Monday, December 29, 2008

The One Thing

I’m still haunted by what author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) declares on her Web site—that she determined as a very young woman that writing was her “holy calling” and pursued it with all her heart, soul and mind.

Gilbert’s resolute approach to writing stirs both envy and inspiration in me; envy because of the frailty that wishes I had been so disciplined and single-minded as a young man who grew up dreaming of a literary career, and inspiration because writers like Gilbert lead me to heal such frailty with practice of the craft and permission to share the stories I must tell.

I am in the thick of the second chapter of my first full-borne attempt at a novel since the many I wrote as a teen, and I sense some of that youthful joy of getting lost in the art of creation bubbling up and stilling the hands of time. The book The Soul Tells a Story (Vinita Hampton Wright) continues to be an amazing companion as I create, putting into words the impressions and groans I have felt deep inside about my writing vocation, spurring me on to claim the mantle of my creative identity.

When I was 23, about the same time I wrote two of my three finished screenplays, I saw the movie City Slickers. Jack Palance’s character Curly advised protagonist Billy Crystal that the secret to life was “one thing,” his aging index finger extended upward in the open countryside. I was too immature or afraid or arrogant or whatever at the time to believe it, and still have trouble embracing such counter-intuitive declarations today. For I have paved the path of vocation with many things, all of them earnest and worthwhile, all of them producing income and serving important human needs, all in some capacity engaging words and relying on my ability to piece them together.

But perhaps in my spiritual life I have embraced the One Thing. And books like The Soul remind me that the one thing of God and the one thing of the writing life do not have to be separate things. Embracing each is an act of faith, and for me to unfasten them at this point in my journey is to endanger my embrace of both.

And so I do and will write, for clients in a variety of industries, Christian brands and the non-spiritualized marketplace, non-profits and educational institutions. Especially about spiritual formation and leadership development. And especially for the client who pays nothing in advance—myself.

More than ever, I’ve fully embraced the reality that writing is the one thing, that the worthy endeavors of coaching , speaking and training in which I have found worthwhile success in recent years will always flow from the cornerstone of the written word. This is both freeing in its simplicity of approach, and a bit scary—it seems to be quicker and more common to make money in these other endeavors which, of course, strongly rely on the power of words. But nothing I’ve done in any of my professional pursuits has matched the satisfaction of creating something from nothing on a page or blank screen, first through the numerous typewriters when I was growing up and then clunky desktop units and now the sleek laptop at my fingertips, shifting from two fingers at lightning speed to the more graceful, learned approach to typing.

I don’t know what the writing road has in store for me. A full-time living at some point? Perhaps. Critical acclaim? Maybe. Scores of rejections and general obscurity? A definite risk.

An unleashing of my true self, where the two “one things” truly interact as one and create something more wondrous than possible through separate incubation? Almost certain, providing I do not lose heart.


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