Friendly Idea

If you listen to my podcast Author2Author, you may have heard me say “What it takes to write the book you most want to write is also what it takes to lead the life you most want to lead.” This little nugget occurred to me long before I could explain it to anyone, though I knew it had something do with making choices. Fortunately, the more I write and teach about the intersection of writing and my everyday life, the more I understand just how true it is.

I don’t mean to brag – this is just how life and creativity works. Something occurs to me, whether it’s a story idea or Big Life Idea, and then I have to learn about it. I have to learn about ideas because they are just seeds that need consistent attention to bloom into something shareable with other people. Sometimes I learn about an idea by doing research or by talking to friends, but mostly I learn by mulling it over as I go about my day. I ask myself a question about the idea and I start getting answers, which usually leads to more questions and so on.

And by “answers” I mean thoughts – lots and lots and lots of thoughts. A book is nothing but a series of connected thoughts we call sentences. For most of my life I did not understand the singular role thought played in every aspect of my life. Thoughts were just the non-material stuff rattling around in my head that kept me interested in quiet moments. Meanwhile, reality was all the stuff I was dealing with outside of me. That’s where my success and happiness lay – out there. That’s where the jobs were and the relationships were and the money and houses and – well, everything. It was all out there.

What I have come to understand is that everything I have ever wanted, I found, achieved, met, or acquired through thought. Just as I have learned to follow my curiosity and the thoughts it attracts to write an essay or a book, so too thought led to me to the woman I married, to the work I do, to the house in which I live. I listen to thoughts and I ignore thoughts, just as I keep sentences and delete sentences. Whether writing or living, my job is always to learn the difference between thoughts worth pursuing and thoughts I should ignore.

I remind myself of this every day because thoughts still seem like nothing. They can’t be seen or touched, and yet they are the surest guides through the world away from my writing desk. This is good because I need a guide. I have no idea how the future will unfold, whether tomorrow or an hour from now. But thoughts come to me in this very moment, and by some friendly mysterious means they always know the way toward what I want.

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

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Evolution

More people are writing more often than ever before in the history of mankind. More people are also sharing that work, whether in traditionally published books, independently published books, blogs, twitter feeds, Facebook posts, emails, or even comment pages. The digital age has created a generation of writers and authors, if you define an author as anyone who has ever shared anything with another person – which I do.

If you’re a little older than, say, thirty, and if you’ve always wanted to write, and if you grew up with the dream of entering what used to seem like the rarified air of the Published Author, it is easy to view this new development grumpily. Now any clown with a keyboard and an Enter key can become an author. This publishing proliferation has cheapened the position of the author. To be an author one need be an authority on nothing other than one’s own strident opinion. Where’s the value in that?

For me the value is everywhere. Not that long ago, much of the population didn’t even know how to write, let alone publish. In this way, writing is evolutionary. Let everyone on earth meet the blank page and ask, “What would I like to see there?” What a question. To answer it is to meet one’s own creative identity as little else can. To answer it is to confront the reality of free will, the fluidity of thought, and our connection to something that has taken on many names over time.

Most of all, writing asks us to be responsible for the life we are living. The blank page simply will not fill itself. Only our choices will fill it, and we can only choose from thoughts we are thinking, and we can only think about what we are focused on – and we can focus on anything. We can focus on genocide of flowers, argument or cooperation. We are as free as our boundless imaginations. So what do you want to see on the blank page? The answer to that question is how what we have come to call reality is created.

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

Follow wdbk on Twitter

Mysterious Treasures

It is common for writers to feel that they write to discover what they know. This is certainly true for writers of fictional stories, where an idea comes to an author in its dim but interesting form. The writer then spends a month or a year or a decade discovering why that idea is so interesting, and in so doing, translating it into a form where another human being might find it interesting also.

But this discovery occurs at all levels of writing, from the largest stories to the smallest sentence. Though I have been doing it all my life, how and why this discovery occurs continues to elude me, even now as I am pursuing it. That is, discovery is always heightened perception. To discover something is to see it – to perceive it – for the first time. If I were searching through sand on a beach for lost coins, I would dig and sift until I perceived coins reflecting in the sun. Even if I unearthed the coins, if I did not see them, if the sun had temporarily blinded me or if the coins were so caked in sand as to be camouflaged, no discovery would have occurred, despite all my digging.

So it is with writing. To write is to turn our attention within so we might see the world more clearly. Here is where the mystery begins. On a beach I see the sand, I see my hand and my shovel and with luck the coins. But within me there is only the boundary-less expanse of thought. And just as the coin must be separated from the sand, so too must a thought be separated from all other thoughts to be perceived with enough clarity for translation.

