Valuable Attention

Students and clients frequently complain about “not having time to write.” It’s odd phrasing in reality because it’s impossible to not have time. The only way to not have time is to be dead. What these writers mean, of course, is that they do not know how to focus their attention on writing instead of all the other things they believe they most focus their attention on. These other things require all their attention. There is none, or virtually none, left for writing.

Yet even virtually none is more than none, so if you have found yourself complaining that you do not have enough time, the first question you must ask yourself is: Is it true that it is impossible to focus my attention on writing? If the answer is yes, then you’re done. You can no more focus your attention on writing than you could jump to the moon. But if the answer is no, if it is possible, then it is only a question of how long you will choose to focus your attention on writing.

And what is writing? Writing is asking the question, “What do I value most? What is most interesting to me and me alone?” It is not asking the question, “How can I survive in this world? How can I not die?” Nor is it asking the question, “How can I please this other person?” No, it is only focusing your attention on the question, “What do I value most and how can I express it?”

Is that question worthy of your attention? Can you think of anything more worthy of your attention? I cannot, though I frequently allow my attention to drift elsewhere, to other people and what I believe they want. Fortunately, all anyone actually wants is to know and express their full value. In this way, the more I express my value, the more valuable I become to others, for in the sharing, author and reader alike are reminded of what we are meant to do.

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

Your Invitation

Know your value. Know your job.

If you look for your value, you will not find it. If you look for your value, and if you believe you have found it, you will soon feel betrayed and valueless. You cannot find your value, you can only know it, the same as you must know the value of the story you will tell before you have told it. To seek your value is to question its immovable and immeasurable permanence, and this mere questioning is an intolerable grief against what you are, and your searching will be filled with anxiety and despair.

You are not some statue of gold, nor of stone, nor of assembled dust. You are not a thing separate from others, cluttering the way for those of greater value, in whom you have bestowed the treasure of perfection you now seek. You are an equal part of the whole, neither separate from, nor greater than, nor lesser than. You are not in anyone’s way, for no one could do anything without you, and you could do nothing without them. The world would collapse in an instant if the bond that connected us could ever be severed.

Your only job is to know your value. It is from this knowing that the stories you wish to tell will spring. It is in this knowing that you will draw readers to you, for as you know your value, so do they. Your value is their value, there is no difference, and so you can teach others what you know, which is what they already are.

Life simplifies immensely the instant you know your value and your job. Know your value, and you will not have to spend your days arranging proof of what cannot be proven. Know your value, and life will come to you, for you will have removed the obstacles to its arrival, the evidence you assembled to protect that which needed no protecting. This moment where you ask nothing of anyone is what you once mistook for loneliness. And yet it is the very opposite. This is an invitation to the whole of life, an invitation life can but accept, for accepting is all life ever does.

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

Accepted Value

Andre Dubus defined a writer’s job as one of truth telling. I have to agree with this, and I believe that definition applies to all forms of writing, from romance to poetry to suspense and, yes, to fantasy. Fantasy is a tricky name for a genre, however, as it suggests perhaps the very opposite of truth telling.

A Course In Miracles defines a fantasy as an attempt to correct a problem that does not exist. I have come to understand that I wrote many novels that were fantasies, although they were all set on this planet, and not one contained a single elf or magic sword. These novels were written precisely to correct the problem of my unperceivable value. I believed that if I could write and publish a very specific sort of book then my value would be established and unquestionable.

For this reason, the books never felt real to me. They were largely shadows I hoped one day would take full form within the light of acceptance. I might as well have hoped to meet Santa Claus. Writing is an expression of value, not a pursuit of its acquisition. The writer looks within himself at what he perceives as valuable and translates it into a form that can be shared. It is never, ever the other way around.

Eventually I began to share what I knew to be of value. Immediately, the work changed. What I was writing now had the feeling of something that already existed, something I could not have created alone but which was happy to remain still long enough for me translate into words and stories. In those moments I gained what I had long believed I lacked: acceptance. It was quite surprising to learn that what I had thought was the end of a writer’s journey was actually its beginning.

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

Your Invitation

Know your value. Know your job.

If you look for your value, you will not find it. If you look for your value, and if you believe you have found it, you will soon feel betrayed and valueless. You cannot find your value, you can only know it, the same as you must know the value of the story you will tell before your have told it. To seek your value is to question its immovable and immeasurable permanence, and this mere questioning is an intolerable grief against your soul, and your searching will be filled with anxiety and despair.

You are not some statue of gold, nor of stone, nor of assembled dust. You are not a thing separate from others, cluttering the way for those of greater value, in whom you have bestowed the treasure of perfection you now seek. You are an equal part of the whole, neither separate from, nor greater than, nor lesser than. You are not in anyone’s way, for no one could do anything without you, and you could do nothing without them. The world would collapse in an instant if the bond that connected us could ever be severed.

