Sustaining yourself to write is not a challenge. Yes, you read it right. After years of writing, I came to another realization.
“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” ~Charles Bukowski
The real daunting challenges of writing is way more than sustaining.
In any activity either music, sports, or studying calculus (or say, especially calculus), we come to a point of questioning ourselves. Why am I doing this?
At first, it’s pure bliss. Pure joy and satisfaction. But, as like human relationships, we can continue and felt stuck. As if going nowhere.
There’s a point in our lives when the challenging goals turned into mundane tasks.
The Island, the Tribe, and the Boat
Imagine you’re lost on an island. Yes, you now play the role of Tom Hanks in the movie “Cast Away.” But, a different version. In the movie, the main actor made his own boat.
As a merciful director, I don’t want to give you too much burden. I already made the boat for you. Plus, other weird twists. But, I don’t want to get ahead with the story.
Okay, back to the story.
Your airplane crashed in the middle of the ocean. You manage to get out of the plane. With the help of your life jacket, you float the whole pitched black evening, until you fall asleep. The next morning, you woke up in a soft bed, made of woven coconut leaves.
You saw a bunch of people dressed up in dried skins of different wild animals. An indigenous tribe saw you and thought you’re their god (small “g”). They all worship you. The tribe gives everything to please you. Every day is a feast. Every end of the day is a good night’s sleep. You really enjoyed the treatment of the tribe.
Two months later, you saw an abandoned boat along with paddles. It’s in great condition. Floating ashore and tied to a big rock. It’s as if God (big “G”) prepared the boat only for you.
Now, you have to decide to either wait for a rescue or sail alone with the boat.
Both situations have their own pros and cons.
If you wait for a rescue, you could live a carefree life. All your basic needs served on a wooden plate (yep, no silver plate in the island). If the rescue comes, great. If not, still, it’s “hakuna mutata.”
But, for the last three evenings, you’re crying. You can’t control your tears pouring down your cheeks.
You missed your home—your family and friends. You love the hospitality of the tribe. They even worship you. But, in your heart, you know you’re lying to the tribe. You know in yourself, you’re not meant to live in a lie.
A thought came to you. You then told yourself, “I should get out of the island!”
With the boat already in place, you can get the chance to come back home. Three seconds later, questions bombarded your thoughts. You asked yourself:
“Where’s the right direction to the nearest island?”
“How far is the nearest island? A mile or a thousand miles?”
“What if I encounter a storm?”
“If I found another island, how can I know if it is not isolated or occupied with another ancient tribe?”
You felt you’re losing your insanity as you heard an answer inside your head: “You’ll never know until you try.”
Yes, you felt dumb as you keep on talking to yourself. Later, you felt at peace. You remembered a truth you almost forgot out of too much worrying. Many times, you ignore it as you’re just afraid to let go of a life without any responsibilities.
You regained an awareness of this truth—you still have the freedom of choice.
For the whole day, you take the time to think on what decision to take.
Until you chose to escape the island. Besides, the boat is heaven-sent. You believe God is with you. The boat is His message. You believe He is giving you a chance to choose.
A chance to live a life you believe you deserve.
Paddling At The Middle of the Ocean
After months of living with the tribe as their make-believe god, you learned their language a bit. Still, you need to speak with hand gestures to make a point.
Out of gratitude, you’re obliged to give the tribe a proper way to announce your plan. In the middle of the day, before sundown, you gathered the tribe.
You speak to the tribe. You used different hand gestures and facial expressions. After four times of repeating, you already felt stupid. The good thing, though, the tribe gets it.
The tribe felt sad. You felt the same way. After the sun went down, the tribe prepared a dance—a way to say goodbye. You and the tribe dance around the big bonfire. You make the most of the evening knowing this is your last. At least, on the island.
The next morning, the tribe brought foods and drinks. They also made a wooden raft to carry all the goods. You wondered how could the tribe know how to make a raft and yet remain inside the island. Taking the final glimpse of the island, you thought the tribe already have everything they need.
The boat couldn’t carry all the foods and drinks. You decided to use the raft instead. You take the paddles from the boat and brought them to the raft.
It’s time to go. Using the universal language of a hug, you relate to each member of the tribe your sincere gratitude. You can’t find another way to thank them enough.
After two days of sailing, you can still see the tip of the high mountains inside the island. You thought your progress is slow.
The following day, you can only see the water. Nothing more. Nothing less.
You see the same thing for the following five days. Before, you’re worried about your slow progress. Now, you wonder if you’re having any progress at all!
You can’t see where you came from. You have no idea on how much distance you are to your destination.
Your food and drinks are running out. Before, you miss your family and friends. Now, you also miss the tribe.
More days passed, you lose count of how many days you’re already paddling in the middle of the ocean. You’re beginning to lose your sanity. You’re tired of counting the stars every evening.
You began to doubt your decision.
The situation got worse as you approach a storm. Your raft destroyed into pieces. Still, you survived the storm. As a result, you got nothing to feed yourself. You’re now only holding a small wooden piece of your raft to remain afloat.
You lose hope and ready to die anytime soon. In this time of readiness, you felt an inner peace. You don’t have any regrets after all. Again, you remembered this truth—you still have a choice.
You can’t understand why. But, you loved what you did.