Yet thought lacks the engines of shovels and hands. The only engine of thought is more thought. It is easy in this way to become lost in our efforts to discover what we seek. Now we are searching not for a coin within sand, but for a specific grain of sand in a world made of nothing but more sand. Despair not. That which compelled your search, your unique interest and curiosity, remains your truest and only compass. Collect those thoughts to make your interest whole, build it thought by thought. When you are done you will behold that which had lacked only the attention of a curious soul to be made real, and the world will be richer for it.

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

Slow Down

Why are writers so found of specific details? Because details amplify emotions. There is very little emotional momentum in the sentence: John was angry. Nor: John was really angry. Nor even: John was really, really, really super angry. On the other hand: John came home, slammed the door, took one look around the living room and said, “Does anyone clean up anything in this house besides me?

The final example has the most emotional momentum, yet the word angry is never mentioned. This is what we call showing and not telling. The author is a like a lawyer, his readers the jury, and his details the evidence. A storyteller’s only currency is feeling, and specific details focus the reader’s imagination on specific feelings. The more specific the details, the greater the focus of feeling, the more likely I will receive the verdict I was seeking.

This works when we aren’t writing as well. Perhaps I am sitting at my desk and I cannot find a scene. I try one way and then another, yet neither works. I know these approaches don’t work because of how forced they feel. I do not like this forced feeling, and I recall that I have felt this way before. I begin remembering the stories I’d written that also felt forced yet I sent out anyway, and then the women I dated because I didn’t want to be lonely, and the jobs I took because I was afraid of being poor. I remember these stories, and girlfriends, and jobs in increasingly specific detail, and soon I feel like a fake, a man who has never said or written or done one genuine thing.

It is not so easy to dismiss this story of Bill the Fake because is it feels absolutely true. I am truly feeling like a fake. Yet in simply thinking, “I feel like a fake,” without any further evidence to back it up, I have already slowed my own emotional momentum. Now I might be able to think, “I want to feel genuine. To feel genuine is to feel interested. To feel interested is to feel curious. What about this scene makes me curious?”

And I am back where I belong, ready to write again.

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

New Thought

When I am nervous I find that my mind is preoccupied with old thoughts. These thoughts have served their purpose, have, like the coals in a steamship’s belly, burned and moved me forward through time. If a particular thought burned very hot and took me very far it can be difficult to see it as an old thought. I feel an allegiance to it, wishing to enshrine this thought against evolution, viewing it through the fearful lens of my own mortality where I pity all things that must one day pass away.

But it is uncomfortable to sit idle in the ocean when you can feel life calling you forward. I descend into the furnace room and fan those old thoughts, enamored for a moment with the brute usefulness of action, as if I had succumbed through distraction to laziness. When my efforts yield no movement, I despair. What use is my knowledge of the seas and my skill behind the wheel? The ocean is my new master, and I am its slave.

I had forgotten in my discomfort that idleness is invention’s friend. So much easier to scan the horizon when I am not busy being enthralled by my own speed. And there it is, some spot out beyond the waves that looks interesting. Do you see it? I ask a friend. No, he does not. How strange. Still, there it is again. But how, I wonder, might I get there?

Now my boat is moving once again. I do not even notice its advancement, as my eyes are still trained on what I see. Until at last I feel the movement, and now I am behind the wheel, and I have forgotten my despair as one would a dream, and I love the ocean for all its possibilities. And in the ship’s belly, these new thoughts have caught their fire from the old, their heat requiring no fan but the wind of my curiosity.

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

New Thoughts

When I am nervous I find that my mind is preoccupied with old thoughts. These thoughts have served their purpose, have, like the coals in a steamship’s belly, burned and moved me forward through time. If a particular thought burned very hot and took me very far it can be difficult to see it as an old thought. I feel an allegiance to it, wishing to enshrine this thought against evolution, viewing it through the fearful lens of my own mortality where I pity all things that must one day pass away.

But it is uncomfortable to sit idle in the ocean when you can feel life calling you forward. I descend into the furnace room and fan those old thoughts, enamored for a moment with the brute usefulness of action, as if I had succumbed through distraction to laziness. When my efforts yield no movement, I despair. What use is my knowledge of the seas and my skill behind the wheel? The ocean is my new master, and I am its slave.

I had forgotten in my discomfort that idleness is invention’s friend. So much easier to scan the horizon when I am not busy being enthralled by my own speed. And there it is, some spot out beyond the waves that looks interesting. Do you see it? I ask a friend. No, he does not. How strange. Still, there it is again. But how, I wonder, might I get there?

Now my boat is moving once again. I do not even notice its advancement, as my eyes are still trained on what I see. Until at last I feel the movement, and now I am behind the wheel, and I have forgotten my despair as one would a dream, and I love the ocean for all its possibilities. And in the ship’s belly, these new thoughts have caught their fire from the old, their heat requiring no fan but the wind of my curiosity.

