Two Questions to Ask Your Creative Self

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There’s a sticky note on the wall overlooking my desk. On it is written two questions.

Are you a cooperative component?

Or are you keeping yourself out of the game?

I don’t remember now where I heard these questions. Maybe during a TED Talk. Anyway, I keep the questions there to remind me of the role I play (or don’t play) in my creative endeavors. Depending on how I’m doing each day, the questions are either a pat on the back or a kick in the pants.

Wherever you are in your creative journey, I hope find the questions useful, too.


What Are You Waiting For?

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It happened again the other night. I’d made a new acquaintance, and in the course of our chatting, the subject of writing came up.

“I have an idea for a story,” she said. “I’ve even written some of it.”

“Why don’t you finish it?”

“Yeah, I should. I will. Someday.”


On Monday, a fellow writer and friend of mine passed away after a very brief battle with cancer. Her death was sudden. Shocking. My first thought on hearing the news was, “How is this possible?” My second thought was, “She never finished her novels.”

To my knowledge, she’d written three, but never completed them. I don’t know why, but I suspect it had something to do with Someday.

Not long ago, Laurie Young wrote a guest post at The Parking Lot Confessional called Writing Scared. Please read it. Laurie put a lot of wisdom into that post, wisdom that has hit home for me this week.

Yeah. Writing scares me. Well, not so much the writing part as the sending-out-for-others-to-read part.

But dammit, I don’t want to leave this earth not having tried.

I’ll resist the temptation to post the “carpe diem” clip from Dead Poets Society. But can you stomach a few quotes?

How do these strike you?

To always be intending to live a new life, but never find time to set about it – this is as if a man should put off eating and drinking from one day to another till he be starved and destroyed.  ~Walter Scott

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite.  Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance.  Everyone is just waiting.  ~Dr. Seuss

As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.  ~Zachary Scott

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way.  Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  Then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.  ~Fr. Alfred D’Souza

You will never find time for anything.  If you want time you must make it.  ~Charles Buxton

Many people die with their music still in them.  Why is this so?  Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live.  Before they know it, time runs out.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning.  ~John Henry Cardinal Newman

And this one for my friend Derek:

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. ~ John Lennon

At the end of my philosophical gnawing, all I’m left with is a question. A simple question that breaks the legs out from under all of my excuses. It’s a question I pose to you here in all seriousness.

What are you waiting for?

C’mon, It’s Just Writing.

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It’s Monday night here, Labor Day, and I’m watching this show on The Discovery Channel about Mark Inglis, the first double amputee to summit Mount Everest.

They just showed him coming down from the summit, where he passed the bodies of 200 other climbers who died on the mountain. Now he’s being helped down to base camp by his teammates; he can no longer use his prosthetic legs because his stumps are too frostbitten and raw from the summit climb. One member of the team is actually carrying Mark down the mountain on his back.

Holy crap.

I’m watching this and I’m thinking two things:

  1. I’m perfectly happy never climbing Mount Everest.
  2. Why the hell should I ever be afraid of writing?

Because truth is, sometimes I get really afraid of writing. What am I afraid of exactly? Meh. I don’t know. Lots of things. Failure. Rejection. Success. You know. That stuff.

But come on. It’s just writing. It’s not climbing Mount Everest.

Some of you will say, “Yeah, but writing a novel sure feels like climbing a big, scary mountain.”

OK, fine. But you can still feel your feet, right? And my guess is you aren’t suffering altitude blindness either.

Watching this show gave my perspective a good swift kick in the pants.

It’s just writing.