In the couple of years following Zoe’s death, I wouldn’t have recognised inspiration or an idea if it hit me over the head, let alone tapped me on the shoulder. I did manage to resurrect my half forgotten blog and tortuously express some thoughts in writing, but it didn’t particularly feel like inspiration, or a message from the universe. It felt more like a desperate and visceral compulsion to make sense of what had happened and communicate my pain.
But right now, the the universe does seem to be telling me something. I think it’s to write more, which I haven’t been doing much of recently – one new post in three months.
Last week The Daily Post included an excerpt from one of my posts in their one of theirs, Creating (the physical and mental) space to write, which clearly I haven’t done recently. The response from a reader reminded me of one reason I write, or at least one of the reasons I publish what I write.The 27 year old writer of Lets Talk Cancer (to non cancer humans) has so far published two posts on her new blog about her experiences. She’s writing to find her way through her treatment and to find something good in it. She replied to a comment I left for her to say that she found my blog motivating “It helps me with my my own treatment when I can connect with others to learn about their experiences too” she wrote, “We don’t get much of this support in India unfortunately.” It was a vivid illustration of how our creativity can connect us to other humans, wherever they are, through our stories and experiences. Isn’t that really the goal of all creativity?
My next message also came in the form of a blog post, What’s keeping you from going further? I didn’t actually read it when it came up in my facebook feed, I just saved the link. It wasn’t until after my next little nudge from the universe that I read it.
That evening I went to see Elizabeth Gilbert (yes that Elizabeth Gilbert, the Eat Pray Love one) speak about living a creative life. Ok maybe this wasn’t so much a sign from the universe, since she has just written a book on the subject and I had booked the tickets. But something pushed me to do that. Liz is evangelical about the idea that anyone can have a creative life – whatever that means to you, whether it’s resuming the figure skating you loved as a kid or writing your first novel in your 50s – as long as you choose curiosity over fear. Inspiration and ideas she says, are not always thunderbolts from the blue, but sometimes an insistent little tap on your shoulder that is easy to ignore, but that will open up a whole new world if you just listen to it.
She also spoke about how she made the switch to being full time writer. “What are you willing to give up?” she asked. When she was working two jobs and struggling to find the time to write, a mentor told her she would have to give up a lot of things she enjoyed if this is what she really wanted to do. So she made the sacrifices (mostly her entire social life and TV it seems), chose the time of day when she was at her best to write, even if it meant only giving 80% at her two jobs, and got down to it. (If my boss is reading this, obviously that is not my intention!)
Which brought me back to that blog post I had saved. It pretty much said the same thing. Give up the things you are holding on to “just in case” that are in reality weighing you down and keeping you from getting to where you are going. I’ve always been a “just in case” person, someone who holds on to the security blanket of fear. Not that fear has really kept up its end of the bargain and saved me from much, but choosing to sidestep it feels terrifying. I admire other people who do that though.
For instance my friend who decided a couple of years ago that being laid off from his day job was an opportunity to start trying to make what has sometimes been a tenuous living as a full time musician. It’s meant working hard to follow the thread of his creativity, while every day putting aside the fear of not succeeding, of not being good enough, of not being able to pay the rent. I’m beginning to think one of the reasons he is in my life is to show me how it’s done. [Edit: After I drafted this post today, he just scored a dream gig, playing support for a band he admires so much he named his cat after them. No kidding, not even about the cat.]
And is it really a co-incidence that a colleague I only recently got to know quit his job to embark on a cycle trip the length of the country, from Cape Reinga to Bluff? Who knows where following that particular thread is going to take him. Well, physically from one end of the country to the other, but metaphorically, it could be anywhere. I suggested a website of coffee and ginger crunch reviews for intrepid cyclists, but maybe that’s more my thing than his.
The morning after listening to Elizabeth Gilbert, I checked facebook and the first thing I saw was that Women For One had re-shared a post of mine originally published on their website a few months ago. It was another one that a number of people have told me they relate to and find inspiring.
Ok universe I get the picture. I’m listening. Maybe the idea I should be following isn’t writing more (though that seems a good place to start). Maybe it will be something else all together. Maybe there will be a few false starts. What will it be and where will it take me? I have no idea, but isn’t that the beauty of life?
What’s the universe telling you right now? What fears will you have to put aside to hear it?