WRITING HAS ALWAYS been a part of who I am. The first time I remember it surfacing was when I was an 18-year-old kid. Fresh out of high school I walked through my university campus trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. With many unanswered questions and different paths, it became incredibly overwhelming at times.
I wasn’t even sure who I was as a man, but I had to decide what I wanted to do for the next fifty years. The competitive pressure that accompanied such a decision came with expectations and conformity. There were times during the first semester I couldn’t even sleep. I would meander from class to class with no real direction but to belong to something I knew nothing about at the time.
One day I found a rusty metal bench that rested between the arts and science buildings. I would impatiently sit for hours between classes trying to figure out the most sensible path.
Watching the educated men and women walk beside me I became infatuated with their individual movements. Each person seemed to have a story hidden within their eyes as they stepped over the inconspicuous flowers bordering the cultivated garden as I contemplated my future.
All I had was a pen and blank paper to capture the raw emotions growing from the silence. I never wrote a poem in my life before I found the right side of that bench. The only time I remember writing anything before then was for school projects. Within the confusion, I couldn’t control the words spilling from my free university pen.
I wrote over a dozen poems in the first semester. Some days I would even skip class and invite inspiration to find me. Poetry became my only outlet to combat the systematic uncertainty trying to take root in my soul. The freedom of those words provided me with something I am just now starting to understand.
Although I began to feel a deeper connection between myself and my environment, I had to choose a profitable career path. I could never make a living sitting on a bench documenting the thoughts that inspired me to write. I soon decided to follow a few friends and headed across the street to enroll in the business program. It seemed like the safest bet to land a good job, so I put down my pen and picked up a calculator.
My hidden passion would surface a few times over the next twenty years, but it wasn’t until I saw the glory of the celestial sunrise over the horizon I made the connection. I flashed back to all the times in my life when I felt depression and confusion. All the times I felt lost and alone.
The one constant thing that always seemed to surface in uncertainty was my passion for writing. I’m not too sure where it originated, but it seemed every time I reached for profound peace and meaning it would find a way to show its expressionless face.
When my alarm went off at five o’clock the following Monday morning, I didn’t have to turn over to find the snooze button. I was already downstairs prepared to start my day.
With my lukewarm coffee to the left and my pen and pad to the right, I was ready to put something down.
I stared at the blinking cursor for an hour but had difficulty finding a single word to start my first book. I would drop a few words and hit the backspace button. I would write a complicated sentence but cut it quickly from the page not wanting to read another word.
The idea for a book was in my mind, but I had no idea where to start. I had never written a book before, but I felt something deep inside that this was a road I must follow. I felt passionate about my new project, but I couldn’t see a direction that could take me from a blank page to a finished book.
There were so many questions unanswered the empty page taunted my artistic ambitions. I felt my shortened heartbeat sync to the lonely cursor as doubt started to take its usual place at the table.
I didn’t think I would ever find the words to write a book. When I left for work that day, I wondered if I took on a challenge a little big for my ordinary pen.
With a full day of sales meetings scheduled I jumped in my truck and headed off to see my first client. A week ago, I would have had a tough time letting go of the failure of not coming up with one word to start my book. Although I felt discouraged, I now could observe what it was doing to my weakened body.
I was sitting with my head down without the glimpse of a smile on my face. I wasn’t focused on the new day ahead because my past thoughts were feeding the demonstrative demons seeking to amplify my fear of failure.
Sitting in my truck ready to put the keys in the ignition I made a choice not to listen to this dreadful voice that didn’t serve my new thoughts. I let go of the disappointment and decided to give one hundred and ten percent into every meeting I had that day.
When I opened the door to the first appointment, I felt so confident standing in the freshly painted boardroom. I had no idea what product or service I was going to pitch before I walked into that meeting. All I knew is each client was going to feel my excitement and enthusiasm and see my dedication to help them grow their business. I attacked every meeting that day with the same positive attitude and each time I walked out with a commitment.
I drove home after my last meeting with the window down, and the tunes cranked. Every victorious song that came on the radio would force me to sing at the top of my lungs. I saw these client’s multiple times before but could never fully penetrate. In one day I grab more market share than I did the previous month.
