I am firmly convinced that each of us is here for a very specific reason. To share a precious gift with the world that only we possess.
But how many of us act on that conviction?
I’m not pointing fingers. Well, except maybe at myself. Because I have had a rich history of nodding my head in agreement with the concept of living your dream, yet fleeing like my ass was on fire when faced with the action steps that go with it.
While I admit to being surgically attached to my Kindle, I still love an excursion to an actual bookstore. There’s really nothing like holding an old school book in your hand: leafing through the pages, admiring the cover art, daring the jacket blurb to draw you in. And the unspoken agreement amongst my fellow bookworms that silence (or at least hushed chatter) is golden. This is my version of Heaven.
Well, it was until yesterday.
A few years ago, I read an article about a 13 year old girl named Athena Orchard who died of a rare form of bone cancer. I’ve never forgotten Athena, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the tragedy of her having such an unfairly short amount of time on this planet. Never getting to live out all of her cherished dreams. Having to leave behind family and friends who I’m sure are still lost without her.
But Athena left something else behind.
Today – okay, let’s be honest here – the past two weeks I have done a truly masterful job of avoiding the rewrite on my novel. Everything from the grocery store to the dust bunnies under the couch clamored for attention. Throw in the adoption of a new puppy and relatives popping in and out of Hotel Hughes as they toured the great state of Arizona, and voila. Word count: zero.
I am officially done with my slavish monitoring of the diet and healthcare pendulum. In the space of a week, I’ve learned that drinking too much water can kill me and that I’ll live longer if I stop waging war on my love handles and embrace those proverbial “last ten pounds.” As I sat contemplating whether I should cut back on the Evian and start considering Ding Dongs to be a primary food group, I received two e-mails from well meaning friends on the subject of folate. Being that this vitamin is part of the B-complex formula that I take daily, I was interested in hearing the latest findings. But my curiosity rapidly turned to confusion when I learned that apparently this innocent little substance could either a) help me prevent hypertension, heart disease and stroke, or b) cause a rapid decline in my mental capacity once I reached retirement age. Great. I can keep my heart pumping healthfully into my golden years, only to forget what I’m doing when I get there.
Today is one of those days where nothing is really working. And when that happens, I generally go to my impressive (or actually obscenely large) collection of self help books, CDs, downloads, widgets, gadgets and cards and pluck something that I think is going to help this self of mine get to feeling better.
So, what’s it gonna be? The charms-and-trinkets route? Put all my dreams in the manifestation bowl and wait for them to come true? Write all my grievances on a piece of paper and burn it to a crisp to release them to the heavens for perfect resolution? Meditate until all the wisdom of the Universe downloads into my head?
Right now, I feel like I’ve been drunk on so many different flavors of self help koolaid that I need to send myself to rehab. No more gurus, gadgets or therapies both mystical and practical. Cold turkey, baby.
I confess, I am a sucker for talent shows. Okay, so they’re cheesy, overproduced and hosted by vapid mannequins with serious self tanning issues. But I can’t help it. Every time I see one of the hopeful contestants take the stage, I am drawn in. Not just by their stunning voices, but the bravery and backstories that got them there. As I listen, I am praying that they don’t have to go back to anything that involves a cubicle or wearing a giant rat costume for a herd of screaming five year olds eating pizza. Considering my own shower-and-car-only voice, I believe each and every one of them should be the next world dominating superstar.
But then they’re eliminated. And I fall prey to the same insta-thought that nearly everyone else does:
“Well, they didn’t make it. Back to obscurity.”
But really…says who?
This morning I watched the rough cut of my new short film Waiting for Goodbye with tears spilling into my coffee. Being that it explores the feelings of a young woman as she spends her last morning with her beloved dog, I suppose my reaction was a good sign. We were looking to capture a heart wrenching emotional journey of grief and loss, so crying my face off meant we did our job well.
But that wasn’t the whole story.
“So, how many of these will you ever actually read again?” my husband asked as he tripped over the stupidly huge piles of books obscuring the bedroom floor. Considering there were more than I could count, I opted to plead the fifth.
Like a lot of writers, I compulsively collect books – especially ones that promise to jumpstart my imagination, kill writers block and make me a genius storyteller. But given that I was about three paperbacks away from securing a starring role on Hoarders, I reluctantly decided to whittle down my literary stash. But the upside of this purging of the pages was that I rediscovered several gems that I (and maybe you) can’t live without. Not only did they shape my outlook on writing, story craft and creativity from the first reading, they have drawn me back time and again whenever I need a shot of inspiration or education.
“Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain
I hate to admit it, but one of my worst habits is comparing myself to other writers…usually when I’m in the throes of fearing that I’m not good enough at what I do. Of course, this is wildly unproductive, and I know it. Constant comparison is a recipe for allowing the unholy trinity of Fear, Resistance and Doubt to barge into my psyche and send me scurrying off to Procrastionationville.
But worst of all, it takes all the fun out of writing.