“Write what you’re called to write. Your job is not to pander or entertain. It’s to create, to share stuff from the soul as you are moved. If others are moved, that is merely coincidental. Consider it “gravy.” Your job is simply to write.”
The above is from a post by Jeff Goins. He has an extremely popular blog that I’m sure many of you are familiar with. For those who are not familiar with Mr. Goins, he is a writing guru. His posts are meant to inspire writers. I enjoy his blog and apparently so do many others as it was voted the number one blog for writers.
Anyway, I am not so sure I agree. I want people – a lot of people to read what I write. I can’t give you a number because the answer is always more. What’s wrong with ambition?
I belong to a few writers groups on LinkedIn. Recently, someone posed a question that goes something like this: Would you still write if you knew no one was going to read your work? Most of the responders said yes and that writing was in their blood. So, the writing is first for them and then for other people.
As you may be able to guess based on what I have said so far, my answer was different. Tell me when you make a great meal, do you want people to eat it? When you draw a beautiful picture, do you want people to see it? When you do something that you are proud of, particularly something that is creative, do you want to share it? Do you want other people to enjoy it?
Look at blogging. One of my favorite things about blogging is the instant feedback/reaction. In addition to the desire to hear feedback and engage in conversation about my writing (and other people’s writing), I used to be compulsive about checking stats. I know I am not the only one. My blogging friend over at ‘A Teachable Mom’ mentioned this in a post (http://ateachablemom.com/2012/11/07/rushing-is-the-new-crack/). Another blogging friend over at ‘Did That Just Happen’ mentioned how disappointed she was that a blog post failed. http://didthatjusthappenblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/bedtime-ramblings/
I was 21 years old and lying in my childhood bedroom. It was late at night, and I had just finished reading a book. It was the 4th and final (another book was added later, and I had not read the first at that point) book in the Rabbit series by John Updike. Now, I had read plenty of books before that. However, this book and character sucked me in like no other had prior. I don’t know exactly why the series so moved me, but I knew that it did.
It was after that literary experience that I truly contemplated being a writer. I wanted to move people. I wanted to make them laugh and cry, smile and curse. Now, my writing journey has zigged and zagged. However, my basic premise for writing has not. I want to move people. That can’t be done if my work stays on my computer, sits on a shelf, or is latched up in my head. It also can’t be done if I ignore the reader and the marketplace.
So, I say my job is to write. I need to write what moves me. However, a big part of what moves me is moving other people.
Tag Archives: Work
An old joke:
A great storm has taken place and massive flooding has occurred. A pious, holy man stood on his roof to escape the flood. As the water continues to rise ever higher, a boat comes along. The boat comes up to him and the people inside offer the religious man a ride. He declines, “No thank you. G-d will save me.” While those in the boat are surprised at his reaction, they recognize he will not get in, so they drive off. This same happenstance occurs two more times. Each time the end result is the same. The pious man declines by saying, “No thank you. G-d will save me.” Eventually, the holy man drowns.
The holy man gets to heaven, and he has his moment to speak with G-d. He says, “G-d, I don’t understand. I pray to you regularly, give charity, study the bible, and do acts of kindness to the stranger. I am a true believer. How could you let me drown? G-d replies to the religious man, “I sent you a boat three times, but you refused to get on.”
When offered an opportunity, take it. Don’t question. That is the lesson I take from that joke. You don’t know where or when opportunity will present itself. However, that doesn’t matter. Remember that Stevie Winwood song, When you see a chance, you take it.
Too often, I am a double clutcher to use a basketball comparison. The player who double clutches despite an open shot has his shot blocked. He/she can’t believe the opportunity they have, so they pause for a split second. Well, in that split second, the opportunity has come and gone.
I wonder what if, playing out multiple scenarios in my head. I tell myself I am being wise and practical. I tell myself I have:
children depending on me,
food to put on the table,
private school tuition bills.
I have, have have. Too often, these blessings can double as burdens.
This week is Chanukah. A very brief summary of Chanukah – The Jews overcame the Greeks, the superpower of the day. The Greeks had ransacked the Temple. When the Jews came to the Temple to rededicate it, they found only one day’s worth of pure oil which was needed to light the menorah (or lamps). They lit the menorah, and miraculously, the oil lasted for eight nights by which time more purified oil was able to be secured.
