What is a writer’s responsibility?

Pilots fly things. Salespeople sell things. And accountants count things (my wife is an accountant so I know this to be true). So, by default, one would say writers write things. Or rather, it’s part of their job description. Write. Write. And write some more.

Sounds fun. If you’re into that sort of thing. Yet, what does a writer actually write about? Or what should he write about?

There seems to be plenty of voices in the world to begin with. There are people with opinions. People with experiences. People with opinions about their experiences. That’s a lot of topics to cover. However, most every book started with interest. What interested the writer. Because what interested them might ultimately interest someone else.

When I first started my writing journey, I wanted to be a satirist. That’s a fancy way of saying I wanted to be a “know-it-all-with-humor”. Think John Stewart minus the television program and New York roots. I thought I’d be able to break into the publishing world that way. There was a multitude of “know-it-all” books at the time too. And that seemed like a good way to “get ahead quick.”

Yet, that was the whole problem. What interested me wasn’t what I was writing about, but what was popular at the time. Yes, I believe I could be a great satirist when I wanted to (read my past work at your own discretion), but I couldn’t keep up the passion for it. Inevitably, I just couldn’t keep forcing it out of myself. I had some interest, but not enough drive. A change needed to happen.

So, I started by asking myself a couple questions. The most pertinent of which was like this: what would I like to read? What would I find to be exciting? And when I asked those questions, desire surfaced. And a book emerged – my first one. And hey, it felt really good. But, to that point, more began to pour out. Interest had brought me there, but passion and desire were driving me to completion.

So what’s a writer’s responsibility? First and foremost, discovering his or her desire. A powerful voice emerges from desire. And captures the attention of others when it does.

Persistence – Stubbornness in the Right Places

Being persistent and being stubborn seem to go together. Their relationship seems to mirror what it’s like to have cousins. Same family, but different parental umbrellas. When a person exhibits persistent behavior, then you may say he’s stubborn. And when a person is stubborn by nature, he may exhibit unusual persistence in all his endeavors.

But, since they are different words, they ultimately mean different things. The difficulty lies in knowing when and how to use them, especially when you’re identifying areas of your own life.

For example, a stubborn person will keep certain attitudes or beliefs despite counsel or reason that says otherwise – for right or for wrong. Like staying in a toxic relationship. A friend may have advised another about the imbalance he is witnessing in his friend’s romantic life and still, the one receiving counsel will refuse to apply what he’s heard. The one in the relationship may think or believe that things will change or convince himself of the goodness there is – even if it’s not there. So in this case, it’s all about attitude and belief.

Conversely, a persistent person will stay the path despite the obstacles he faces. This could include or not include outside counsel, but doesn’t have to. Additionally, persistence is viewed over a prolonged period of time without change. You wouldn’t call a rusted screw ‘persistent’ as you try to remove it from a wall. That would imply a desire and a rusted screw has little desire to stay in a wall. And the screw doesn’t have a motive of staying in the wall either, it’s just rusted. So in this case, it’s all about desire and motive.

As someone who makes it his business to know as much as he can about words – and how to use them in new and different ways – I find stubbornness and persistence to be tricky tools of the trade. If I take a look at my own life, I’d rather be someone who is open to the advice of others, but I value the ideals of persistent people too. And many times, the most persistent of people – the ones who find success – seldom let too many voices in. That’s admirable, but it’s better to be teachable than a self-proclaimed know-it-all.

So here’s my own dilemma: writing for a living is a forever thing. Once you put something down, it’s there for eternity. The Internet teaches us that truth as much as the Bible does. So there’s a certain level of authority a person must exude if he is to be successful at it. And this is where it can get murky – the callings of a person’s life. This is something I struggle with daily: knowing when to stand firm along the journey; encompassing every attitude, belief, desire and motive I possess therein and yet somehow in the midst of that journey, remain open to appropriate counsel along the way. Again, that’s a tricky thing for anybody to do well, especially for someone who has only been on the Earth for a hair over three decades (that’s me).

I once heard that we shouldn’t doubt the call on our lives, but it’s okay to doubt if we’re the person to carry that vision out every once in a while. That may sound like a convenient way to hide future failure, but my experience has proven otherwise. It’s more of a reality than a cover up. Everyone has fears and everyone has times of darkness. If someone tells you otherwise, then they are covering up a potential failure themselves. It’s okay to break free from the trap of always feeling right or having to know what’s best. Again, another thing I struggle with daily, but to have a growing discernment of when to be persistent or when to be stubborn will help me grow as a person; something I want to be as persistent about as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Much Pressure Do You Face?

Pressure can be a cruel thing.

As a noun, pressure functions in two ways: first, as “a persistent physical force exerted upon or against another object that it is contact with” or secondly, as “the use of persuasion, influence, or intimidation to make someone do something.”

As a verb, pressure functions like this: “any attempt to persuade or coerce (someone) into doing something.”

Basically, whether it’s being used as a person, place, thing, or action – pressure is defined in one way: to throw off the balance of whatever it is in contact with. And it does so from the outside, but the level at which it is pressing is defined by what’s on the inside. Not the other way around. In other words, whatever pressure you find yourself under, it’s often blown into the proportion that you – yourself – have made it to be. Your expectations are causing you duress – not the thing you must accomplish or succeed against. And that’s a key understanding to have when you’re talking about or dealing with pressure. That whatever you feel is pushing against you – whatever you feel is dominating your existence – well, it starts with your flag in the ground. A strong stake in the dirt can weather those onslaughts and keeps a person from thinking he needs to avoid every bit of pressure that comes his way. So beating pressure is not about avoidance, but about influence – influence over our own mind.

And hey, that’s good news because you can at least control your own thoughts day-to-day.

You don’t have much control over life anyway, right? Life is not a movie called ‘You’ and life will go on regardless if you have a good day or not. So having a desire for perfection – specifically in one’s own self – is a fool’s game. You may be able to perfect certain areas of life like, a great golf swing or making a solid chili recipe. But to place the same expectation on one’s own self – in its entirety – is never a good plan. Wholeness of one’s own being should be the goal; not perfection. A wholeness of self will handle pressure like a feather landing on your shoulder; not the brick you may be accustomed to.

Life will always pushing back in some way so it’s best to have a firm stance where you’re at. What does that look like practically? It begins in the mind. As a writer, I struggle with a need for perfection in my writing. If I’m not careful, I can spend a good hour mulling over a single paragraph. And when I’m done mulling, I find I am still not satisfied. Why? Well, imagine the mental spiral that follows: Why’d you do that; That took too long; you should have went with your gut; look at all the time you’ve wasted; you’ll never get this done… and so on. Yes – not good.

But it’s not the need for perfection in the sentence that does me in – no, it’s typically the pressure I place on myself – caused by that mental implosion. That absolute need for me to be perfect comes out because I’ve led myself to believe that if I can be perfect, then I can produce a perfect work. A root problem most people experience as they try to complete the tasks set before them, but few recognize the issue as being from internal duress.

“I have so much against me everyday….”

“I am under so much pressure….”

“If only things were easier at my job….”

I’m not downplaying any one person’s situation. This is strictly fundamental and getting back to basics – how you perceive yourself in any situation is likely how you’ll respond, react, and take action. And if you’re having a hard time about it, how do you combat it? In my case, I’ve started learning how to halt this pressure – this unneeded, unwarranted, and unsolicited pressure – and consider how I am bringing myself into my work. Basically, training myself mentally. My work doesn’t require me to be perfect – it merely requires that I follow through with clarity; clarity that I have done all I can and if I haven’t, I’ll learn what I need for next time. Today’s culture struggles with this lack of commitment to go full force and with that – a HUGE fear of failure. Every duck need be aligned; every piece set; and every avenue walked before taking that said step – or even the littlest of said steps. Our lives are on a social platform now and the world is watching us, we feel. So unless we have a sense of wholeness and mental discipline about ourselves – that one failure does not define us – we are sunk before we even cast off from shore.

And “too much pressure” will always be an easy out whenever we cop out. A sense of wholeness should be our goal; not the need for absolute perfection – the latter of which will leave us staggered under the pressure we feel and robbed of any joy in the work we produced. A cruel concept when you think about it.