A Perfect Companion

Every story, play, poem or essay is a journey home. Only the author knows where home is. He knew where home was the moment he set out, though in finding it again, he will know it better than before he left.

Along the way, the author will become lost in details and the endless choices open to him. At such times it will seem as though he has forgotten what home looks and feels like. In this dream of forgetting he might believe he does not actually know where he is going or how to get there. He will look to the world to tell him. The world is fantastically accurate at telling you where you are. There are landmarks and road signs; there are friends and even strangers who will tell you also. But if you ask those friends or strangers, “How do I get home?” they will begin describing the route they know to the home they know. To follow these directions is to become more lost than before.

Now the author might begin to hate the world. It and all its people are useless to him, and have abandoned him in this hour of need. He sees that the world is devoid of meaning and purpose, a giant rock where life is born just to die, and every road bends back on itself. He’s through with the world. He is done looking to it for anything.

Yet even in what he calls giving up, he discovers that he is not done looking. In fact, with his mind at rest and his attention with nowhere else to go, he soon finds the trail he’d left. Suddenly the world is useful again, telling him in one glimpse where he is in relation to where he wants to go. The world is a perfect companion, he thinks as he sets off again. It leaves him alone, but never leaves him, until he has found again his garden gate, and his wandering for the day is done.

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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Home Free

The writer can spend a lot of time locked in a prison called The Future. There waits acceptance or rejections, reviews and sales. I have dwelt there often. So often, in fact, that I can forget that it is not real, that my suffering and triumphs are all stories I am telling myself from that stage called The Present.

And not one of my predictions – not one – has ever come true. They cannot. What I foresee is merely a shadow of what will come, the same as the stories I tell are suggestions of a whole the reader must complete in their own imagination. When the actual, living moment arrives, whatever I predicted will be incomplete compared to life as it will be led. Life is composed of infinite detail, each as important as the next. If it is impossible for us to know the entire present, how can we possibly know the future?

Still, we try – or at least I do. I try and try until I feel trapped in a nameless and insidious suffering. If am trapped, then I must get out, but every effort to escape only makes this prison more real and more unbearable. I build the walls even as I try to climb them.

It is easy to forget that it is freedom I seek, not escape. To live free of the future or the past is to arrive suddenly at your own doorstep. Perhaps you fear it. After all, to enter is a kind of death, for everything you have made in the past cannot follow you into your home, and all the nightmares and circuses and parades you’ve dreamed for yourself will vanish in your awakening.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite 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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Home Again

I have spent my life finding my way home. I find it and I leave, and then I find it and I leave until I find it once more. I leave my home for the same foreign lands again and again, cities of noise and constant striving. I often mistake these places for home until I feel a yearning that nothing in the world can relieve. This is also called despair, until I remember home and begin my journey.

I do not think I am so different than anyone else. This is hard to remember when I sit at the same table with a friend. There he is across from me, and yet it is entirely possible that we are in two different countries trying to reach the same destination. Home is the same for everyone, yet no two can get there by the same route. And so I might suggest we take a plane, for I am stranded on a kind of island.

“That’s unnecessary,” says my friend. “We’ll just drive.”

“If we drive, we’ll drown.”

“Drown in what?”

“The ocean.”

“There is no ocean.”

“Are you blind?”

“Are you crazy?”

Such are arguments when everywhere that isn’t home is an illusion we believe with absolute certainty. I think about this when writers and readers debate which book is better than the other. These are questions that can only end in argument. Those books, like everything else in the world, are signposts and lighthouses for travelers. If you are not traveling by way of a certain book, it is of no use to you in your journey, and perhaps you call it dull, or pretentious, or just bad.

But if you are traveling by way of that book it can become a beacon reminding you in some small way of where you are headed. So write your own way home. There is no difference between your home and a stranger’s, and if you can find your way perhaps you will help another, and there you can meet in a place that is all agreement.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite 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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Mi Casa es Su Casa

Every time I write it is a journey home. It is easy to leave home without trying. It is easy to look at what other people are doing and follow the lights of their homes only to find their door locked to my envy and my own house lost in shadows. It is also easy to call my own home unsatisfactory, having come to believe that dissatisfaction is the only inspiration for growth, as if the flower blooms because it is weary of its seed. But to be dissatisfied with this house is to leave it, and I soon find myself in search of what I have left.

Fortunately, my home is always in precisely the same place. My address remains the same no matter how far I wander. Sometimes I can walk home, other times I must drive, still others only a plane can carry me across the oceans I have put between me and my front door. It does not matter. I am never lost because I have travelled too far but only because I have forgotten where I live.

