Sometimes the Simple Solutions are the Hardest


If you wish to be a writer, write. ~ Epictetus

For many years, I’ve written as a hobby. This generally means that I’d write when I was inspired, and only when I was inspired. One problem with this mentality is that I’ve missed out on many opportunities in the past because I didn’t know exactly what or how I wanted to say something. So instead of sitting down with a pen and paper (or usually a computer), I’d work on what I’d want to say in my head hoping to get it just right. Rarely did that produce something on paper. I wanted it to be perfect, or at the very least “good enough” that it’d garner rave reviews or feedback. The big lesson here is perfectionism will kill an artist, a writer.

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the most difficult to see and take. In the case of writing, it doesn’t take hours of time or space to hammer out a few words. But that’s what I was trying to attain. This reminds me of what my dad used to say to me as a kid when I’d be in charge of unloading the dishes from the dishwasher. I’d try to do it as quickly as possible and in as few trips to the cabinets as possible. This led to me carrying 10-15 dishes precariously stacked on top of one another. His admonition to me: Don’t be lazy. Take your time, and do it without breaking things.

Learning from that over the years has allowed me to come up with hundreds of 10-20 word thoughts that one day might turn into a fuller, more meaningful article or blog post. I don’t do this every day, but I write something on most days. Once I open up the valve of content, I’m amazed at what else shows up. Just in the process of writing these 400+ words, I’ve thought of 2 other topics that I want to write about. My next step: Write about them.

Creating begets creating. This is the application for everyone. There is usually something that has been named in the form of a wish, but practical steps haven’t been taken to make that wish a reality.

“I want to start my own business”
“I want to start a family, have kids”
“I want to create art, paint, etc”
“I want to read more”
“I want to ________”

All of these wants are big ideas, and can be overwhelming to know where to start. The first step is likely the one that you’re avoiding, which is also the most difficult step. The longer you wait to take that step, the more overwhelming and difficult it becomes.

Here are a few books that are great at exploring more some of what I’ve introduced here:
Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal

Live to die once, not twice.

While watching a show on the Battle of Franklin last weekend, I was struck by a statement the narrator made about life, death, and story. While describing the Lotz family and house being caught in the middle of the Battle of Franklin, he said that every person dies twice. Once when our bodies stop breathing, and then again when our stories stop being told. The narrator said that his goal was to ensure that the story of the Lotz family was never forgotten.

This statement struck me because I am constantly intrigued by the concept of telling stories (my kids can attest to this with our bedtime story adventures). But more importantly, this statement about dying twice helped me to conceptualize how we go about engaging with the fear of living our lives. For one, we can live in fear of our human death, or secondly we can live in fear of our legacy dying.

Living in fear of physical death likely leads to a very safe and cautious life of not taking many risks, if any at all. I think this fear of death takes many different shapes. Sure, we can fear the actual human death when our bodies stop breathing, but I think the more prevalent death we fear is relational in nature. We don’t want to be left alone, to be dead to others whom we care or want to care about. We don’t want to fail at something or in a relationship. We don’t want to start something and not be enough to finish it. This fear of death confronts every one of us. This is the fear of starting a business, speaking in public, seeking out a new relationship, having children, writing a book, or creating something new. I often think that life would look differently if success was defined as how often we failed.

On the other hand if we live in fear of our legacy dying, we’ll be faced with living in pursuit for someone/something that is bigger than ourselves. This is the hard work of life. (And I stress hard work, because it is truly hard work). To live in such a way to this thinking beyond today. It is suffering the reality of delayed gratification (or perhaps sometimes no gratification). To live this way accepts the frailty of physical death and the robustness and power of a story.

One death is certain for everyone. The certainty of the other is what we all must face every day. Will you live to die once, or twice?