Can You Remember Why You Started?

Start Line from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 LindsayEnsing, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

If you’ve read my blog at any length since I began sharing here in 2010, you’ve been witness to what feels like an incredible journey, from those early days when I didn’t know where my next project would come from, to our 10,000-mile cross-country trip, to these last two years where I’ve had more work than I ever imagined I would have.

You can learn a lot of lessons in difficult times, but you can also learn a lot during times of abundance, if you keep your eyes open.

This year I’ve had some intriguing projects, some of which I’m in the middle of right now, and the amount of work allowed us to buy a house and move into the city and has just generally made life a little easier. We used to have to check our checking account before filling up the van with gas. We used to line up the bills and have to decide which to pay and which to hang on to.

But this “abundance” has also made life very busy. Very busy. I write all day, six days a week (sometimes 6 ½), and then usually a few hours at night. I’m constantly reviewing and editing and submitting, recording and transcribing and re-writing. Right now I’m at various stages of five different books.

I’m making good money, but a thought dropped into my mind a few months ago, and it stopped me dead in my tracks.

“Is this why you wanted to be a full-time writer, so that you could make a lot of money?”

No, was my immediate response. I never became a writer so that I could earn a lot of money. I never became a writer so that I could spend the rest of my life writing other people’s books (though I do enjoy that aspect, and helping someone else share their story seems like a very worthy part of my calling as a writer).

I became a writer because I have stories to tell. Some are true stories, things that actually happened to me and other people. Some are True stories, tales that, while fiction, feel like some sort of very personal history. And in my busy-ness and occasional fear of running out of work, I lost the ability to ask people to wait.

What if I tell them I’m not available for six months and they go with someone else?

But if I’ve learned anything over the last five years, it’s the importance of living life from a place of trust and not from a place of fear. So I’ve decided to start trusting again.

Part of that active trust means not taking on any new projects until early next year. I need to finish the ones I have, and finish them really well.

Just as important, I have a book that I promised my kids I would finish before the end of the year, the first novel I’m releasing out into the world, so I want to spend some quality time revising and editing that story. (I’ll probably release that through Kickstarter, so if you’re interested in hearing about that when it happens, stay tuned here at the blog or sign up for my email newsletter over in the right-hand column of this page.)

Which leads me to this:

Why did you start doing what you’re doing?

For the authors out there…why did you start writing? Was it so that you could build a platform and create an audience and market and beg people to read your book? Or was it something else, something inside you that simply had to tell a story?

Why did you first take the job you have now? Why did you become a painter? Why did you become a pastor or a teacher or a business person? Why did you start that charity?

We are all in tiny vessels lost at sea, and even though we’re fortunate enough to find true North for brief moments of time, we will always drift from that heading. Living a good life means constantly evaluating where we have drifted, and doing what must be done to get back in the direction we are meant to travel.

So, can you remember why you started? (Seriously. That’s a real question. I’d love to hear your answer in the comments.)

18 Replies to “Can You Remember Why You Started?”

  1. Oh, Shawn, thanks for this. I’ve been thinking about the very same thing for several days now, and yes, that’s it. . . I did this so I could write . . . and while I love coaching writers and love editing, my heart aches to tell the stories laid inside it. Yep, it’s time. Thanks, my friend.

  2. Good question, Shawn. My answer will not be one submitted from a writer’s perspective, but it is my reality. More than 30 years ago I married a strong, visionary Smucker. That is why I started. Ever since then I been on an adventure, sometimes hanging on for dear life along the way! I am by nature a maintainer and prefer predictability and routine. I just happen to love with all my heart an entrepreneurial man who thrives on change and adventure and thinking-outside-the-box. I am so grateful to have been stretched and challenged and in many ways pushed beyond my limits Now I get to work side-by-side with my husband, in a business that we both love and I have learned how to do things I never even dreamed about. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade my life for the world!

  3. I want to liken it to an oft-seen scene in “Doctor Who” where the Doctor will grab a person’s hand and say to them, “Run!” and sometimes … sometimes it’s because of that voice inside of me telling me to “Run!” But more often, it’s a small – but persistent – nudging inside of me to, “Do this!”

    I keep coming back to the stories and the thoughts and the words, even at 42 and with many dreams unrealized thanks to that persistent nudging.

  4. I needed to read this today, as I must contemplate and made decisions regarding my homeschool curriculum for the coming year, as well as juggling some very difficult situations here at home. Why did I start homeschooling? Why did I want a family? These are two questions I need to keep in the forefront of my mind as I make decisions. I think that pondering them will also help me to do the hard work of taking the time to sit down and actually make the necessary decisions. Thanks, Shawn, for seemingly always writing to me. :-)

  5. I found this writing to be quite thought provoking. I took the job I have now because it was a job. It was an opportunity when I didn’t know what else to do. Of course, the longer I’ve stayed here, the more unhappy I am. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly to do with myself, though I think to a certain extent everyone is. Thanks for making me think! This was a good exercise for me.

    1. Me too, Edmund. Pure necessity. I’m wondering if the next necessary thing is to move on.

      Thanks Shawn.

  6. I’m so glad that you find yourself in this position, Shawn! Too much work. Having followed you from almost the beginning, it’s rich to read that. But I get your self-eval at this point, too. I began writing (late by about 4 years!) as an act of obedience to a very specific call from God to ‘write my stories down for your granddaughter.’ That’s it. And I have to keep coming back to that when the worry over ‘platform,’ and FB likes creeps up.

  7. I literally don’t remember. It was so preternaturally early. I remember that I started writing stories because my mother allowed me to use her brand-new, then state-of-the-art, shiny black Sears electric typewriter. You turned it on and it hummed audibly. And it had a double-sided ribbon – you could switch to typing in red. Red! So I was allowed to use it. And I did use it. The stories were early Star Wars fanfic (suburban family has the Millennium Falcon land in their back yard), but man, when I used that typewriter, I felt I was on top of the world. Any world.

    1. That’s the feeling so many of us chase, Gwyn. That feeling of being on top of the world. What a great memory.

  8. Beautiful Shawn. Why did I start? Because I was discontent with living a boring story and not being true to myself. I’ve always wanted to live a life of adventure and joy. It’s been a process, but now I am doing this and I am taking my first real leap of faith.

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