A Clear Path

Writing a book can be quite a long journey. Sometimes it takes six months and sometimes it takes six years. Often, a book lives in an author for years before he ever begins writing it. The book is an idea that won’t leave him alone, or to which he finds his attention returning on long drives or idle hours at work. Sometimes the journey is so long, is so woven into the fabric of his daily life that it doesn’t feel like a journey at all, just something he’ll be doing for the rest of his life.

I’d always loved the idea of journeys ever since I read the scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo walks out of his garden gate with a mysterious magic ring in his pocket. I was only thirteen but I knew I wanted to be on a meaningful journey. What that journey would be, I couldn’t say. I was uninterested in travel, in seeing foreign lands. I knew I wanted to tell stories, but I wasn’t sure telling stories really constituted a journey.

Years later, when I was writing those stories but unable to find a home for them, I often felt as if I was going around in circles. I would sometimes moan to my wife, “Nothing’s changing!” When you’re on a journey, things are always changing. No matter what I wrote, the outcome was always the same.

Except even as I saw myself going around in these circles, certain ideas came niggling at me, ideas about the relationship between fear and creativity, between free will and the blank page. These ideas didn’t seem like the beginnings to the kinds of stories I was currently telling, but they were very interesting all the same. I would find myself returning to them every chance I could. They seemed important to me, as if I was unlocking a mystery.

By and by those very interesting ideas turned into interviews, and essays, and workshops, and books. Once all of that had manifested, as we say, it was easy to see the straight path between an idea that wouldn’t quit niggling at me and a career. It’s so clear, that when a new idea comes, as one did recently, I now see a new path where before I would have only seen something to think about when my journey seemed stalled.

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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Pick Up Your Lantern

Yesterday’s Daily Minute had David Ellis talking about the trick of putting your protagonist in danger. Particularly if you are working in a series, threatening your hero or heroine’s life does ask a certain added degree of willing suspension of disbelief, as everyone in the room knows that if this person dies there will be no next book. Even if you don’t work in a series, unless you’re writing a tragedy of sorts, no matter how dire a situation, the hero is probably going to live.

There are other perils beyond loss of life—loss of love, loss of faith, loss of dignity—all of which are guns of sorts pointed at our protagonists that we ask our reader to believe might be fired. In most stories these metaphorical guns are fired and score direct hits, leaving the hero or heroine shattered and in need of repair.

And repair is almost always what our stories are all about. Why? Because everyone is born with love, faith, and dignity, but in losing any one of these and finding them again we become conscious. This is often frightening at first as we realize that we can give up any one of these pillars of our happiness with nothing more than a thought, such as, “No one loves me.” Think it, and it is true for exactly as long as you believe it.

And so stranded as we are, we must find our road back to ourselves. Fiction is filled with such journeys. Where else, really, can the hero go? Everyone’s journey, however, is unique, and try as we may to convince others that if they would only follow our footsteps they would be happy too—in truth, like knights looking for the grail, if anyone were to follow our path they would become lost.

Stories are not road maps nor were they ever intended to be. As we watch another soul, real or imagined, wend their way home from the forest, we are compelled to pick up our own lantern and continue on. Tales of happy returns spark memories within ourselves of that to which we yearn, and that spark lights a beacon in the distance toward which we might turn. Everything we seek we already know, but in finding our way home the world outside our door grows friendlier, as we come to understand that all road eventually lead to one place.

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