Your only job is to know your value. It is from this knowing that the stories you wish to tell will spring. It is in this knowing that you will draw readers to you, for as you know your value, so do they. Your value is their value, there is no difference, and so you can teach others what you know, which is what they already are.

Life simplifies immensely the instant you know your value and your job. Know your value, and you will not have to spend your days arranging proof of what cannot be proven. Know your value, and life will come to you, for you will have removed the obstacles to its arrival, the evidence you assembled to protect that which needed no protecting. This moment where you ask nothing of anyone is what you once mistook for loneliness. And yet it is the very opposite. This is an invitation to the whole of life, an invitation life can but accept, for accepting is all life ever does.

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

Shared Value

What do you value? If you’re a writer, it’s a question worth asking every time you sit down at your desk. It’s best to be honest. Perhaps you believe you should answer, “Love, friendship, and integrity,” but you most want to answer, “A big house, a new dress, and endless compliments.” Begin where you are. If you continue to be honest, you will find that it is not the big house you value, but the feeling of being in a big house; so too the new dress, and the endless compliments.

Or perhaps it is not even the feeling of being in a big house, but the fantasy of what being in that big house will feel like. Perhaps it is only the fantasy of the freedom spaciousness can bring, and the fantasy of comfort it’s gates will provide. Perhaps also, you entertain the fantasy that every day you open its front door you will at last feel as valuable as you secretly believe you are but for which you have no proof.

What do you value? Is feeling not the only thing we humans actually value? Are not all the things we own and crave owned and craved for the feelings we hope they will excite within us? In this way, let writing teach you what you must surely already know. There at your desk you have nothing but your own thoughts and imagination. There at your desk you can crave nothing or no writing will occur. And yet there at your desk you have available to you the entire spectrum of human feeling. You summon each feeling within yourself and translate those feelings into scenes, characters, and words.

You know this is true. You know you needed nothing but yourself to feel everything. Writing has taught us this, and yet still we will forget when we leave the desk. What do you value? You are sharing that answer in your work every day. What do you value? That is what you buy and sell. What do you value? Answer it honestly and it is yours, instantly and completely, without the obstruction of time and distance, it is yours in a thought, ready to be shared in these gifts we call stories.

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

Worthless

An artist hangs two pictures in a gallery. Both are precisely the same dimensions. One he prices at $500, the other he prices at $400. His reasons for doing so have nothing to do with the paintings’ size, frames, or the amount of paint expended on either. He simply likes one better than the other. Technically, numerically, one painting is worth less than the other.

When I was a boy I was called a bad loser, and I was. For the game to be fun it had to mean something, and for the game to mean something the ending had to mean something. But the end was where the world was divided in two, into those who had won and those who had lost. Why would the winning matter unless the loser lacked what the winner had gained in victory? By this math, was not the loser worth less than the winner?

It was easy to call my howls of loser’s pain tantrums, but they were the expression of my first attempts to align myself to that with which no one can be aligned. If it were possible that I could be worth in even one penny less than another human being, then happiness itself—a thing without shape or country but more valuable than gold or seaside property—could be incrementally denied me. In this way, if you are worth one penny less, and if that one penny is the difference between happiness and unhappiness, you might as well be worthless.

I do not consider it an interesting semantic trick that for humans “worth less” became “worthless,” that relative value became no value. Though we measure and measure and measure ourselves, though we rank ourselves, compete against ourselves, judge ourselves, our actual value is an all-or-nothing equation. It defies the laws of the physical world, but so it was meant to be. We can hang price tags on all the paintings we want, but if looking at that painting does not make us happy, it is, to us, worthless.

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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You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

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Proven Markets

My oldest son, who plans to study marketing and advertising when he begins attending college next years, wanted to know why I never marketed the novel I published like I market Author. After all, I FB and tweet every blog and every episode of Author2Author, I run ads for the PNWA before every interview, I created three promotional videos for Youtube. Why did I not bring an ounce of this salesmanship to a novel I spent three years writing?

It’s quite simple, really. When I wrote the book, I genuinely liked it – which is to say it felt like a book I would have wanted to read. Unfortunately, at the time this seemed like flimsy evidence for the book’s value. What I needed was some proof. What was wrong with a little proof? Without proof we’d have never landed on the moon.

Then I sent the book to an agent – and she loved it! Those were her exact words. She couldn’t wait to sell it. Proof! Until, of course, this agent got the first rejection letter from a publisher. Now, her opinion was proof of nothing. Now, only a publisher could prove whether this thing had value.

By and by the agent concluded she could not sell it, and so I badgered my game publisher into publishing it. The book came out with numerous typos and I was paid half of what I was owed. The errors and the pittance I received, it seemed to me, were proof of its value. Which is why I didn’t spend much time marketing it.

