Category Archives: How do you define success?
Lots of people ask me where I get my ideas.
Stephen King answers the same question this way:
“. . . good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, interviewed the American poet, Ruth Stone. During that interview, Ruth Stone spoke of feeling poems:
“. . . coming at her from over the landscape like a thunderous train of air.” She said that when this happened, she felt the poem coming, it shook the earth beneath her feet, and the only thing she could do was run like hell to the house, chased by the poem. She had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Sometimes, she said, she wouldn’t be fast enough and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and it would continue on across the landscape looking for another poet.”
Wouldn’t that be exciting?
I’m helped by Julia Cameron’s morning pages. In The Artist’s Way, she recommends the daily practice of writing three pages every morning. Weird and wonderful stuff comes to me on those pages. The ideas feed this blog and my other creative writing. The ideas arise out of a creative primordial ooze; I dredge them out of the muck, and they rise to the surface with a sucking sound, brand new and unevolved.
Without fail, something comes up. Almost always I think: “I could never have thought of that on my own.”
Out of the empty sky, barreling across the landscape, or rising out of the primordial soup—however we choose to describe it—the ideas come from somewhere, someone, someplace, something outside of us.
We just recognize them when they show up.
“Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.” —from Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Don Wimmer and Pat Brady, creators of the Rose is Rose comic strip, must have studied Shakespeare at some point in their lives. Their work on October 12, 2002 reflects their philosophical reflection on Hamlet’s statement.
Perspective certainly does play a role in our “thinking” about the goodness or badness of an event. My Ottawa Senators NHL team lost their game last night: Bad. For fans of the Carolina Hurricanes: Good.
Rachel Homan’s curling team lost by one point in an extra end at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts curling event last night. Rachel is from Ottawa: Bad. For the Manitoban fans of the Jennifer Jones winning team: Good.
Time also dabbles with our “thinking”. A lost job: Bad. A better job comes along as a result: Good. An ugly divorce: Bad. A happy, stable relationship later in life: Good.
But when our tails get stepped on, like the cat in the comic strip, it doesn’t feel good. And in the time immediately after the stomping when the tail still smarts, we are entitled to enjoy the pain. To Hamlet, Denmark was a prison. To me, every Ottawa Senators loss hurts and every Rachel Homan team win is a joy.
So be it.
I went to a visitation at a funeral home last night.
The man was the grandfather of one of the players on my son’s baseball team. Always smiling, this man made his presence felt through his kind acts and his ceaseless joy. He prepped the baseball diamond before games and groomed it in between. He helped out at every fundraiser, and attended every practice. The people gathered at his visitation all agreed with me: We simply can’t imagine a baseball game or practice without him there. We feel his loss deeply.
Some time ago I attended a different funeral. For that event, many chairs sat empty.
That person blamed others for problems and grumbled through life, wondering why things weren’t going as planned. If someone needed a hand, they would not think to call that person. That person had not been involved in community activities: no coaching of sports teams, no Boy Scout or Girl Guide leadership, no flooding of community rinks or helping out the United Way. That person would not show up at your door with a casserole.
Before the funeral service for that person began, I chatted with a wise funeral professional, a man who had seen a lifetime of funerals. He looked at the empty chairs and shook his head. “It’s the kindness that makes the difference,” he said. “People think there will be large crowds for the rich or the powerful, but that’s not the case. It’s the kindness. People remember kindness.”
A thought to drive your day: You’ll be remembered for your kindness.
“The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.” —from Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
I was a child, oh, so long ago. Occasionally, on long, hot summer days when the cicadas droned in the trees beside a dried-up creek bed, I would say, “I’m bored.”
I was a parent of young children, not so long ago. Occasionally, on days too bitter cold for snowman building, one of them would say, “I’m bored.”
I’ve watched friends entering retirement. Occasionally, during the time of adjustment from full-time work to excess leisure, some would say, “I’m bored.”
Boredom will never be a problem for Stephen Jepson, who adopts the motto: “Never leave the playground.” At 72 years of age, he wants to help other people become less—as he puts it—”fall-y, down-y.”
Eloquence might not be his strong suit, but agility sure is. Let this man’s vibrancy inspire you.
Video from http://www.growingbolder.com