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

Mysterious Treasures

It is common for writers to feel that they write to discover what they know. This is certainly true for writers of fictional stories, where an idea comes to an author in its dim but interesting form. The writer then spends a month or a year or a decade discovering why that idea is so interesting, and in so doing, translating it into a form where another human being might find it interesting also.

But this discovery occurs at all levels of writing, from the largest stories to the smallest sentence. Though I have been doing it all my life, how and why this discovery occurs continues to elude me, even now as I am pursuing it. That is, discovery is always heightened perception. To discover something is to see it – to perceive it – for the first time. If I were searching through sand on a beach for lost coins, I would dig and sift until I perceived coins reflecting in the sun. Even if I unearthed the coins, if I did not see them, if the sun had temporarily blinded me of if the coins were so caked in sand as to be camouflaged, no discovery would have occurred, despite my successful digging.

So it is with writing. To write is to turn our attention within so we might see the world more clearly. Here is where the mystery begins. On a beach I see the sand, I see my hand and my shovel and with luck the coins. But within me there is only the boundary-less expanse of thought. And just as the coin must be separated from the sand, so too must a thought be separated from all other thoughts to be perceived with enough clarity for translation.

Yet thought lacks the engines of shovels and hands. The only engine of thought is more thought. It is easy in this way to become lost in our efforts to discover what we seek. Now we are searching not for a coin within sand, but for a specific grain of sand in a world made of nothing but more sand. Despair not. That which compelled your search, your unique interest and curiosity, remains your truest and only compass. Collect those thoughts to make your interest whole, build it thought by thought. When you are done you will behold that which had lacked only the attention of a curious soul to be made real, and the world will be richer for it.

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 Unfamiliar

Each sentence we write is a thought. It might be a small, common thought, or it might be a large, unusual thought. Regardless, each thought gets translated into words that form the larger thought of your story, your book, your blog. As always, thoughts come to us. We ask for thoughts around a certain idea, they arrive, we choose those that please us, and we translate them as accurately as we can.

That is writing. Our job is to be selective of our thoughts, and accurate in our translation. Our job is not to write beautifully, or to write cleverly, or profoundly, our job is to write accurately. It is the thoughts that are beautiful, clever, or profound, and our only responsibility is to recognize them as such and then translate each thought.

Many thoughts, however, are worker bee thoughts, little ordinary sentences that move your story along necessarily. It is important to give these sentences the same attention you would any other. You practice your accuracy with every sentence and without judgment. This way, when a queen bee comes along, you will simply continue doing your job translating accurately; in fact, you may not even realize she is a queen until you have translated her.

The more I write, the less challenging I find the translation. Once I have selected a thought, once I can see it clearly, the translation goes relatively easily. It is the choosing of the thoughts, however, that can still fill me with uncertainty. Every thought forks into other thoughts. I stand mentally at these forks, feeling those that are familiar and those that are not.

I know my job is to choose the unfamiliar, I know I have come to the desk to explore, not return to the site of a previous victory. But darkness is darkness, and to translate I must first illuminate what I have until that moment chose to leave in shadow. This, perhaps, is the only real courage I have ever known in my life. Just that – to step mentally down a darkened hall and see what I have hidden from myself.

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

Thinking Of Life

Perhaps you have heard of Method Acting. The Method, which found its greatest advocate in the acting coach Lee Strasberg, encourages actors to draw upon their own experiences to recreate in themselves the emotions their characters are experiencing – as opposed to traditional acting, where performers merely simulate what the characters were experiencing. In other words, don’t pretend you’re angry or in love, actually be angry or in love.

I did some acting when I was younger, and I always felt that writing, at its best, was like Method acting on the page. No matter what my characters were doing, I was always drawing on my own experience to summon the emotions present within my story. Sometimes I did this deliberately and sometimes not. Sometimes I knew that when my hero was confronting his tormentor he was actually saying what I had never said to my father. Other times I did not know where the feelings came from, but come they did, and always with the familiarity of memory.

Writing and acting are, in this way, vivid reminders of the power of thought. Here we are at the page, alone in our workroom, safe from all the villains and their arrows, and we can summon in ourselves the same fear, the same rage, the same compassion as if we’re caught within the great hurly burly circus of life. In fact, writing requires us to create these virtual realities within us; without this power, our writing would have no life, because every moment in life is felt far more than it is known.

And since every moment in life is felt, it is natural that we should want to feel as good as we possibly can as often as we can. Why is it, then, that we so often assume that life away from our work is so very different from life during our work? Everything we feel while we work flows from what we think. Isn’t it possible, that even riding within the current of public life, even with rejection letters and reviews and spouses and children and the economy and war and suffering – isn’t it possible that the very same holds true, no matter where we are or what we are doing? And in this way, aren’t we always the authors of our own life?

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