Pulling up to my house, I sat in my truck to reflect on the auspicious day I just had. I presented in the same spacious boardrooms weeks before pitching to the same prospective clients, but the outcome was completely different. The only difference I could come up with was my uncompromising attitude.
I walked into those meetings with a confidence in myself and a belief that I could close each sale. When I decided to attack my day with purpose and stand up to the doubt and fear I was free to show my true colors.
My closing ratio wouldn’t stay at that level over the next few weeks but what I realized is my conscious attitude could change outcomes.
That night after supper, I decided to go for a quick walk to clear my head. I didn’t have a destination and didn’t want to wander too far from home, so I decided to stroll to the park next to my house. It was a place I took my daughter dozens of times before to play free and experience the joy of being a child.
Cold steel rails and rusted metal chains surrounded the swings and slides as I sat on a wooden bench just outside of the structure. The playground was empty, but my mind was jumping from one end to the other. With each erroneous thought that entered my mind, I struggled to believe the progressive ideas presented to me.
Even though the evidence was starting to reveal itself, I questioned how a simple decision to change my attitude could have an immediate impact on the world around me. Could there be an intrinsic connection between my way of thinking and my external world or was it just a coincidence I had such a successful day in the field. I found it hard to comprehend that my perspective and genuine emotions could influence my environment.
When I made it back to the trodden path, I imagined how my day would have played out if I didn’t change my mental outlook. What if I went to those meetings with my head resting on my chin.
What if I pictured the meeting being canceled instead of walking out the door with a promise. About to make my way home, I realized there might be a quantitative correlation I was missing.
Placing my foot on the concrete path, I started to walk home. I had an insistent urge to stop and look to the right. What stood before me was a steep hill that rested next to the playground leading up to a freshly paved intersection. It wasn’t like I didn’t notice this hill before, but this time I decided to shift my foot back to the tall grass and take a long way home.
My mind was exhausted, and my feet were tired. Taking one step at a time, I knew I was getting closer to the top. I couldn’t see the intersection because my sunken eyes were focused on the wet grass brushing up against my sandals. I pushed my hands down upon my willful knees one at a time to give them the strength to take each step. I felt like a well-oiled machine as my shaky hands and knees worked in perfect motion.
When I finally got to the hilltop, I could barely breathe. I leaned up against a twisted fence post to find the air to continue my journey home. I stood in the middle of the controlled intersection to attempt to make my way down the unfamiliar road. Before I made the hike home, I looked down to see the hill I had conquered.
What I found was a view from the top that immediately captured my unbridled imagination. The panoramic view of the entire city caught my eyes like an intricate undiscovered painting. The view from the top moved me so much that I couldn’t help but sit on the wet soil and stare out into the mountainous landscape.
The park seemed insignificant as the vastness of the city projected colors so vibrant I couldn’t look away. I could see for miles in every direction as the city looked like a sculptured architectural model. I could almost grip the little buildings making up the skyline with one hand.
When my mind sat confined in the park below, I had no idea I just needed to take a few steps to the top of the hill to see the glory of the whole city. They were challenging steps to take in my exhausted state, but the passion forming as I stared at the skyline was breathtaking. No longer did I feel insignificant or powerless.
In the silence of the moment, I started to feel an inherent strength within myself. No longer could I see the tiny park that confused my thoughts because the vision that stood before me now was so big I had to paint it. I couldn’t look away because the glorious picture forming represented a dream more prominent than the sinful thoughts reaching for me at the base of the hill.
Standing up from the cold damp soil, it was like I grew three inches. I turned to face the intersection and find my way home. As I was walking, I reminded myself of a quote I wrote that always lifted my spirits.
“Never underestimate the power of persistence when your path is surrounded with passion.”
I took three more steps and suddenly stopped in the middle of the suburban street.
Over the years I had written dozens of quotes I used to help me through tough days and times I felt depressed and unmotivated. They always gave me a different perspective and helped me overcome some painful moments. Because they were my words, I could feel a unique connection with each quote.
I realized then my first book was already in motion as I stood frozen in the middle of the street. I didn’t have to wait to find my voice because it revealed itself well before the blinking cursor decided to test my faith.
My tired feet couldn’t move fast enough as the shadow of my townhome projected itself in the distance. I wasn’t running, but my legs were moving as if I removed the hill from my path.
