Peaceful Stories

The writer’s life can feel divided into two realities. First, there is the reality away from the blank page. This is where I spend most of my time. In this reality, I feel much affected by where I am, or who I am with, or what I’m watching or reading. There is the cold or hot or wet or dry of the weather; there are the stories that entertain and inspire me and the stories that bore and depress me; there is news I’m glad for and the news that confuses and frustrates me; there are the emails I’ve been waiting for and the emails I’ve been dreading.

As I roam around this reality, there are two immutable constants. First, the environment will change and change and change. The weather will change, the stories will change, the news will change, and the emails will change. Walking from one room to another changes something; turning to face a window instead of a wall changes something. The reality away from the blank page is as fluidly and constantly changing as a river or as the sweeping second of a clock to which that reality seems so strictly bound.

Yet amidst all this change I have but one unchanging desire: to be at peace. Not to be at rest – for I need to move and think and speak as much as the world must change – but to be at peace with whatever I do or wherever I am. Not a moment passes where I do not want to be at peace. Never once have I craved anger, disappoint, boredom, or despair. How easy it is to believe that the peace I crave is given or taken by those changes I cannot control.

And then I go to the blank page. I am responsible for all the changes on that page, and I am responsible for whether I find the effortless way forward or if I force my way forward. I can be at war with my story or at peace my story; it is entirely up to me. I believe this is why many people want to write but choose not to. Not because they are afraid they have nothing to say, or that the world will reject their stories, but because the blank page reveals the truth about that other reality: that it is no different. I am always the one at war or at peace with the story of life, and I can choose war or peace as easily as I choose my words.

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 Third Emotion

Some days it seems as if there are three basic emotional experiences, and two of them aren’t good. The first is despair. This we feel when we believe that which is responsible for our happiness has been denied us or has been taken from us. Oh, the loneliness of these hours waiting for its return or mourning its loss.

The second is what we might call exhilaration. Now that which brings us happiness is here. Part of the thrill of such moments is the uncertainty of it all. Life’s roulette wheel spins . . . spins . . . and we win! That our exhilaration is merely one more spin from despair is part of the romance of life. Such ups and downs are the stuff of fiction and the therapy room.

Finally there is that third emotional experience. It hasn’t nearly the drama of despair and exhilaration and as such makes for much less interesting fiction, but it is where we must all rest by and by. This we can call peace. At such moments we are not following the roulette wheel of life because there is nothing that wheel can win for us. We already have what we need.

This peace, this contentment, can look from certain angles like life’s sweet conclusion, but it is in fact just the opposite. This contentment always says, “You have all you need. And now lets find more.” It makes no sense to the hungry and yearning mind that there could be anything more beyond all that we need, but this contentment has no interest in acquisition. This contentment knows only creation, the expansion of that which both sustains and compels us.

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

War Stories

In the course of our homeschooling, my son and I decided we should learn a bit about World War I. I knew very little about World War II’s less popular younger brother except that men still road horses into combat and fought in trenches and started using machine guns. I also knew about the Red Barron, gas warfare, artillery, and someplace called Verdun. I was always very unclear about why it started. I knew there was someone called Arch Duke Ferdinand, but I never believed his assassination was actually the reason the war started.

Turns out it was. Or it wasn’t, actually. My son and I concluded World War I was a very stupid war, which could be said of all wars, in a way, except this was the one where we in the West first understood this. From the sound of it (and you History Majors please stand down) the reason the war really started was a story, which went like this: Countries fight each other.

That was the story. The Arch Duke was killed and word went around that it was time to fight again. Everyone was ready to do it – the French were ready to fight, the English were ready to fight, the Germans, the Austrians, the Russians – everyone. Britain needed 100,000 more men for their rather small army. When they put out the call, one million signed up. Because countries fought each other. Everyone knew that. War was a part of being a human who lived in a country. That was the story and everyone told it and everyone knew it and so off to war we went. And then we fought this horrible, unromantic, muddy, bloody, ugly war and many of us did not like this story anymore. Not quite enough of us, but quite a few anyway, and so gradually the story began to change.

