I was touched by this story of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Academy Week, where amateur musicians are invited in, especially when music teacher Tanesha Mitchell, who contributes so beautifully to her neighborhood, said, “There were times when that violin stayed in the case for a year. But then that means you open it back up, and new things begin.”
Have you left your dream in the case for a while? How do you open it back up? What happens?
Jacques Lusseyran went blind at age 8. When he was twice as old, in 1941, he founded one of the key organizations of the French Resistance. His memoir, And There Was Light, has been on my wish list for years! (Kathy Brown mentioned it in a Brain Gym course, Vision Circles, and I finally ordered New World Library’s beautiful new edition. Bless you all for bringing me this book.)
I fell in love with this book from the first paragraph: “When you said to me: ‘Tell me the story of your life,’ I was not eager to begin. But when you added, ‘What I care most about is learning your reasons for loving life,’ then I became eager, for that was a real subject.”
I knew I would tell you about this book, and encourage you to write about loving life, especially if you have ever found that difficult. I came to my computer and found two of you offering the same message.
Josie Thompson battles bipolar symptoms to get out of bed, and she has traveled the US and Italy to ask people what gets them out of bed, what brings them joy. Now she is going to the Philippines with the goal of bringing joy through humanitarian service. She says she discovered long ago that she does not have to be healed to help, and she wants everyone to know, “Everyone has a reason to live.”
Exuberant performer Shaun Parry founded Promethean Spark to teach life skills through dance in developing nations, including the leprosy colonies of India. Did you know we could eradicate leprosy in one generation by overcoming the cultural stigma, seeing it as a treatable disease instead of a curse? I was especially touched to see beautiful young dancers from these colonies represent, in one of their dances, their loved ones’ experience with leprosy.
There’s your assignment. Love your life, write it, film it, dance it. Share your light.
Are you waiting for your retreat, vacation, sabbatical, or retirement to write your book? Uninterrupted time sounds luxurious, and then it can be overwhelming. Whenever I reserve a day for my own project, I celebrate, then usually flounder and remember Julia Cameron’s metaphor, comparing uninterrupted time to a bolt of antique silk. It can be hard to cut into.
As I thought of that recently, I remembered a PBS show, Sewing with Nancy, featuring “10-20-30 Minutes to Sew.” Nancy showed viewers how to create even a fully tailored jacket in tiny pockets of time. She recommended identifying each step, prepping materials the way a chef preps ingredients, and systematically advancing a project day by day.
And get this: Nancy is still on the air. It’s the longest running sewing show ever. Teaching her audience to fit hobbies into busy schedules must be one key to her success, and this approach probably renews her own creative stamina.
For her McCall’s patterns, Nancy says, “I don’t have hours to spend sewing every day. Just a few minutes here or there can quickly add up to a finished project!” Go, Nancy!
Few people would wait for a sabbatical to piece a quilt. You don’t need one to write a book either. So drop everything and give me 10, only 10.
Do you dance alone? Write alone? Some can. Some learn faster and more gracefully with a partner. Some clients send me work as soon as they write it. If you don’t have a writing coach as you write your book this year, at least enlist a writing buddy. You can check in to announce your day’s modest goal and check back later to celebrate its achievement. You can meet at a library or cafe to “work and ignore” or to swap pages you wrote earlier. Some writers rack up a draft before showing it to anyone; others require reader support before they can write more. Dance to your own drummer.
One partner every writer needs is a favorite pep talk. There’s a wonderful collection on the NaNoWriMo site; I keep a copy of Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket’s in my planning folder:
“Think of that secret favorite book of yours—not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they’d never understand it. Perhaps it ‘s not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you’ll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.”
You’ve been talking about this book for years. Now it’s time to fish or cut bait.
Honestly—I’m here to let you off the hook. Do you mean it? Do you truly want to write a book?
So? If you got that, what would it mean?
And then if you got that, what would it give you?
Dig down deeper, layer by layer, until you can feel why you want this.
Could you meet that need in some other way? (Easier ways exist.) Choose not to write that book. Give it up and do something else. Do nothing. It’s beats doing nothing except berating yourself.
If you’re not writing, this is your homework: do NOT write your book. Figure out what you’d rather do. If you can possibly avoid writing a book, do it! Do it on purpose! Do it with joy! (If quitting your book is difficult, see Evan Harris’s The Art of Quitting for more about that.)
If your book is rolling this week, keep it up—and also spend a few minutes clarifying your Why. Post that reason or that list of reasons over your desk, pat yourself on the back, and write some more.
If you just can’t quit, then come on back. The door is always open.
Consider that your book has been secretly growing in the silence. Your subconscious is all over it, and you might have more of it on paper than you realize. Check for evidence of your story or your area of expertise in various corners of your life. Have you. . . .
Blogged about it?
Taught a class?
Discussed it with someone?
Gotten on a soapbox about it?
Been told you should write a book about it?
Started a draft?
Made notes on scraps of paper?
Dreamed about it?
Daydreamed about it?
Read other books like it?
Wished for a book that doesn’t exist yet?
If you want, you can start hunting and gathering. Or you can simply open your awareness to the clues. Observe that you are already writing a book. Is this book your usual suspect? Or has another book emerged to surprise you?