Harold Arlen, the Academy Award-winning composer of “Over the Rainbow,” described his work ethic as: Drift. Listen. Obey. This seems like a good approach, and perhaps the only one to which any creative artist can adhere. Sometimes when I describe the writing process in this space I will mention the importance of “following your interest.” This language, however, is not one hundred percent accurate.
“My” interest – that which is of most interest to me – is not really “mine.” It would be more accurate to say that “I” am that which observes the current of interest coursing through me. “I” am the one who chooses to follow, to obey, that current or not. In this way, what is most of interest to me is actually independent of the “me” that chooses what he will do, who chooses whether he will write or not write, eat or not eat. The desire to eat, after all, is everlasting, but I must choose to obey this very basic desire or not.
I understand if this sounds a bit semantic, but it is only a matter of time before we are faced with what we can control and what we cannot control. No calling, whether it be to write, to marry, or to open an espresso stand, comes with a definitive road map. The calling is never any more than a direction, whose destination remains necessarily mysterious.
Thus we must obey. An obedient servant does not ask his master why he wants tea; he merely fetches it. In this way, there is no point in asking why you must write a story or not write a story, you must merely write it. The current, after all, is going to keep running whether you follow it or not. If you do not follow it, the current’s roar will get louder and louder and louder until you feel as if you are drowning in your own bed, having obeyed nothing but the voice that whispers, “I can’t.”
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com