You may think the stories you write are of no real consequence. You may think you are only trying to help people escape reality for a plane ride, or pass an evening pleasantly in the company of a new literary friend, but we are all the accumulation of the stories we tell and are being told. While it is unlikely your stories will start or stop a war, they might bring peace to one person for one moment and serve as a reminder of what we actually are, and where we are actually going.

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 Natural State

I have always been a fan of lakes. The stillness of a lake, particularly at sunrise, is immaculate. Such a body at rest displays water in its natural state. I am willing to disturb it for a swim, if I can keep my feet out of the silt and muck that make up the lake’s floor. In fact, when I look out over an undisturbed lake, I prefer not to think at all about what waits far below its surface; such thoughts only spoil what the lake’s surface has to offer.

It is hard to remember that nothing but a little salt and size differentiates the ocean from the lake. The ocean is all movement. The ocean is all tides and waves. The ocean houses many a mysterious creature as well, I know, creatures dwelling beyond the reach of the strongest sunlight. We discover such creatures only through our relentless curiosity and ingenuity. The eagle will never hunt even the smallest halibut.

As mighty and mysterious as it is, the ocean is misleading. The waves that crush ocean liners are reflexes from a distant shrug of some continent’s restless shoulder or the tireless urgency of the wind. The ocean itself has no say in the matter; it is a servant, conforming and abiding by what holds it or moves through and above it.

I love the drama of an ocean, I love the hush and hiss of the surf, but all that water is merely looking for the same state of rest you would find in a glass of tap water. Which is why I suppose I prefer a lake. I have nothing against drama; all life is full of it. But in the end all drama is the process of a body in search of rest. Even the lake’s silt, when disturbed, will settle by and by back into its filthy bed.

One can come to mistake the drama itself for the destination. Now the waves become your enemy, and you are tasked with the impossible: defeating something that is not aligned deliberately against you. All victory and loss will be a story you tell yourself that is no more real than mermaids.

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
Follow wdbk on Twitter

War Stories

In the course of our homeschooling, my son and I decided we should learn a bit about World War I. I knew very little about World War II’s less popular younger brother except that men still road horses into combat and fought in trenches and started using machine guns. I also knew about the Red Barron, gas warfare, artillery, and someplace called Verdun. I was always very unclear about why it started. I knew there was someone called Arch Duke Ferdinand, but I never believed his assassination was actually the reason the war started.

Turns out it was. Or it wasn’t, actually. My son and I concluded World War I was a very stupid war, which could be said of all wars, in a way, except this was the one where we in the West first understood this. From the sound of it (and you History Majors please stand down) the reason the war really started was a story, which went like this: Countries fight each other.

That was the story. The Arch Duke was killed and word went around that it was time to fight again. Everyone was ready to do it – the French were ready to fight, the English were ready to fight, the Germans, the Austrians, the Russians – everyone. Britain needed 100,000 more men for their rather small army. When they put out the call, one million signed up. Because countries fought each other. Everyone knew that. War was a part of being a human who lived in a country. That was the story and everyone told it and everyone knew it and so off to war we went. And then we fought this horrible, unromantic, muddy, bloody, ugly war and many of us did not like this story anymore. Not quite enough of us, but quite a few anyway, and so gradually the story began to change.

You may think the stories you write are of no real consequence. You may think you are only trying to help people escape reality for a plane ride, or pass an evening pleasantly in the company of a new literary friend, but we are all the accumulation of the stories we tell and are being told. While it is unlikely your stories will start or stop a war, they might bring peace to one person for one moment and serve as a reminder of what we actually are, and where we are actually going.

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
Follow wdbk on Twitter

The Third Emotion

Some days it seems as if there are three basic emotional experiences, and two of them aren’t good. The first is despair. This we feel when we believe that which is responsible for our happiness has been denied us or has been taken from us. Oh, the loneliness of these hours waiting for its return or mourning its loss.

