Balancing Act

Writing can happen in one place and one place only: The Present Moment. It cannot happen in the past, though we might – while in the present moment – focus our attention upon some past event for inspiration or material. But the writing itself happens in the present moment. And of course it can’t happen in the future, that sometimes near, sometimes very distant land where the story we’re writing will live when it’s finished. All creation happens in the present moment, because that is all that actually exists.

I have to remind myself of this every time I sit down to write. How easy to let my attention drift into the past, where I believe all my failures reside. Failure always lives in the past, in whose shadows, like a moss, it can thrive. In the bright hot light of the present moment – in which life is only potential, in which life is only forgiving, in which life is only curious – the concept of failure has no purchase for its hopeless roots.

And how equally easy to let my attention drift into the future, where I believe the value of what I am creating in the present moment will be revealed. I don’t want to waste my time, after all. Why write something that no one wants to read? To ask such a question is to hold my stories hostage until such time as the ransom of other people’s approval has been paid.

Which is why I have learned to ask myself two questions while I write: What do I want to say? And, Have I said it? Only the present moment can answer these questions. But keeping my attention where it needs and actually wants to be is a kind of balancing act, pulled as I am to the past and future. Drift too far either way and I will fall. No matter. The support of the present moment remains ever true, and I need only return to standing to find myself where I have always been.

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

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The Balancing Act

Writing can happen in one place and one place only: The Present Moment. It cannot happen in the past, though we might – while in the present moment – focus our attention upon some past event for inspiration or material. But the writing itself happens in the present moment. And of course it can’t happen in the future, that sometimes near, sometimes very distant land where the story we’re writing will live when it’s finished. All creation happens in the present moment, because that is all that actually exists.

I have to remind myself of this every time I sit down to write. How easy to let my attention drift into the past, where I believe all my failures reside. Failure always lives in the past, in whose shadows, like a moss, it can thrive. In the bright hot light of the present moment – in which life is only potential, in which life is only forgiving, in which life is only curious – the concept of failure has no purchase for its hopeless roots.

And how equally easy to let my attention drift into the future, where I believe the value of what I am creating in the present moment will be revealed. I don’t want to waste my time, after all. Why write something that no one wants to read? To ask such a question is to hold my stories hostage until such time as the ransom of other people’s approval has been paid.

Which is why I have learned to ask myself two questions while I write: What do I want to say? And, Have I said it? Only the present moment can answer these questions. But keeping my attention where it needs and actually wants to be is a kind of balancing act, pulled as I am to the past and future. Drift too far either way and I will fall. No matter. The support of present moment remains ever true, and I need only return to standing to find myself where I have always been.

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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
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All That Is Right

We’ve been homeschooling my youngest son, Sawyer, lately, and I have taken the role of Language Arts instructor. In my class, we write stories. Because Sawyer can turn any task asked of him from tying his shoes to taking a shower into work – and therefore a requirement, and therefore not his idea, and therefore something joyless he must finish as quickly as possible so he can get back to those things that are his idea – I wanted to make the experience of writing as much like the pretending he has been doing all his life.

To that end, I typed the story while he dictated. I would handle grammar and punctuation and such, which, while necessary to produce a polished piece of work, are entirely secondary to what writing actually is. Moreover, I asked questions. Sawyer would dictate: “My house was horrible.” I would ask, “What do you mean? Why is it horrible? Prove to me it’s horrible. Look around the apartment and write the horrible things you see.”

Sawyer would get still, his eyes acquiring the inward focus of true imagining, and then say, “The walls have grease on them with flies swarming around. And there’s an old painting on the wall, a cheap replica of the Mona Lisa. It has . . .” And I could see him counting. “It has five tears in it.”

And so on. Sawyer could always see the story he was telling, and with me handling the dry business of making it correct there was no threat of being wrong, something he worried about often. We wrote our first story over several days and each session went effortlessly. Except for one. As I said, we were homeschooling him. The pressure of being wrong so often at school had finally caught up with him and he was acting out in ways we could no longer ignore. So we pulled him out.

