A Quiet Discipline

Writers are frequently advised to write what they would want to read. For me this is another way of saying, “Write what makes you happy.” Which is also another way of saying, “Live what makes you happy.” The older I get, and the more I write, the more I have come to see happiness like a bird that returns faithfully to my backyard every day. As long as I stay still and observe this bird it will remain, and I will reap the harvest that is being in its presence.

But the mind can trick you sometimes into believing that anything of value must be had. We seem to spend our life acquiring, after all. If one wants a car one gets the car, one doesn’t merely sit on his back stoop observing this car. Plus, if one wants something again and again, one learns to understand it, learns the formula that ensures its return.

This bird is so fast, however, that as soon as you come near her, she is gone. It is easy to distrust her at this point. Or worse yet, to go in search of her. The longer and harder you search, the more you cannot find her, and the more you are certain her visit was merely some accident.

Eventually, we all must rest, and so she returns. “What do you want of me?” you might ask her from your own perch. “Why do your require this stillness of me?” It seems unfair sometimes, as our lives are all motion and change. If only you could stuff her in your pocket and carry her with you as you go about your day doing and doing and doing, stuff her in your pocket and take her out when you need her, when all this doing seems a kind of slavery.

In this way, writing continues to teach me. Off I go to my desk every day, off I go to do this thing called writing, off I go to write something that I can sell so I will have money and can then get the stuff I need. Mostly, however, when I go to do this thing, mostly I sit and wait. My job becomes a discipline of stillness. All the better, of course, to see her feathers clearly and to record her song accurately.

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

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You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

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