The second is what we might call exhilaration. Now that which brings us happiness is here. Part of the thrill of such moments is the uncertainty of it all. Life’s roulette wheel spins . . . spins . . . and we win! That our exhilaration is merely one more spin from despair is part of the romance of life. Such ups and downs are the stuff of fiction and the therapy room.

Finally there is that third emotional experience. It hasn’t nearly the drama of despair and exhilaration and as such makes for much less interesting fiction, but it is where we must all rest by and by. This we can call peace. At such moments we are not following the roulette wheel of life because there is nothing that wheel can win for us. We already have what we need.

This peace, this contentment, can look from certain angles like life’s sweet conclusion, but it is in fact just the opposite. This contentment always says, “You have all you need. And now lets find more.” It makes no sense to the hungry and yearning mind that there could be anything more beyond all that we need, but this contentment has no interest in acquisition. This contentment knows only creation, the expansion of that which both sustains and compels us.

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
Follow wdbk on Twitter

A Natural State

I have always been a fan of lakes. The stillness of a lake, particularly at sunrise, is immaculate. Such a body at rest displays water in its natural state. I am willing to disturb it for a swim, if I can keep my feet out of the silt and muck that make up the lake’s floor. In fact, when I look out over an undisturbed lake, I prefer not to think at all about what waits far below its surface; such thoughts only spoil what the lake’s surface has to offer.

It is hard to remember that nothing but a little salt and size differentiates the ocean from the lake. The ocean is all movement. The ocean is all tides and waves. The ocean houses many a mysterious creature as well, I know, creatures dwelling beyond the reach of the strongest sunlight. We discover such creatures only through our relentless curiosity and ingenuity. The eagle will never hunt even the smallest halibut.

As mighty and mysterious as it is, the ocean is misleading. The waves that crush ocean liners are reflexes from a distant shrug of some continent’s restless shoulder or the tireless urgency of the wind. The ocean itself has no say in the matter; it is a servant, conforming and abiding by what holds it or moves through and above it.

I love the drama of an ocean, I love the hush and hiss of the surf, but all that water is merely looking for the same state of rest you would find in a glass of tap water. Which is why I suppose I prefer a lake. I have nothing against drama; all life is full of it. But in the end all drama is the process of a body in search of rest. Even the lake’s silt, when disturbed, will settle by and by back into its filthy bed.

One can come to mistake the drama itself for the destination. Now the waves become your enemy, and you are tasked with the impossible: defeating something that is not aligned deliberately against you. All victory and loss will be a story you tell yourself that is no more real than mermaids.

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

More Author Articles

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Real History

I was born in 1965 and so my memory of the Vietnam War was of something terrible that hopefully would end soon. Once it did end I accepted the wisdom that it had been a bad idea from the start and that our leaders ought to have known that. Vietnam was what taught us that war was awful, that it was rarely necessary, and that it brought out the worst in all its participants.

Then my son and I recently began watching an excellent six-part documentary on the Vietnam War. Prior to this we also watched documentaries on the Russian Revolution, on Stalin, and on the Cuban Missile Crisis. By the time we were halfway through Part One of the Vietnam documentary my opinion of that war had changed. No, I am not a Hawk, nor do I think America could have won the war. What changed, rather, is my understanding of why a person, particularly a person leading this country in 1964, might think the war was necessary and winnable.

This may seem like a small admission to anyone with Hawkish memories of that time, but it is not. To me, what has revealed itself is the greatest gift possible within the study of what we call history. What happened in the past is beyond knowing, for what really happened is what every single person did, said, or thought during that period. But what is perceivable through this historical lens is a glimpse of the wholeness of human thought.

From my vantage, which is the safety of the future, the concept of political right and wrong are not applicable, for it is too late for such notions to mean anything—if they ever did. From my vantage I see only thoughts of war and thoughts of peace, thoughts everyone has held with varying strength at various times. When someone’s thoughts of peace will eclipse his thoughts of war is everyone’s journey.

