason to say or think or do more. I am ready for the dream world over which I have no command, the dream world to which I must surrender and from which I draw all my strength for the waking world.

But sometimes I am pulled awake while it is still dark, and my thinking mind comes alive with premature industriousness. My poor thinking mind was made for the waking world and all its things, all its words and people and places and objects. It was made to give these things order, to arrange them to meet my desire, and the stillness of my bed confuses it. Now this mind of mine is a dog with all energy but no bone.

I lie there feeling as if something must be done. I know this cannot be, but the feeling is the same as the one I so often carry with me when the sun is up and everyone is doing something. It seems real then, why is it not real now? To surrender again to the dream world feels like I am giving up on that other dream, the dream that all I do in the waking world is very important and necessary and that I am building something permanent.

It has always been my dream that what I do matters. I have always wanted to be Bilbo heading out of The Shire on a great and important adventure. And how I have wanted just one good dragon to slay. I have wanted dragons so badly I have summoned and fought them until I, their creator, declared them slain. What an unsatisfying victory – the end of something that never was, a knight alone on the field, exhausted from fighting himself.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter

A Storyteller’s Dream

My dreams often float in and out of lucidity, where, as when I am writing a story at my desk, one moment I am living in the dream as I would in life, and the next I am observing that dream and am aware of my manipulation of it—until I reenter it and am living it again.

I had perhaps the best dream of my life two nights ago. I was with my youngest son Sawyer, and we were in a terrible place. It was a warzone of a city filled with armed men hunting down their enemies. In this dream, the armed men found us, and lined Sawyer and me up against a wall. The leader began drawing X’s on the wall behind us, to better help in their aim. “We don’t have much time,” I thought, and became lucid, my eye a camera now swooping over the scene looking for my way out or how to disarm the men, when I heard Sawyer say, “Don’t worry. I know what to do.”

I was back living the dream, and the men aimed, cocked their rifles, and I understood the moment before it happened that it was Sawyer’s plan to let them kill us. The order was given, and the muzzles flared, and I felt the bullets strike me, and Sawyer and I were not in our bodies anymore. As I moved further from my body, what I was became nothing but a darker and darker shade of blue, which I now saw was the same color as everything else in the world. Soon the world and I had no form at all, only color. “We’re going into the blue, Sawyer,” I said.

And as my own shade reached its darkest, deepest blue, as there at last was no difference between Sawyer and me and everything that was, I heard, “This is the world without any stories.” You would think a storyteller like me would believe he was looking on hell, but it was exactly the opposite. No sooner was I given this glimpse of perfection than Sawyer and I were fading into lighter and lighter blue until we were back in our bodies and walking together in a world made friendly again.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter

Golf Dreams and Nightmares

Alice Cooper liked to play golf. If you don’t know, Alice Cooper was a rock and roll star who saw his heyday in the early 70s, and is considered the godfather of Shock Rock or Glam Rock. His stage shows included fake blood, electric chairs, guillotines, and boa constrictors. He wore a lot of makeup. This is sounds tame now, but in 1971, when he hit the charts with “I’m Eighteen” I was six years old my favorite song was The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.”

Over the next few years, news of Alice Cooper and his macabre stage shows trickled down to me through rumor and schoolyard whispers. It sounded insane to me. The Halloween makeup and the blood and giant snakes seemed like a nightmare. As it happens, in 1975 he released his most popular album, “Welcome to My Nightmare.” I had nightmares of my own, I thought, and I didn’t like them. Why would I want to travel through his? Mind you, I had never heard a single note of any song he had written.

Twenty years later I was married with children and had new dreams and even some new nightmares. I was watching an MTV music history retrospective when who should they interview but a makeup-less, weathered-looking Alice Cooper. He was hilarious. He talked about how much he and his band liked to play golf. They had to be careful about this. They would sneak onto golf courses dressed conservatively as possible. They had a reputation to uphold.

Growing up, I thought golf was the suburbs of sports – tame, asexual, quiet, and exclusive. It was a weenie sport for weenie people. At about the same time I learned that Alice Cooper was a secret golfer, a work friend convinced me to play nine holes with him at a public course. I loved it. Yet I never played again. Instead, I dreamt of golfing for years afterward, and in every dream, I made all the shots. I was a natural.

Oh, and I recently Googled “I’m Eighteen” and had a listen. It’s pretty good.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter

Unfolding

A writer can be as practical as she wants to be. She can talk about Facebook, and Twitter, and blog tours, and strong female leads, and compelling characters. She can sit in a restaurant with her best friends and discuss agents and advances and the pros and cons of indie publishing versus traditional publishing. She can have a great website and a publicist she trusts.

It’s good perhaps to be this practical, to look upon her work like so much ketchup she must sell. It’s good to go to bed at night as her body lays down for sleep in the bed she owns, covered by a roof she keeps in place by selling those books that might as well be ketchup. Because come the morning she must go to her workroom and enter a dream. If she is to keep that roof over her head, if she is to have something to tweet about and FB about, she must believe that dream. She must treat that dream as though it is as real as the chair in which she sits.

Because her readers will. Her readers will go to bookstores or Amazon or B&N and spend real money on real books so they can enter a dream and have it feel as real as the chair in which they are sitting. The writer knows this. She knows these strangers will become some kind of friends when reached by that infinite bridge of the imagination. She knows all her practical commerce is based up on a belief in dreams.

So it is good she thinks so practically. It is good to remember from time to time that she has an actual body she must feed and clothe and house. That’s sometimes easy to forget in her world of dreams. Easy to confuse realities. Easy to look up from her desk and out her window see a story already told, instead of one unfolding.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter