Thursday, January 30, 2014

To keep building

Shooting stars are, after all, made of flaming stones
hurling themselves through the sky.
Photo by Stuart Heath

What it takes to make a shooting star

I’ve got to tell you something difficult, perhaps a little embarrassing. This is not easy, writing these essays. In fact a lot of the time it’s really rather super extremely painful and I’m left thinking about how much less stress there would be in my life week to week if I stopped writing for awhile.

Sometimes I have only mere slivers of stories to share, other times absolutely nothing. Neither seem enough to bother printing. Other times I need to really dig deep into something with about 2,500 words, but those are just too complex and a tad on the long side for this spot. I don’t have time to do those plus the rest of my work.

Truth be told, sometimes I resort to sending work out that I’m not happy with. The way I write, I usually find one or two turned phrases that came to fruition only through the other 700 words surrounding them.

Is it still worth it then? Is the rest of the time and energy worth the two catchiest phrases in the whole piece - the two shooting stars?

What are my options here? Do I forego writing a column for a week until I can get my ducks in a row, or do I spit out something mediocre - something that’s not exactly right and certainly not honed?

One journalist I follow on Twitter recently said this: "Writers put themselves through hell for peanuts and write off anxiety as a personal problem.”

That kinda hits the nail on the head. For the sake of thinking broader, let’s call the writer/artist/whatever a builder, so we can see how far this concept actually stretches. The builder wants his project to be perfect, wants it to shine like a diamond in the rough, stand upon a windy mountain top, burn like a ball of fire in the sky. He or she wants it to be memorable, stoic, steady and stalwart. The project should be built as something for a portfolio - an example of his or her best work.

What stress that is, to consider all of that each time you sit at the keyboard, err, excuse me, each time you’re about to pour the concrete...

To do your best work you need the tools and material for careful construction. A compelling result takes research, practice, time, revision, and the support of people other than yourself.

Just the other day someone told me I needed to cut half of what I write. This person also told me to drop the facade, that I wasn’t writing who I really am. She was in her cups, granted, but in a liquid courage fashion rather than a swaggering false bravado fashion. There is a difference.

I started to think maybe she was right. After all, there’s only one rule to critiquing creative work: never say ‘I like it.’ That phrase is empty and meaningless and it offers nothing to the builder. ‘I like it,’ might actually be an insult if you think about how little thought went into constructing that phrase in the face of all the torture you put yourself through just to solicit that sorry result.

What’s the point?

The builder in me still wants to build, still wants to try again. That’s a calling, right? It has to be.

Woodsman Enough is something I started because I felt a burning desire deep down in the lowest pit of my gut. The concept around its definition as a body of work has always been fluid, but one thing has remained since its inception: you are enough / I am enough. You are already enough of the person you want to be to have the right to become more that person. What I’m saying is nobody is perfect, but we all have the right to try.

We do not need to build the perfect thing every time. We do not need to solve the whole puzzle in one day. We do not need to forge the diamond in the rough, build upon a windy mountain top, or burn forever like a ball of fire in the sky each time we try. Sometimes we just flash like a shooting star, and that’s enough.

“Let him that would move the world first move himself.” - Socrates

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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