Author is a part of the publishing marketing machine, so I now deal with publicists and authors fretting over how best to publicize their work. I’m sure, if pressed, I could write an article on the pros and cons of FB and twitter and Youtube and blog tours, but all of that seems rather beside the point. No amount of Internet and social media know-how can replace our connection to what it is we are marketing. We are the engine, and our connection is the fuel. Without it, no matter how beautiful our vehicle, we will go nowhere.

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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You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

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The Value of Success

It was not until I had lived with my wife for a few years that I fully understood that beauty was to women what success was to men. This is not to say that we men do not worry about our bald spots and our abs and our back hair, or that women cannot catch a full-blown case of the success disease (just ask Laura Munson). But the similarity between women’s impossible relationship to physical beauty, and men’s suicidal relationship to success is the Ying and Yang of human suffering.

At least for women a dialogue about beauty has begun. It started with the outrage of early feminism, but has since moved on to subtler questions of power and femininity and mothers and safety and on and on. Women’s attempt to untangle their value from their cup size or waistline may take generations, but I have hope, given the current trajectory, that such a time may come.

It is quite a different story for men. The subject of success is virtually taboo. It is discussed only in terms of its absolute necessity. We are in this way very much like lifelong athletes, with success being victory in our chosen game. The athlete cannot question the value of winning; it is why the game is played. It is also only natural to compare one’s victories (if you have any) to the other athletes to know your relative value in this endless sport.

Success is our physical safety and our emotional safety. Success will determine where we live, if and what we eat, how high we believe we can hold our head at a party, and even whom we marry. It can become the whole measurement of our lives, and it is virtually meaningless. There is no finish line. The Pulitzer Prize winner can feel a failure for never having won a Nobel.

In the end, however, men and women’s agony remains exactly the same. Measuring your value by success or beauty is like measuring your feet to find your hat size. You will only come away wondering why you cannot find the answer. You could have sworn you had been told you would find it there. Strange also that as soon as you cease your measuring something akin to value speaks to you, in a tone you have long recognized, saying, “Stop looking and you will find me.”

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

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

Accepted Value

Andre Dubus defined a writer’s job as one of truth telling. I have to agree with this, and I believe that definition applies to all forms of writing, from romance to poetry to suspense and, yes, to fantasy. Fantasy is a tricky name for a genre, however, as it suggests perhaps the very opposite of truth telling.

A Course In Miracles defines a fantasy as an attempt to correct a problem that does not exist. I have come to understand that I wrote many novels that were fantasies, although they were all set on this planet, and not one contained a single elf or magic sword. These novels were written precisely to correct the problem of my unperceivable value. I believed that if I could write and publish a very specific sort of book then my value would be established and unquestionable.

For this reason, the books never felt real to me. They were largely shadows I hoped one day would take full form within the light of acceptance. I might as well have hoped to meet Santa Claus. Writing is an expression of value, not a pursuit of its acquisition. The writer looks within himself at what he perceives as valuable and translates it into a form that can be shared. It is never, ever the other way around.

Eventually I began to share what I knew to be of value. Immediately, the work changed. What I was writing now had the feeling of something that already existed, something I could not have created alone but which was happy to remain still long enough for me translate into words and stories. In those moments I gained what I had long believed I lacked: acceptance. It was quite surprising to learn that what I had thought was the end of a writer’s journey was actually its beginning.

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

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

Incalculable

This month’s issue features an interview with New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin. If it were accurate, I would of course refer to her as the #1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin, but as of this writing Giffin has never climbed higher than #2 on that weekly ranking. I would not mention these numbers except for a recent Internet kerfuffle involving Emily, Facebook, Amazon reviewers, and Emily’s husband, all of which began with her rather benign observation that just once she would like to crack that #1 spot.

For those of you whose books have never made it onto The List, or for that matter have yet to publish a book at all, withhold your judgment. Authors quickly find themselves swimming in all kinds of numbers: advances, Amazon rankings, sales, reading attendance, words-per-day, royalties, and yes, highest spot on The List and weeks spent there. The math of life says that all these numbers absolutely must add up to something. Why else have them? Why else write them all down?

But what can they mean? You get to number one this week, and next week James Patterson has published fourteenth book this month and he’s number one. Who’s the real number one? Or the real number two, three, four, or twenty-five? These are the sorts of questions that can devour a life.

Yet how tempting to try and answer them, offering as they do the siren song of proof—proof of our value. If a writer is very honest she will admit that within her is something of unquestionable value, something desiring expression the same as a tree desires to grow. Translate this value accurately and you feel your first success. This is a success that has no number. It is the only success you will ever truly know, the only success you will understand, and the only success whose value remains as incalculable as you.

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

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