One could easily ask why did they even bother lighting the menorah? The oil was not sufficient and ultimately would have disappointed. However, the people took that chance and let G-d determine what would be. They had faith. Another question which is commonly asked is why celebrate the holiday for eight days (of course extra jelly donuts, latkes, and presents is the answer most kids give)? After all, the first day was not a miracle. There was enough oil for one day, so the miracle took place over the final 7 days. One answer that I have heard to this dilemma particularly impresses me. The fact that oil lights at all is a miracle. It is not an acknowledged miracle but an everyday miracle. The lesson I learn from this is to appreciate the every day.
So as my family and I celebrate Chanukah and I contemplate the end of the year, I have lessons to relearn. I need to move forward, and pledge to get on the boat when it shows up at my door.
On a brisk grey Tuesday afternoon. A packed New Jersey Transit bus number 164 made its way to the Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel. I glanced up and took note of the people standing – sorry for them but happy that to not be among their ranks. It had been a typical day of work for me – frustrations, battles, and maybe some small victories and learning. I was anxious to get home.
As I settled down, I turned back to the day’s distractions. I had a book and my phone. I typed in WordPress and began blogging away – reading, commenting, and responding.
Moments later the bus stopped– traffic back up. Yuck. I glanced at my watch. 4:05. Okay, I reasoned, decent time so far. Let this clear up quickly, and I can still make it home on time. Back to blogging.
Finally, the bus picked up speed, and we got off the New Jersey Turnpike and on to Route 80. Time check – 4:10. Okay, we are definitely late. Damn – I’ll have to make lunch after we pick up BR at karate. As long as we can get BR’s homework started by 6:15, otherwise heavy duty negotiations will be needed to keep him on track.
Full stop. Uh-oh. I looked out the window. This was not good. I called my wife who was still in the city.
“Call E (babysitter), and see if she can take them to karate.”
“Big favor to ask of you. Can you take the boys to karate? Traffic is backed up, and I am not sure if I am going to make it.”
“Thank you, thank you. I really appreciate it.”
“Sure. Will you meet me there like last time?”
“I don’t know. I can’t say with this traffic. It doesn’t look good. Let me call you back in a little while when I have a better idea.
Five minutes later and little movement.
“Hi. It’s L. Yeah, this really doesn’t look good. Would you mind taking the boys and bringing them back from karate? I have no idea when I will be home.”
“Sure. No problem.”
“I really appreciate your flexibility.”
Various home schedules depending on arrival time ran through my head. I picture it a rapidly moving rolodex.
It was 5:18 when I finally walked in the door. The kids would not be home for another twenty minutes. Alone time. In my home. Did anyone else hear the angels sing halleluljah? No, I didn’t fall on my bed, blast the music, or run around naked. I did consider all those options but the rolodex turned to productivity. I got dinner started, made my lunch for the next day, set out my clothes for work, and ran the boys’ bath. Deep sigh – enjoy moment of quiet.
Then the storm hit.
“Where were you? “Why were you late? Why didn’t you come to karate? What’s for dinner? Did you leave the computer on?”
I barked back, “Dinner is being made, put your jackets in the closet, and take your shoes to your room. And go up take a bath.”
“Why do we have to take a bath now? We haven’t even eaten yet. We take a bath after dinner.”
“Change of schedule. Bath first and then dinner.”
“We are already off schedule, and I don’t want a late night.”
BR, already stripped down to his underwear as he had removed his Karate uniform, said fine. He pulled off his underwear and headed to the bathroom. He presented the full monty.
“Wait till you get to the bathroom next time.”
I looked over at E (the babysitter) and tried to laugh it off, “Sorry about that. You know – kids.”
“SJ you have to go to.”
“Fine,” he whined. He walked up the steps and removed his underwear, affectively mooning E and me.
Great. I have two exhibitionists.
I turned to E, “Well, I um. He’s. Uhh. Well.” Shaking my head, I finally became coherent, “I don’t even know what to say about that.”