I pushed open the front door and attempted to gather all the quotes I had written over the last six years. After scouring my computer, I found close to forty passages. With a new-found purpose, I read each quote over and over until my tired eyes forced me from my desk. I sat on the floor with my wobbly legs crossed in a perfect triangle and my hands on my knees. With a gentle smile, I realized my book was waiting for my arrival.
Over the next week, I started researching everything I could find about writing a book. I had no idea how to format or publish a book. I had an underlying concept for a book but had no previous experience I could lean on. I spent hours after my family went to sleep bouncing from website to website trying to find immediate answers.
One article would tell me to do it one way, and another would say it was a pure failure. I would get excited reading one post and agitated after reading another.
My emotions were bouncing back and forth from my current reality and the fantasy of publishing my first book. It seemed impossible I would ever find the direction and resources to reach my goal.
Doubt began to creep back into my mind as I read dozens of articles about the failures of first-time authors. The hundreds of repeated rejections they faced trying to get their book to print.
I was reading so many articles about failure that the unsolicited material found me before I typed the descriptive words into my google search engine. The information overload started to take a toll on my inquisitive mind and my indomitable energy.
I was feeding myself so many reasons why I should quit I talked myself into another familiar story of failure. I decided my foolish dream was too big to accomplish and started scripting the final chapter before I wrote a single word. The worthwhile goals that gave me so much hope and superhuman courage were gasping for air, but I couldn’t find the strength to fight the negative emotions and doubts growing like weeds.
Manufacturing the perfect story of why it couldn’t be done, I heard my daughter screaming my name from our bedroom. I ran in a panic up the staircase to make sure she wasn’t hurt.
When I finally got to the top, I found her laying on our bedroom floor staring into her grease filled tablet. We probably let her watch it a little too much, but it was a comprise we let pass.
She called me up to the bedroom to put on the song she heard on the radio a few weeks ago. I wasn’t surprised when she made this request because I put on this one song dozens of times over the last couple of weeks.
When I pressed play, she grabbed my idle hands, and we danced around the darkened room. Nothing existed at that moment but my daughter, myself and that song. It was only three or four minutes, but I felt the emotional connection that started my journey.
My daughter’s attention turned to our unpredictable cat creeping into her bedroom. As she chased him under her bed, I reach down to the floor to turn off the power. Before my curved finger made final contact, I heard a message from the artist.
Directly at the end of the song when the music stopped, the artist said something that instantly refueled my passion and reopened my mind. The song playing was Wild Things by Alessia Cara.
I dedicated my first book to that song not just because of that moment, but the individual moments over the next month I felt the power behind her words. If I thought the hand of doubt was trickling down my spine, I would grab my headphones and press play. I found a strength hidden within the melody.
When my tank was running on empty, the lyrics would refuel my earthly passion. When hope started to fade the words would lift my thoughts to a place I couldn’t find on my own.
I wanted my book to do the same for another. I may not be able to sing in tune, but within my words, I desperately wanted others to rediscover their passions.
Because of that song, I started to hear hidden meanings in some of my favorite tracks. Some of these songs I had on my playlist before the invention of the iPhone.
Songs like Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd and Dig by Incubus. I heard these songs hundreds of times in my thirty-seven years.
The melodies were the same, but the words behind the music started to sound distinct and deliberate. I have no idea what these artists thought when they wrote the lyrics, but my relationship with music was expanding.
I started to hear things in songs I never heard before. When I listened to a song on the radio, I wouldn’t recite the lyrics but listen to every word like a child looking to his father for guidance.
I developed a playlist of songs that started to speak to me. I listened to each anthem playing as the words revealed secrets. I contemplated looking up the meanings to these songs to explain what the artist was thinking. Closer to The Heart by Rush came on the radio that week while I was driving to visit a client. I pulled over on the side of the road and googled the meaning of the song.
About to read somebody’s interpretation I stopped and considered what I was doing. I had a close relationship with the lyrics, and I was about to invite someone else to show me how to feel.
Turning off my phone I merged back into the right lane. I realized what I felt within that song was mine. It was a relationship I couldn’t let others penetrated.
Music would soon forge my creativity and mold a new reality closer to my heart. I was preparing myself to listen from within my heart.