In The Living

Tonight I will be speaking at the East West Bookshop in Seattle on the topic of Why We Write. I don’t know how many people will be in attendance; there might be one or there might be one hundred. Yet not knowing is a familiar position for me, especially in regard to public speaking. Shortly after leaving the restaurant where I had worked for 17 years, and a year before the first issue of Author would go live, I was visiting an old friend in Los Angeles. I left the restaurant in large part because I had gradually begun to see life as something that happened through me, not to me, to coin a phrase. No sooner did I begin to see life this way than, being who I am, I found myself compelled to share my perceptions with other people.

So I did. Off and on for three days I talked to my friend Chris – and my brother who had joined me in Los Angeles, and my brother’s friend Kevin who lived nearby – about what was bubbling around in me. If this sounds tedious I can only say that my brother would not have hesitated to tell me to clam up if that was what was necessary. Sometimes, I believe, someone is ready to talk, and someone else is ready to listen.

Toward the end of this trip I was driving through Burbank with Chris, opining on life and the soul and so on, when Chris turned to me and said, “You know what you should do, Bill? You should be one of those guys I see on PBS pacing around a stage talking about love and the spirit and life and like that.”

I considered this, and decided that Chris was probably onto something. But sitting in his car only three months removed from my last shift in a restaurant, I couldn’t imagine how I could get from where I was – which seemed more or less like nowhere – to a place where I might be asked to speak to thousands of people instead of just three.

I was right, of course, that I couldn’t imagine how to get where I wanted to go. I don’t know if I will ever speak on PBS – I don’t know if I will want to or if I will be asked to or if PBS will still exist in five years – but I can now see, if only vaguely, how such a thing is possible. Yet the thousands of choices that brought me here – the people I’ve met and the things I’ve written and the opportunities I’ve been afforded – were too numerous and interconnected to be imagined. In this way, life is always best understood in the living, just as no story is understood until it’s written.

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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