Decisions, Decisions

Writing has taught me many things, but what it continues to teach me every single time I sit down at my desk is how to make decisions. After all, writing is nothing but a series of decisions, from which story to tell, to which scenes and characters and sentences to include. In fact, every single word is a decision. In this way, a book is a collection of decisions within decisions within decisions. The first thing writing taught me about decisions is that they can’t be made intellectually. The intellect is useful at gathering and retaining information, but it is useless at knowing which stories to tell or which words go where. In the end this is a felt process, an intuitive process – or, to be more concrete, it requires the ability to differentiate effortlessness and effort. The effortless path is always the best path, the path my authentic curiosity would have me follow. It requires no effort to be curious about something; it always requires great effort to keep my attention on something about which I am not curious at all.

So this has been very useful. But perhaps more important has been the gradual understanding that there is no such thing as a wrong decision. Every decision takes me somewhere, and if that somewhere is not where I want to be, I will recognize it as such, perhaps immediately, perhaps eventually. Regardless of the time it takes for me to recognize where I am – to understand that the story isn’t working, that this job isn’t for me, that this relationship should end – the road signs, so to speak, will always be apparent the moment I choose to look for them. Sometimes it takes me a while to understand I am exerting effort and that I’m not enjoying doing so.

The concept of a “wrong decision” creates a hostile environment for decision-making. It suggests that there is some choice that could lead me out beyond the reach of my own guidance, a wilderness of failure from which I will never return, where I will live forever in misery and loneliness. I have only ever traveled to such places in my frightened imagination. In reality, as long as I can tell the difference between happiness and unhappiness, I will always find a route back to myself.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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