Wandering Into the Gorilla Enclosure

Ads, a friend of mine from England, left some challenging questions after my post last week where the guy who gives bad names showed up and tried to convince me to get a job instead of trying to make it full time as a writer.  A few of Ads’ questions, which can be found in full in the comments of that day’s posts, were as follows:


“Are there not some answers to be had from weighing up priorities and whats actually important?

Maybe the guy peering over your shoulder is giving some welcome guidance?

Just because you were looking for work, were you actually losing faith or adapting to the current situation in the most logical way?


First of all, great questions. I love comments like these (unless they have to do with sweet tarts) because they really make me look back AGAIN and think through what I’ve written.

Secondly, I do believe in practicality. Many times the things we need are right there in front of our faces, and if we just slow down enough we’ll recognize them.

So in my situation, why shouldn’t I have continued looking for a job while I was writing?  That seems like a practical thing to do, right? Great questions, Ads.  I had to really stop and think about this.

The following are some things that I try to keep in mind when making life-direction-type decisions, and hopefully you’ll see why I’m still so angry at the guy who gives bad names, especially when I see how he deceives a lot of my friends.

1) What is my prime motivation? In the late months of last year and even the beginning of this year my prime motivation for finding a new job was to make more money and to be emotionally comfortable.  I already had enough income lined up to live off my writing for a few months.  More money is not inherently bad, but more money when it comes at the expense of time to fulfill my identity is ALWAYS bad.  Mr. Bad Names guy was playing off my weakness for more money and trying to divert my focus from writing.

2) Will the result of my decision put me in a place of comfort or a place of challenge? Most people I know who live their lives in a place of comfort for significant amounts of time begin to experience physical, emotional and spiritual atrophy.  What if you chose to live life in a place of complete physical comfort, like a bed or a recliner?  Your muscles would atrophy.  Same goes for your emotional and spiritual life.  If you choose comfort over everything else, all the time, those parts of you will grow thin and anemic.  As Anne Lamott’s father wrote, “a life oriented to leisure is, after all, a life oriented to death, the greatest leisure of all.”

3) Don’t make decisions based on lies. The voice in my head trying to persuade me to get  a job was basing his argument on a few key lies that struck a chord with me: your family is suffering (not true), you’re out of money (almost true but not quite), you can’t write full time and make a living (untested so neither true nor false), if you try to write for a living you’ll live in your parent’s basement forever (not true), a job would give you more security (not true – I know plenty of people in this economy who were unexpectedly laid off – working for someone else is one of the largest providers of a false sense of security in our world today).

4) Don’t make decisions based on fear. In my opinion there are two types of fear: healthy fear and unhealthy fear.  Healthy fear is based on facts and always motivates you to productive action (for example, you take a wrong turn at the zoo and wind up in the gorilla enclosure, leading you to get the heck out of there as soon as possible). Unhealthy fear is based on worries about the future that might not happen and paralyze you  (ie you take a wrong turn at the zoo and THINK you might be in the gorilla enclosure, even though you’re in the petting zoo, and just the thought of that situation makes you fall to the ground and curl up in the fetal position).

5) Seeking God and trusting his leading. This might sound a little hokey to any of you folks who are not Christians or who do not believe in God.  I apologize for that (you can just stick to the first four if you’re more comfortable with those). But for about 6 months before Maile and I decided to move to Pennsylvania we prayed and studied scripture and asked God what he wanted us to do.  Certain specific circumstances, as well as an overwhelming sense of his peace, led us to the decision that I should give writing a try for at least 6 months.  So when I started feeling doubt and worry about halfway through that time, I knew it wasn’t God talking.

Wow.  Really long post.  What do you guys think?  Am I nuts?  Are there things you try to keep in mind when making big, life-altering decisions?  Or do you just go with whatever the Magic 8 ball suggests?

4 Replies to “Wandering Into the Gorilla Enclosure”

  1. I think it’s great that you’re writing, and I agree that money isn’t the bird of paradise it pretends to be.

    I’ve spent some time thinking about identity and have begun to believe that identity is more a mirage (an experience) than an oasis (a substantive thing). I think we are what we do, our character results from habit rather than aspiration, and the kernel of selfhood is not nearly as unchanging or byzantine as we think. Marriage taught me this. I’m going to be ten different people before I die and will be married to the same woman and the ten different people she becomes.

    Half the time when I ask myself, “Who am I?” what I’m really asking is, “Why am I doing this?” And that’s always a worthwhile question.

    Enjoyed the post.

  2. One Huge HOLLA!
    I just love reading your posts nearly each day, they are so encouraging and truly cause me to think about so many deeper issues. aside from the normal day to day stuff.
    i don’t have any profound words, but I am sure glad you writing and sharing it with me, even if it is only tid-bits.

  3. You make some great points here Shawn. One thing I have learned is that everyone (including me) tends to take the path of least resistance. This is true physically, emotionally, spiritually and especially when it comes to career decisions.

    When great things are accomplished in any of those areas, it is almost always done intentionally, and usually by directly opposing the status quo.

    If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!

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