Yesterday I talked about the problem with the “10,000 hours” thing and how it might be better to begin with a little reverse thinking before diving into the actual work. To figure out why you’re going after a goal before you begin. Coming up with the “why” will point to the “how”. Product will give way to process. By working this way, the “what” will take care of itself. Today I’m going to use myself as an example. This may or may not apply to your situation, but I’m sure you could “transpose” this theme into whatever kind of life you’re trying to live.
I’ve grown up loving to read. I started on the Boxcar Children and the Hardy Boys and quickly moved on to L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, and Tolkien. I’m the son of a librarian, and worked at a library myself during high school and college. At any given time I have a stack of books next to my bed and another virtual stack of books I’m reading on my Kindle.
I also love to write. This happened quite accidentally during college when I was perusing the local bookshop for a book on songwriting. Nothing in the music section struck my fancy, but over in the writing section I found a book that lit my fire. Starting with the exercises in that book, I began journaling and then branched out into other areas. Surprisingly, this helped me write better songs as well.
Now the natural, knee-jerk reaction to “I love to write” involves pursuing publication at some level. (“You should write a book.”) But before doggedly going after a magical “book deal” – which sounds eerily similar to the golden carrot “record deal” us musicians get blinded by – it probably wouldn’t hurt to take a look at what I want vs. what I already have. You know, come up with the “why”.
And besides, doesn’t a “deal” already sound like we’re settling?
Some people want to write because they want to be famous. Nothing inherently wrong with this, although I would argue that reality TV might be a quicker route. Other people see writing as a fast route to fortune. Again, that lady who wrote all those 50 Shades books aside, there are probably better ways to make money.
So if you take fame and fortune out of the equation, what are you left with? Why do so many of us want to write? I’ve pondered this question for years now, and I might be crazy, but I think I’ve hit on something.
It’s about living a literary life.
We hear stories about Hemingway and others who wrote like clockwork every morning (and lived pretty cool lives the rest of the day as well!).
We read Thoreau’s essay on walking, or, better yet, we read legends of Tolkien and Lewis walking together talking about how to begin a book.
We come across entire books of letters written by authors to friends, fans, and colleagues.
Above all, we can point to one line of writing that changed our lives forever.
And we want to do that.
So over the last year or so, I’ve tried to cultivate just that kind of life, incorporating elements for all of the above into my regular routine. Doing the kinds of things that “literary” people do.
- Reading voraciously and unapologetically.
- Writing. A lot.*
- Walking. A lot.
- Connecting with kindred souls. A lot.
The product of this kind of life might be a book. It might be a blog. It might be something that hasn’t been invented yet.
But rather than focusing on the product, I’m focusing on the process.
No matter what.
And I haven’t looked back. And you know what? I’ve had an absolute blast. I can’t wait to see where this path leads.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Use the comments below to keep the dialogue going… (btw yes this is part one of two – I plan to climb this mountain from a different angle in the near future!)
* I don’t know about you, but I am tired of people talking about writing. If you’re a writer, you write. End of story.