With a laugh and good night, E left me with my soon to be clean free spirits. It was nice to be home.
The Eagles suck. Really, really suck. The Sixers have gotten off to a mediocre start with their star centered injured and out for who knows how long. The NHL is on strike and therefore no Flyers games. The Phillies are coming off a mediocre season and are in the quiet part of the offseason.
So, sports is out.
The election is over. There are no more polls, advertisements, or speeches. Barack Obama, for better or worse, has been reelected. The Senate and House of Representatives remain nearly unchanged.
So, the political races are over.
What am I to do?
I am on the computer. Maybe, I’m creating an assignment for students, writing a blog entry, creating a story. My mind wanders. I’m distracted. Or maybe, I’m just stalling. Semantics I suppose, but I digress. The point is I am leaving the productive mode and entering wandering mode. I click a button and am suddenly surfing the world wide web (by the way, I always wanted to learn how to surf. I think I’ll put it on my bucket list under learn to play the harmonica. There I go digressing again). I’d like to think this digression is actually part of the creative process. Research if you will. It keeps my mind active.
Who am I kidding?
For every time that I am doing true research there are 15 times where I am feeding my overactive mind with useless information. Do you know how often I pop on WordPress? Way. Too. Often.
So, what else should I do? I don’t have a ton of interests. I hop on Yahoo and see the ‘big’ stories. By the way, the latest headlines are Theron’s shocking haircut and small room’s big surprises. Despite my wanderlust, I think I can stay away from those ‘big’ stories.
Ahh, self-control feels good.
If something doesn’t come along soon, I might stay focused. I might find myself cranking out work quicker than I could skim through another useless article. I think I might become Super Productive. Maybe, I could get a cape and a theme song. This could be good.
It was a beautiful late summer day. The streets were crowded with people milling around. Aimlessly.
“I think we should go down there,” I said.
“Why” my fiancé asked?
“I want to do something. Maybe, we could help somehow.”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure what we could do there.”
“Yeah, dude,” my roommate added. “I don’t even know how we could get there. The subways are not running below 14th.”
“We could walk from 14th. It’s not so far. I want to help out. What good are we doing sitting here?”
The three of us stood outside of the temporary Red Cross building. By the time we had gotten there, they were no longer even taking blood. All we could offer was dried goods – soap, power bars, etc.
“I think it’s nice that you want to help, but there is nothing we can do,” my fiancé said.
I scoffed in frustration and replied, “I want to see what those bastards did. I want to see with my own eyes. I want to help. We’re just sitting here. Sucks. I’m going a little crazy here.”
On September 12th, 2001, there were probably many such conversations going on around the city.
It’s natural to want to help others in times of trouble. When we hear that a friend, neighbor, or family member is ill, one of the first questions we ask is, “How can I help? What can I do?” It is the normal reaction and one that binds us together. People want to help and feel useful. Being productive allows one to feel pride, accomplished and useful.
Since before the storm began, I have felt compelled to organize my home. I have been going through drawers, closets, and desks. Throwing out, straightening up, and sorting through. There is chaos outside my door. Everyday life has been thrown into tumult. However, in my home, I will keep order. I suppose you could call it a coping method. I’d like to think it is a good method – cleaning the house while not driving my family too crazy.
On Tuesday afternoon, I went into my backyard and gathered up the largest limbs that lay strewn about and placed them on the curb. Today, Thursday, I called the Office of Emergency Management a couple of times. I wanted to offer my services – a healthy, relatively strong body. No answer. I spent over an hour and a half raking leaves and gathering sticks. The trashcans are no longer in the garage, the basketball net is no longer on its side, and the outdoor furniture is back on the lawn. Our house looks like it would normally on a fall day.
We remain without power. School is closed for the children and me. My wife’s work place is closed. So, things for us are far from normal. Yet, many have it much worse and their normal will never be the same. I wish I could help.
“We’re not gonna take it. No, we ain’t gonna take it. We’re not gonna take it anymore,” Twisted Sister.
Eurorail train schedules, Let’s Go Europe, and maps surrounded the unemployed 23 year old. He was planning out his backpacking through Europe summer. Responsibility and reality be damned. The epitome of freedom and youth.
