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Why Formulas and Trends are Often Dead Ends
Have you ever followed a foolproof formula into a big, brick wall? Have you ever rode a sizzling hot trend right into a drainage ditch?
The next time your best laid plans meet a dead end, ask yourself this: were you chasing one in the first place?
Usually, when people talk about dead ends, they’re referring to external obstacles that would be impossible for anyone to overcome. In this instance, however, I’m talking about the obstacles within.
Interests That Leave You Disinterested
After all, it can be tempting to pursue interests that really aren’t all that interesting to you. You might try to follow the hottest trends, even though they leave you cold. Or you might opt for the tried and true and pre-approved, even though you have no passion for doing so.
This is a problem, for no matter how trendy or popular or proven a path may be, it will eventually become a dead end to you if your heart’s not in it. Your energy will wane, your level of commitment will level off, and your drive will dry up.
The Wisest Investment Could Be the Riskiest
More often than you might think, your safest bet can be to take some risks. Acting sane can drain you, while devoting your time and energy to a crazy project that engages your heart and mind can sustain you to the end.
A Novel Dilemma
For a long time, I thought I needed to write novels in order to be a real writer, but, to tell you the truth, I was never that excited by the idea. It’s one thing to spend a weekend reading a novel; it’s another to spend a year or more of your life writing one.
I wanted to tell stories, but my attempts at writing novels never went very far. My heart wasn’t in it and every run I took at it turned into a dead end. “Huh,” I said to myself, “I guess I’m not a writer.”
And yet I wrote anyway, because writing is something I can’t not do.
At first I wrote only in a journal, then I started blogging, and, after a while, I rediscovered the joy I’d experienced as a boy writing poems.
And it may seem unrelated, but I also started drawing. More on that in a moment.
Despite all of this, I still had a nagging feeling that I wasn’t a real writer. No novels? No writer’s badge for me.
I’m With Sam
But one day I saw an interview with the acclaimed playwright Sam Shepard. He was asked why he doesn’t write novels. His answer can be summed up like this: novels aren’t his thing.
I immediately felt the weight of decades being lifted off my shoulders. If novels weren’t the thing of a great writer like Shepard, I realized they didn’t have to be mine either.
I also realized there are many ways to be a writer and even more ways to tell a story. Writing a novel is just one of them.
Poems can tell stories. Blog posts, like this one, can tell stories. Pictures, songs, dances, and even businesses can tell a story.
And that’s where the drawing comes in. One of my crazy dreams, one that engages my heart and mind, is to find a way to merge drawing and writing in order to create odd little books of pictures, poems, and pieces that inspire people to free up their creativity.
And guess what? It’s really not all that crazy after all. Danny Gregory does it. Hugh McLeod does it. So does Lynda Barry. And each one does it in their own unique way. And even if they didn’t, it would still be a great dream because it has the full attention of my heart and mind.
Now, What’s Your Crazy Dream?
What’s your crazy dream? Are you pursuing it? Or are you going after something safer, surer, more reliable? Are you finding it hard to continue?
What would happen if you didn’t have to manufacture your energy each and every day in order to keep a project moving forward? What if the energy was inherent in the projects you pick?
Sure things that have no soul are never as sure as they seem. Invoke your passion and endure some uncertainty. It’s bound to be take you somewhere.