Being what you do

The TED blog We Humans published a post about how projects influence personality.

“…personal projects are all about the future — they point us forward, guiding us along routes that might be short and jerky, or long and smooth. By tracing their route, we can map the most intimate of terrains: ourselves. Most thrilling is that we can learn to adjust our trajectories, riding over the rough patches and extending the smooth stretches to make our endeavors more effective. In this way, projects help define us by shaping our capacity for a flourishing life.

from the TED Blog ‘We Humans’

I have to think about this idea for a bit.

Since the last post, I’ve been steadily working on the current book’s first draft. It took a long time for the language of it to emerge because I had to get into the minds of sociopaths and psychopaths in order to have characters converse naturally. No, I didn’t play anthropologist at the local prison. I read a lot so I could imagine what’s going through the characters’ minds.

Simultaneously, I’ve also been working with Light Chaser Life on another project, a book about how travel leads to wellness. That project is almost complete, and we’ve sent it to our beta readers, close friends who will be completely honest if it works of if there’s parts of it that suck, and how we could improve it.

And, all this while, I’ve been consuming business books. Lots and lots of them.

There’s two things an independent writer does: write to get better at it, and figure out how to make it a living out of the creative work.

I have been more suited to the pursuit of the former, and less so when it comes to the latter.

And that’s a gap that has engaged me all this time since Bali.

I have never felt more alive.

A blog post that Light Chaser wrote recently about balance between being and doing has been helpful to put into words what I’m going through with all these projects.

Being for me has always been about love. Love for my wife. Love for my writing. Those two things are what give my life meaning, keep me going.

The doing part – I’ve spent a couple of decades ghostwriting for a lot of web work, and it’s always been satisfying as a way to make a living.

What the projects have given me are active ways to blend the two – the being and the doing. It’s satisfying when people read the stuff I’ve created. And so doing for me now is to actually get people to read things I make.

When I published my first book, Superficial, I had this idea that word of mouth would get the book read.

Now I realize it was not a very good launch at all. What I’ve learned is that there are ways that might have made the launch better. It’s not a kick in the pants, this thought. It’s a new thing I’ve learned that might improve future projects.

So yes, projects give us clues to ourselves and the paths we’re on. Sometimes, it’s the way toward completing the projects that show us the ways into that ‘flourishing of life.’

Featured photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


New horizons.

The last time I posted, I was finding excuses not to write.

I’ve been writing again, and the reunion with Gabi in Bali over the holidays really refreshed my outlook on life. I’ve also begun collaborating with another writer, Light Chaser. One thing about Light Chaser is, have a conversation with her. You can do it face to face or on Skype. Whatever. Just have a conversation.

In conversations that lasted no more than half an hour, she has done a lot to rejuvenate my drive to write, more than any self-help book.

I’m working now, daily, on the next project. And I’m also writing more over on Light Chaser Life, a blog about finding your light. These new relationships and reconnecting with myself have brought many new horizons in sight.

If you have been looping over your thoughts and want to disrupt them to get through layers of noise and find your drive, get a coach like I have Life Chaser.

You will find that what you had been looking for was inside you, all along.

‘Windows, sliding glass doors and mirrors’

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of a larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.” 
― Rudine Sims Bishop

Bishop’s quote refers to reading as ‘windows, sliding glass doors and mirrors.’ I think it also refers to writing.

I’ve slipped off the projects I’m writing the last two months. That’s why this blog has been quiet since 15 October. A combination of avoidance of a difficult subject (adultery), the interference of domestic problem-solving (moving to a new country for business), and a long separation (not by choice but necessity) from my wife have all somewhat, in my mind these past months, conspired against the discipline of sitting every day for a few hours to sort through the bones of a writing project.

It was only the last few days, when I met a passionate photographer and writer Light Chaser, as I holiday in Bali with Gabi, that I found my old rhythm again. This meeting is important because soon in my conversation with Light Chaser she challenged me to think about what I’m doing or not doing to make this writing happen.

“Start with the first words,” she said, “anything to bring to life what you want to say.” So I wrote a thousand words for her blog, and it’s not bad.

The thing about just writing it down is that you enter that sliding glass door into another dimension.

You talk about things that happen, and suddenly in the middle of all that narrative, you find a nugget of insight. Light Chaser would call it ‘light’ and I agree that it does illuminate your thinking.

Just writing things down is a window, letting in light to better examine those thoughts you had about whatever you want to say.

And it became a mirror for me, for what I believe in relationships. I know that I don’t know what it’s like to enter adultery as a realm of experience. The imagination that it takes to create what might be the opposite of my experience is work that I have to do. When I excavate the dissonance of a character who will cheat and lie about it, I don’t have to lose myself and the fidelity I vowed to my wife. This is what I see in the mirror.

But in the periphery of that clear vision, I might consider the small possibility that another human being might be in a relationship that is suffocating, or indifferent. And again, there could be a sliding glass door into this alternative reality.

All I have to do is ask the questions, and then write what someone might answer through experience. That’s the work of writing.

Choose.

Watching people at airports is quite the provocation of thinking.

The other day enroute to Europe I nursed a cappuccino and noticed a fifty-something year old woman, in shorts and flip flops, with a hoodie on that said in bold letters, Choose Happiness.

She was traveling alone, and she was dressed for the tropics. Perhaps a vacation she was headed to, or to a place where she might live out the rest of her life Choosing Happiness.

Or, perhaps she had chosen to be somewhere with someone with whom her choice became her happiness.

We wonder at the stories that people carry around or wear like a slogan on their chests, of a life they have chosen, or a choice that they live.

For me home is relationships. I come home not to a place, but to the people I love. That choice is my happiness.

Who, what, where

We have relationships with the countries we are in.

The relationship to a country is complex. Who we choose to be in a place also depends on who we know and what we experience with those people, in that place.

I prefer gentleness over aggression; creating harmony over ‘winning’ over people. I like when people are able to come together, despite differences of opinion, and work together toward some common goal without one-upmanship. It is a problem when someone comes into a relationship with the goal of proving they are better than others. When this happens, it might be a sign that he or she is only after a sense of superiority over someone else, and there will be almost no listening to new perspectives.

And in a relationship, when there is no listening, there will be no growth.

In nature, animals have genetic coding to cease pursuing relationships that do not sustain toward survival. To some extent, humans have lost this evolutionary survival tactic because we sometimes override it with altruism and compassion. (That’s why abused people stay in abusive relationships.) And, how many times should a human being pursue a different result when the habits of relationship remain unchanged?