I love to return home, but it is easy to see it as a sanctuary from the rest of the world in which I have felt lost. Tempting to close up the shutters and dim the lights lest the chaos I perceived come knocking on my door. Yet to close my door is to lose my home once again. It ceases to be mine when I call it mine alone.

The light that is home was lit for me, it shown where only I could see it, and yet to touch it is to know instantly that it belongs to everyone. How could this be? How could that which was made for me not be mine alone? Because to possess something is to become tied to the frailty of its passing, and in this home I call The End I give back to the world what was given to me, having found again that point where all our doors meet.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite 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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Home Again

I was back in my hometown of Providence a couple weeks ago with my oldest son. This was the first time he and I had ever traveled to the Motherland together, and I thought it would be fun to give him a quick geographical tour of my childhood. One of the first things I noticed about Providence is that for a supposedly modern city it is weirdly indifferent on the value of street signs. You’d find yourself at a four-way intersection, and you’d look up to the right, to the left—and nothing.

When I pointed this out to my sister, who is still a Rhode Island resident, she only shrugged. “So? You know where you are.”

This is a uniquely Rhode Island attitude. It knows only home, and so street signs would make no more sense than labeling every cabinet in your kitchen for its contents. Comforting in a way, I suppose, but as I showed my son the house where I’d grown up, and the house where his mother had grown up, and my old high school, and my old hangouts, I became increasingly depressed.

Many a writer spends his adulthood rewriting his childhood. This is fertile storytelling ground, and I’ve certainly tilled that soil often enough. But to tell the story of your childhood is to make the past the present, to bring the child forward through the wisdom of the years he has not yet traveled. To simply visit the past itself is another matter entirely. To do so I must discard everything that has been learned and gained because, unlike electrons, I do not know how to be in two places at once.

Fortunately, Providence is a small city and I never ventured very far in it. The tour was soon over and I was living in the present again and all was well. I doubt the tour would have bothered me so much if I had not been on it in some small way my entire life. I think it’s over now, and the Providence city planners know why: You don’t need a street sign to know where you are.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite 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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The Last Ending

I have just returned from a visit to my hometown of Providence where I saw my family and a large group of friends I have known since high school. It had been seven years since I’d been to Providence, and seven years since I had sat in the same room with my entire family.

Much has happened to me in those seven years, and as I listened to us reminisce and amuse one another I was reminded what habitual storytellers we were. Conversations in my family were a linked series of stories, and as the conversational baton was passed we learned what had happened to us, and what interested us, and what made us laugh.

No surprise, I suppose, that I should have sought storytelling friends. Only these friends told stories differently, their jokes were more language driven, they used more details, and I remember as a boy noting this difference and bringing this new breed of story home to my family to see if they worked as well in my living room as they had in the cafeteria.

I loved to tell stories, but always for me there was the problem of the ending. I was quick to participate, but so often I would find myself on a narrative path – down which my friends and family had willingly followed me – only to realize I was heading toward a conclusion I did not understand how to share. So I would fudge the ending, find some joke that wasn’t there, or offer an obtuse, life-is-strange shrug.

For many years I carried a sense of failure and frustration at these non-ended stories. Sometimes I blamed my audience; mostly I blamed myself. In this way I had no choice but to become a writer, if for no other reason than to test my true endings out in private. I couldn’t worry about who might be uncomfortable, of if I might be embarrassed, or if something was appropriate—I needed to hear it for myself so I could learn at last why I wanted to start telling these stories in the first place.

I came to understand that the only story I ever wanted to tell went like this: everything is all right. I never tire of story; I am always moved by it. As I have gotten older, it is also the only story I believe. As I have gotten older, all other conclusions feel like middles—the drama we thrash around in when we forget where everything must end.

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

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Home Is Everywhere

I grew up in Providence, RI, a smallish city in a famously tiny state. Rhode Island’s smallness extended to its perception of travel distance, which said that Boston, a whopping forty minutes north on I-95, was too long a trip to make without very good reason. At nineteen, having taken a year’s sabbatical from school, I found myself feeling penned in by Providence and its claustrophobic familiarity and convinced my closest friend to accompany me on a great adventure to London. He agreed, and six months later we touched down at Heathrow.

We found lodging at a B & B, which was really just a cheap hotel with communal bathrooms.  And a bar. I was only nineteen, but this was Europe, where if you wanted to drink, then by God or whatever they believed in there, you could drink. One night I was sampling my first cocktail, a Malibu Rum and coke, when I heard a familiar sound. That sound was the word, “Gawd,” spoken by a young woman—and then by another young woman. I looked up as a herd of them paraded by, all speaking in what sounded like but couldn’t possibly be what is known in Rhode Island as a Cranston accent.

“Who are they?” I asked the bartender.

“Oh, they’re from a school in America called Bryant College.”

Bryant was located approximately twenty minutes from the Kenower family front door. They’re following me, I thought.  So my friend and I soon made our way to Dublin.  We traveled by boat, crashing across the Irish Sea in the black of night and arriving in Ireland’s capital at 7:00 AM on a Sunday morning. Dublin at 7:00 AM is a quiet place. So is its one bus terminal. My memory of that morning was that we were the only ones in that deserted terminal. I was wrong. But sometimes you see what you need to see so you can finally have the experience you want.

Two years later I was back in Providence and bartending when in walked Tony Lee. Tony was a happy guy I had worked with for a few months when I was senior in high school. We shook hands and said how great it was to see one another, and then Tony wagged a finger at me and said,

“Hey, Bill.  Have you ever been to Dublin?”

“Yeah.  I was there two years ago.”

“And were you in the bus terminal on a Sunday morning?”

“Yes . . .”

Tony smiled and slapped the bar top. “I knew that was you!”

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

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You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

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Looking For Where I’ve Been

Writing always involves a certain amount of waiting. Sometimes there is very little. Sometimes you need only wait until you are at your desk and then away you go. But just as often, you must wait while at the desk itself.

I am an impatient soul, and so this has always been the most challenging part of writing for me. When things are going poorly I watch the clock, and I can’t remember what it feels like to write something I am actually interested in, and I start writing too soon just so I can have the feeling of writing, a choice that usually leads me to write something I am not actually interested in which makes writing feel like homework with no right answer but a teacher who can mark you wrong all the same.

The problem is always where I have chosen to wait. There is a friendly place within me where all my stories and blogs reside. I know I am there because it so pleasant I almost don’t care whether I write or not. Inevitably, however, I do write, because one need only stay there so long before you wish to share this friendly place with other people. It could be mistaken for a hiding place, but it is not. We hide to avoid discovery; here, we have sought just the opposite.

You would think I would never want to leave such a place, but I have, and for long periods of time. When I leave, it can seem impossible to find again. I begin to believe it is the Luxembourg of my interior life—tiny and of little significance. Yet once I am there, it feels as expansive as the sea. And still, I leave again. It is as if the house is so beautiful I must find the one who built it and learn how to build one myself.

It is impossible to build such a place, and my search always leads to confusion and despair and a kind of resentment.  What is the use of it if I can’t make it myself? Such thoughts can keep me away for days and months and even years. Then I grow weary of the search and return home, mildly surprised to find the door open and inviting as ever, as if all my wandering hurt nothing, as if all my fear were instantly forgiven.

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

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Lost and Found

I become lost in my stories from time to time. It is never immediately apparent at the moment I stray from the path, but before long I sense something is wrong. I am the visitor to a foreign city who has misread his map, and the neighborhood is looking dodgy. Now, my characters have nothing interesting to say, and I can’t see any details of the world they occupy.

It can happen very quickly, losing one’s narrative way. Your hero meets a stranger and you have the thought, “Maybe they should buy some pears.” It isn’t a very interesting thought to you, but at that moment it’s the only thought you have, and so you follow the dull thought hoping somehow you were wrong. Now your character is buying pears and you couldn’t care less, and if its one of those days, you wonder what is wrong with you, and why can’t you make this scene work, and maybe you should abandon the whole story.

The beauty of fiction, of course, is that every word is just an idea until it goes to print. Before then, everything can be changed. When I become lost in a story I usually retreat to the last point where I was on the path and toss everything else. Next, I get very, very quiet. The wrong path was a reminder that I had been impatient, a common problem of mine. The quieter I become, the more patient I become, and eventually the next step presents itself.

I wander from paths all the time. One thought is all it ever takes, and I find myself chasing an idea down dark alleys. Sometimes these thoughts compel me to move not just in mind but in body, and I find I have literally traveled somewhere I don’t want to be, where I am in the company of people with whom I share little, or working at a job I dislike.

The moment I recognize that something is wrong is often a grim one. If I am feeling small and bitter, I blame fate or the rude demands of others. If, on the other hand, I get very, very quiet, no matter how far I’ve wandered, I sense the path I had been following and where I must turn next to find it. In this way, becoming lost is often the greatest gift, reminding me as it does that every path eventually leads home.

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