“Larry,” my father shouted as he came into my room undetected.
I jumped, “Oh, hi dad.’
“Does the music have to be so loud?”
“Sorry.” I turned down the music.
“What is all the stuff,” he motioned at the paraphernalia that decorated my floor.
“Planning my summer trip.”
“Oh.” He shook his head, half smiled, and walked away after reminding me to keep the music lower.
I looked at the information around me, contemplated my looming weeks long trip, and considered my unemployed status. I felt guilty. Then, I got over it.
Yesterday, I was assisting a girl with her college application essay. During the tutoring session, she started talking to her mother. “Mommy,” she said “I am going create an empire.” She was certain that the business she had recently begun was bound for big things. I raised my eyebrows but said nothing. Her mother smiled a yes dear smile. The girl bubbled on so proud of her declaration that she wrote it down.
Another college recruiter visited my senior class. He talked about his school and how attending there will enable the students to achieve their academic goals. This of course will enable them to fulfill their dreams. Never mind the 70 average.
“I’m happy she is getting a chance to go away,” she explained. “But when I dropped her off, I felt a little jealous.” So my fellow writer said at a recent writer’s group meeting. She clearly felt a little guilty. There was no need to apologize as the rest of us – parents with children in various stages – shook our heads feeling the same such feelings.
It’s not youth we want. It’s the unbound enthusiasm. It’s the certainty that everything is not only possible but a mere question of when.
I wish good things for my tutee, my students, and my co-writer’s daughter. I hope they achieve big and great things. They are in an amazing and exciting stage in their lives.
By the time you reach a certain age, there is some level of stuckness (I know it’s not a word, but it so fits). Whatever you’re level of contentment – nice family, decent job, comfortable home – choices have been made, life is being lived, and dreams come in size small.
The world is not our oyster. It’s not free for the taking. As adults, we know this. Lumps can and will be doled out. I, for one, am okay with that. I will cope and be happy for the dreams of the kids around me, hopeful about fulfilling my goals, and content with the wisdom I have gained.
My work week began at 5:36 AM Monday morning. I quickly turned off the alarm (I don’t think I have ever hit snooze in my life) and arose. As I walked to the bus 16 minutes later, I had a headache and felt groggy. For a moment, I thought it was Friday.
Three straight 5 hour nights later, and my long week is nearly over. This is my first 5 day work week in nearly a month, so I can’t complain. Well, of course, I can, but I don’t like complaining. I don’t even like hearing myself complain, so what’s the point?
Grades were due today. The first marking period is always rough. It includes less days, I take off days to celebrate the holidays, and the first few days are all about paperwork and diagnostics. Inevitably, there is a logjam of work at the end of the term.
To be blunt: my pass rate sucked! Students did not get the work done despite my extensions, pleadings, and phone calls. I am disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed. I can come up with many reasons why the students did not hand in their work. Ultimately, that is not comforting.
There is an old saying that if you reach one child then you are doing your job. It is a depressing saying and any teacher that cares would be disappointed with those types of results. I am more than confident that I have reached multiple students. It’s pretty easy to see when students want to hang out in your classroom just because that they feel comfortable. Still, it does not feel like enough. I am nearly certain that the school administration is not going to be content with that level of success either.
I can continue feeling bad, guilty, and complaining. However, I don’t want to. It’s not fair to me, my family, or my friends. I will put away the negative feelings (as best I can) and strive to enjoy my life. I don’t want to let the disappointment in one part of my life poison the other parts of my life. It is not easy to do – I am not talking about widgets here – but kids with families that love them and want the best for them.
Today as I walked to the subway, I enjoyed the beautiful weather. When October brings such a gorgeous day, it must be appreciated. Who knows how many more are left in the season?
So, you see I am learning a lesson from my students. They take bad news and seem bothered till the bell rings. At that point, they go through the halls slapping hands, talking, and laughing with their friends. In other words, they know how to put their feelings aside and enjoy the moment.
We all will worry about it till tomorrow.
I am looking forward to enjoying the night with my wife and kids.