You’re losing strength, but you choose to hold on to a wooden piece of the raft. You know this is the only thing you can do. And you’ll do whatever it takes.
You hold on up to the last drop of your remaining energy. Until you lose consciousness.
Your final moment arrived. You died in the middle of the ocean.
The Lessons of the Story
What’s the point of the story? You might ask, “why did you kill me in the story?” Haha…
Sorry for killing you. At least, it’s only in the story. 🙂
Maybe, I get tired of happy endings. Or, bitter of happy ever after fairy tale endings.
Please, don’t get me wrong, I do love happy endings. But, as every person has the story of his or her own, the same goes with happy endings.
“There is no way to happiness—happiness is the way.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Here are some of my takeaways with the story, lessons worth taking:
1. Find your purpose. I know this is a ridiculous cliche’. Saints, legends, philosophers, scientists and well-known artists already said this. I got hooked the first time I read the book of Rick Warren “The Purpose-Driven Life.”
But, come to think of it. From all heroes and heroines we know, the only difference they had, they found their life purpose. They live fantastic lives, knowing they found the reason of their existence, now they are willing to die to live out their purpose.
In the story above, you decided to go out the comforts of the island. In your heart, you’re not sure yet of your real identity. But, you’re sure you are not god. You can’t take living a life of a lie. You found a better reason—to come back to your loved ones.
2. Don’t wait for clarity. Now, this sounds counterintuitive. You might ask, “how could I find my purpose if I don’t have first the clarity?”
I love what St.Mother Teresa said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you will trust God.”
She knows her purpose, she wants to serve God. She took in her the calling to reach the poorest of the poor. But, she didn’t wait for the perfect time.
I find it surprising to know she only relies on trust as a start. On the second thought, it makes sense. If she waits for clarity, she’s dead before she starts doing God’s purpose for her life. Thus, she served the poorest of the poor.
Going back to the story above. After you decided to sail the ocean, you heard sudden questions in your head. Questions came out of lack of clarity. The only reasonable answer you came up with is: “You’ll never know until you try.”
You lack the clarity. But, for you, trust is enough to take action.
Clarity came after taking action. Not the other way.
3. Think positive, but remember the bills. To sustain your passion, you must not consider only about running out of ideas. For practical reasons, also consider about running out of money. To pay your bills. Electric bills, water bills and mortgages don’t complete the lists. For married couples, they need to provide the needs of their children. Different needs for working students. Same with single parents. It all depends on the situation.
If you’re the likes of William Randolph Hearst, son of a millionaire gold miner, then money doesn’t matter. Mr.Hearst rival Joseph Pulitzer’s daily newspaper. He got enough money to backed him up.
But, for the average Joe like you and me, at least in financial matters, we should take practical considerations.
Still, you can make your passion on the side.
In the story, you chose to use the raft filled with foods and drinks instead of the boat. The boat seems useless in the story, but realized, because of the boat, you got the idea to get out of the island.
Plan A, as good as it seems, still might fail. Remember this as well, you get the paddles from the boat. It means you can still get from the failure of the first attempt.
You make decisions for practical reasons. You know you won’t last long without basic necessities. Then you paddle and started your journey.
As you start paddling away from the island until you lose sight of it, your excitement turned to boredom and worries.
Days paddling at the middle of the ocean, you’re not sure if you progressed at all. Then came a storm, you lose hope. All you can do now is hold to a piece of wood to survive.
But, you still love what you did. You know in your heart you’re just following your passions. You didn’t see the result of finding your home destinations, but your determination keeps you holding on.
Sad thing you die. I can tell you, though, you live before you die. Not vice-versa.
5. Find mentors and examples. I want to help people with my words. I know in myself, I got a lot of hard work to do. For now, I’m trusting the process of practicing writing.
I can only help you and extend my hand up to the extent of my success. I got nothing to show financially. Only the stubbornness of taking action to finally find my purpose. I hope you do the same, too.
In the story, you died because you’re alone in the middle of nowhere. But, you’re not alone and in the middle of nowhere, aren’t you?
In my last blog post, I wrote names of people who helped me to write and sustained it up to now.
You can start following these blogs:
The internet has thousands of blogs about writing, these for me I know can help you the most.
6. Bonus Lesson: Remember the simple truth—you always have a choice. Many things are out of our control. We never know what exactly the future holds. We can’t force people to tell only good things about us.
We can only control the process, but not the results.
I remembered I used to get hyped with get-rich-quick schemes. Now, even, if it’s true, I still consider the classic value of hard-work, perseverance, and humility. For me, the last give the most impact.
I always have this need to protect my ego. I felt the needs of my ego to feel safe and unchallenged.
I almost forgot the beauty of humility. Without it, I’m not willing to start as an amateur. A newbie. An outcast. Though I admit I still got mixed motives. Publishing a blog post a week increased my confidence as a writer. It boosted my ego. In the same time, humility keeps me on writing even it felt the opposite as my ego shreds into pieces due to the absence of readers.
It is a humbling experience, knowing how much effort it takes just to give a little of what we have. Steve Jobs said, “we’re here to put a dent in the universe.”
Get your hands dirty. Put the six lessons in your heart. Remember, actions preceded purpose.
For now, for you and me, just trust the process. Believe quantity will become quality.