But his teacher and vice principal wanted him to return to school once more so they could tell him they cared for him and that they understood he needed a break and that they did not think he was wrong at all. Nice as their intentions were, Sawyer was very nervous about the idea of walking into that building again. And so, when we sat down to write his story, and I read aloud what we had written so far and asked, “So what happens next?” Sawyer shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”

I might as well have asked him what the capital of Kentucky was. We squeezed a couple paragraphs out that day, but our writing was in competition with The Future, and in that game The Future will usually win. I saw again what an insidious siren The Future really is, pulling all our creative attention out into the black hole of what is not. Try as we may, the future will always feel unknowably wrong, lacking as it must the one critical ingredient in all that is right: Life.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!

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The Future That Wasn’t

I started watching Blade Runner with my wife last night. This was an absolute favorite of many of my closest friends growing up. Chris, an aspiring actor, could quote Rutger Hauer’s dove soliloquy at the end of the film. For this reason, I have fond memories of it. I can remember leaving the theater with my friends and their bubbling post-movie enthusiasm. It was cool and it was different and Ridley Scott got it. It was reassuring to know someone in Hollywood got it.

Yet the truth is, I was somewhat less smitten with the movie than they. Even then, I found myself craving a wider variety of emotions than the film seemed to think humans experienced. I knew it was cyber punk, which is a kind of futuristic noir, but still—are things really that miserable in the future?

It was my wife, the very antithesis of a science fiction fan, who noted, “The future is always unhappy.”

How right she is. Can you imagine pitching a book about how much better things are going to be in fifty years? Even though it flies in the face of the entirety of human history, even though we statistically kill each other less and love each other more, even though a person living in poverty today has more physical comforts (central heating, refrigeration, a horse-less carriage!) than a nobleman 500 years ago, we seem determined to only tell ourselves stories of our coming demise. Meanwhile, the past gets better every day.

Because now that I think about it, when Chris told me how great Hauer’s soliloquy was, I said something to the effect of, “It was drivel.” This hurt Chris’s feelings and generally lowered his opinion of me for a time. We’re still good friends, however, and probably always will be – all the way into that fearful, unknowable future.

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

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Gifted

All life is by its very nature creative—everything alive is constantly trying to make more of itself. Humans, however, are uniquely creative. It’s not enough that we make more humans; we also have to make Tupperware, The Eiffel Tower, and Hamlet. This great gift, however, came with a bit of a price. In order to create imaginatively, we must be able to cast our vision into the future and recall the past. This, I believe, is more or less what Adam and Eve got when they bit that fruit.

It’s a neat trick, this applied imagination, but a dangerous one. Quantum physics aside, neither the past nor the future exist in the Here And Now, yet these imagined moments can be as great a force in your life as the man sitting next to you on the bus. Greater actually. Regret is the act of trying and failing to rewrite the past; worry is an attempt to solve a problem that does not yet exist. These twin devils cause far more trouble than anyone or anything with which you are in contact at the moment, and precisely because they do not exist.

We are to some degree all children with super powers. Imagine if a three year-old could lift a car with one hand. This is all of us. We arrived with a tool so immensely powerful there is literally no limit to what it can do. You are capable of imagining yourself right into prison, if you like. Once, a man trapped in what he believed was a meat locker overnight died of hypothermia. The locker was room temperature, but he had convinced himself otherwise.

We must understand our super power for what it is. It need not be our greatest source of suffering. The imagination is a fantastic tool, but The Here And Now is where you live. You are a captain of your own ship, and the waters you must navigate are beneath you. Because of our imaginations, we know that we will someday die—yet we were not gifted with an imagination for that bleak purpose. Imagination is the crackling of life itself, inspiring creation not for survival’s sake, but for creation’s sake alone, which, to our own continued wonderment, seems to be enough.

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

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