I try within this column never to be right but only to see clearly. This is not always so simple. My mind is agile enough that it can rearrange reality in my favor, describing a winning move on the chessboard of life. And yet that victory never comes. By the time I am done with such fantasies all the pieces have shifted again on their own, reality moving too quickly for any solution beyond acceptance.

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

More Author Articles

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

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The Eye

During my conversation with Dori Ostermiller on Tuesday’s Author2Author, we fell to talking about the challenges of writing one’s second (published) novel. Gone now are the yearnings and questions of the unpublished writer; gone is the mystery of the publishing world; gone, hopefully, is the illusion that publishing a book will solve all of life’s doubts.

Instead there is the question, “Can I do it again?”; instead there is the pressure of a contract; instead there are emails from editors and agents asking how it’s going; and instead there is the peculiar self-consciousness that comes with the understanding that actual strangers really do read these things you write in absolute privacy and about which they draw their own sovereign conclusions. Publication, it seems, means only swapping of one set of anxieties for another.

I can hear the still-unpublished-writer grousing, “Nice problems to have.” Remember, however, that the sophomore author’s problems are the same as your problems: nonexistent. I dislike the word problem. Problems can be solved. I solve math problems and fix the problem of the leaking sink. You cannot, for instance, solve the question, “Can I do it again?” because the answer to that question resides in the future and you are condemned to live forever in the present.

And wasn’t this just what Dori and I talked about in the end? The mind – the restless, anxious, problem-solving mind, which, in its own delusion and mania, believes the future can somehow be answered like a puzzle. To write is to seek the eye of the storm. Within the eye is the calm needed to tell a story that has no real reason for existence other than it wants to exist. Outside that eye is the tempest of fear, all that does not exist but which siren-like beckons your attention.

There is no answer for the tempest. You cannot dispel it. It exists as soon as you look upon it, gains strength as soon as you venture into it, consumes all your energy as soon as you try to fight it. As writers the tempest is uniquely alluring, full as it is of drama. Isn’t drama what our stories require? But the journey of any story is always out of the tempest and to the heart of peace, where, if you only lift your eyes, you will notice you already dwell.

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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Fighting For Peace

I was in a meeting recently whose members included a mother and her grown daughter. The matter up for debate was whether a certain promotional email could or should be sent, and the ones who ended up doing the debating were the mother and daughter. What had begun as a question was quickly headed toward a disagreement. There was something confusing about this disagreement, however. I could not understand what they were getting ready to argue over. As I listened closer, I realized that the mother was saying X but the daughter was hearing Y, and the daughter was saying A but the mother was hearing B. I stepped in and translated and the impending confrontation dissolved.

I thought immediately of when I was sixteen and did the same thing with my girlfriend and her mother. I do not mean to suggest this is a mother/daughter phenomenon. Rather, it is a human/human phenomenon. As I left the meeting, I wondered how many battles the world over were precisely this, the divide between what is said and what is heard.

As a writer, I have long seen myself as a translator. I hear something that comes to me as a feeling or an idea, and I translate it as accurately as possible into words so other people can hear or feel it too. But as I drove home that night I kept thinking about that mother and daughter, about what was said and what was heard.

How many years had I spent thinking that if I could just say clearly what I had always known everything I desired would come to me? How many years had I spent toiling to master this language, whose nuances were my only obstacle to complete understanding? If only I could show them, all of them, then I would know peace.  All the conflict I have known in my life is surely the result of inaccurate translation.

I arrived home to the familiar sounds of my family. There were days I felt as though I had already heard everything my wife and children would ever have to say. There were days I felt as though I had already heard everything the entire world had to say. And there were days I felt I was fighting and fighting to be heard above the din of all that had already been said, fighting earnestly for the peace I so craved that it was hard to hear that I was the one making all the noise.

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

More Author Articles

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter