As a writer/teacher I have two basic job descriptions. The first is to share as much awesomeness as possible. The second is to stay humble. These two requirements are inextricably linked to one another. In fact, I couldn’t achieve the first if I forgot the second. I know this, because I do forget the second from time to time – because I’m human – and as soon as I do I can’t find any awesomeness to share.
To be clear, my necessary humility cannot dim the light of whatever awesomeness I am trying share. I must love what I am sharing. I must delight in it and celebrate it. And I must also acknowledge that what I am sharing, no matter how much it might resemble what others are sharing or have shared, is absolutely unique to me. It is literally impossible for someone else to have shared exactly what I am sharing. Except for me, it simply wouldn’t exist.
And so where, you might ask, is the humility in all of this? Simple: what I am sharing is not and never was mine. All the writer or artist or teacher can do is find another and another and another way to say, “Look at life! Isn’t it awesome?” The awesomeness exists whether or not I see it or share it. It is a universal light that I can either block or let shine through the unique shape that is me.
It is easy for me to forget this light, even when I am appreciating what someone else has shared. For instance, I love Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. Van Gogh had a style. His style is easily recognizable, particularly in that painting, so much so that my mind’s eye can become transfixed by the unique choices he made. We sometimes call this “appreciating someone’s genius,” which is nice, but Starry Night is above all an appreciation of life. That is why I love it. I don’t actually give two figs about van Gogh’s style. What I love is that his style helped me see the awesomeness of life afresh.
Because sometimes my sight misleads me and I do not perceive that awesomeness at all. These are not happy times. I cannot simply manufacture awesomeness anymore than I can assemble a flower from dirt and seeds and sun. So what I do not see does not exist, and I shuffle about, quietly complaining to myself, as if clouds had extinguished the sun.
My biggest complaint during these darkest times is always the same: No one loves what I’ve shared. No one cares about me. It’s not pretty, but it’s a trap that many artists fall into. As I mope from here to there, I hold out the hope that if I could just attract the light of someone else’s attention, all would be well.
Fortunately, self-pity requires its own kind of diligence. It simply won’t maintain itself without my continued effort. By and by I forget to feel sorry for myself, and in the empty space once occupied by my complaints, I notice something interesting. It feels so good to be interested and curious that I shine my own attention on what I’ve seen, and there, in that light, is the awesomeness of life that I’d forgotten.
“A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com