An Envelope I Couldn’t Wait to Open

About a week ago I received a real, live package in the mail from someone besides a book seller. There is a particular kind of elation that one experiences while trying (unsuccessfully) to disembowel a large envelope sealed tight with indestructible tape.

I gave up trying to open it at the end of the lane, in the car, especially when I realized my keys were not doing the trick. So I drove the quarter mile stone driveway to our little house, went inside, and made the announcement.

“Hey, I got something in the mail!”

Kids, wife, imaginary friends: they all came running.

* * * * *

The package turned out to be a book, but not one I had ordered. My aunt in California (the one we all miss quite a lot but who also refuses to allow her irrational fear of earthquakes to chase her back east) had sent it to me:

How I Got Published.

Approximately 80 authors (including one of my aunt’s old neighbors) share their two- or three-page personal stories of how they got published. And they’re all rather entertaining. For example, did you know that Clive Cussler landed his agent by mailing his agent a letter on letterhead from an agency Cussler made up? The letter basically said, “Hey, old friend, here’s a guy who wrote something great but I’m retiring. Would you like to represent him?” The real agent took the advice of Cussler’s fake agent.

(Note – this was pre-Internet).

* * * * *

Something someone said in one of the stories stood out to me:

“The main reason most people who have both talent and aspiration to write betray their potential…They don’t write enough.”

You know, I think that no matter what you want to do, you could insert it into that sentence.

The main reason most people who have both talent and aspiration to play music betray their potential…They don’t play music enough.

The main reason most people who have both talent and aspiration to take photographs betray their potential…They don’t take enough photos.

What is it that’s keeping you from taking enough time to do that thing you love to do? In other words, what activities are causing you to betray your potential?

Could you spend an extra 15 minutes today doing what you love?

9 Replies to “An Envelope I Couldn’t Wait to Open”

    1. Just read your post. I can definitely relate. There will always be seasons of transition in life, where we are picking something up and laying something else down and both hands are occupied. But living in that place is a dangerous thing to do.

      I’ve been pondering a blog post on this ever since this past weekend, when I commented on Facebook that I was still in bed on a Saturday morning (about 9:30am), writing, and my son was playing beside me. A good friend jokingly commented that she couldn’t believe I would admit to still being in bed. This got me thinking quite a bit about the importance we place on doing and productivity, and how little we, as a culture, respect the concept of free time or stillness.

  1. There’s that whole part about needing to make a living, too, isn’t there? It’s such a pain…

    Artists, writers, musicians and the like basically have two possible choices: to make money doing something completely unrelated to their career (like to deliver mail by day) and work on their art in the evenings and weekends, or to find a way to make money that’s related to their art, and hope they still have some creative energy left at the end of the day for their personal work.

    I used to wonder if I had made the right choice—writing for money and then writing for pleasure. It adds up to a lot of writing! The potential for burn-out seems great. But now that I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years, I’ve decided it’s the best way for me. Not only am I the kind of person who benefits from throwing myself into a “mode,” but I believe in the whole Malcolm Gladwell “10,000 hours to success” rule (in his book “Outliers”). Practice, practice, practice…that’s what it takes.

    1. I, too, used to think that writing for a living would be too much. But there is something to be said for complete submersion. I’m trying out the 10,000 hours rule.

  2. I’ve been so slack with writing lately … I want to write, no I want to have written, but I just don’t get it done. So thanks for this reminder, it might be the kick in the butt I need.

    1. Sometimes upon completion of a major work, it’s good to take a short break. But I’ve also found it’s important to start up again soon, perhaps with very small goals. Otherwise, a short break can turn into a lifestyle change.

  3. Such a timely post for me. When I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo, I thought I wouldn’t have enough time. But what I discovered was I did. I consumed more time on social media, television, etc that I was being distracted. So, I’m being more mindful of the time I do have. I cut down my DVR list, but I can’t cut down my reading time…too vital for my writing.

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