What Makes Me Come Alive

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
–Howard Thurman

Today my two friends, Karin and Marcy, both told me I should be WORKING WITH TEENAGERS.

“You know how to talk to them.”
“They seem to really listen you.”
“That’s the future, you know. Teenagers. There are always teenagers.”

I have no idea why they said these things, where this came from, or on what grounds they base their observations. The whole conversation made me feel weird.

Which, I don’t really mind ‘cuz it got me thinking in that awkward space.

It did make me realize that I still don’t know exactly HOW the things I do well can manifest themselves in useful or meaningful (or abundant!) way in the universe.

Am I a teacher? A coach? A writer? What the hell SHOULD I be doing? And why, when everyone else seems to be doing it already, so well?

I continually vacillate between feeling confident in an new idea– one I am ready to commit to, to pour my energy into  —  AND the jettison of uncertainty that rides sidecar with “What’s That Useful For?”

And then, I can’t decide: What are TOOLS and what are DISTRACTION? Ning, Twitter, Facebook, Email, Olivetti, coffee. I have to admit: the murkiness of online world lends itself to my feeling even more unanchored. Very busy, yet untethered to any specific goal.

Yuck. I hate this blog post, and I am not sure why I am writing it. Except that the quote above came from my friend Tim, who has been DOING the business of being a musician for years. Tim makes his living playing piano! How awesome is that?

When I read the quote, I thought it was quite inspirational. But  then the murk set in and I could imagine  Tim (or his PR babe) going through the drudgery of writing the weekly email. And updating the website. And doing promotions. And not to mention having to play the same songs, over and over again.

I imagined what the “creative process” felt like when it transformed into “work.”

And I felt that familiar terror that I can’t define.  That one I always get when I peer over the cliff at the wild abyss of unlimited possibilities.

If I take my writing and make it “work,” what then?

*****

This post is part of my “For Writers, By Writers” series.

What do you think? What topics would you like to hear about? Let me know!

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Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home. 

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  8 comments for “What Makes Me Come Alive

  1. March 7, 2011 at 11:37 am

    I write for work. And I write for myself. The writing for myself comes much easier, because it is my true voice. Also – I love that quote. It is awesome, because it is true.

  2. March 7, 2011 at 11:37 am

    PS Obviously my true voice is kind of idiotic, as well as rare, because I haven’t blogged in a week!

    • March 8, 2011 at 8:06 am

      Amanda, you kill me… Thanks for coming by and spooging out some true voice here to cheer me up!

  3. March 8, 2011 at 8:15 am

    I’d like the chance to find out what my writing would be like if it changed to ‘work’

    You never know until you try, and if you’re waiting for all the answers, you won’t get them. Mainly because we never ask the right questions in the first place. 🙂

    And I like the notion of ‘awkward space’ and may totally riff on that…

  4. March 8, 2011 at 8:44 am

    It’s funny…I am just starting out as a writer. I don’t really even consider myself a writer at this point. I’m just a “responder.” I respond to various prompts. To think that people could actually do this for a living is so foreign, and yet so fascinating to me. To have the choice to do it for work or for pleasure is something that is not even in my wheelhouse. I think it’s a good problem to have…I’m still at the phase that I feel like it’s a school assignment, to respond to prompts, come up with a Small Stone, and find 5 items of Grace. It’s all good practice for me, to get me into a rhythm of writing regularly. I hope that it becomes something more, and that my writing gets better as I go. I like the idea of the quote…it’s not something that I’ve truly lived up to yet.

    • March 8, 2011 at 11:08 am

      Speaking of riffs, Brandee, I love the idea of being a “responder.” … I may be off in another direction on that one! And I love, btw, that you are SO fluent in putting words together, even though you don’t call yourself a writer. Don’t you think that is pretty interesting??

  5. March 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Everytime I click the link and find myself at your blog, there is at least one more sentence or item or word that makes me sigh: “Whew, I’m NOT the only one!” Everyone else seems to have such a great idea of what ‘we’ should be doing, and yet here ‘we’ are still waffling in terrible unease wondering what should be coming next.

    Oh to be one of the honored few who wake up in the morning and throw themselves into a job that they KNOW they were meant for and fall asleep every night happy and content and grateful that they were able to do it for another day. Harumph.

    • March 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      I have quite a few bloggers I love to read who are so POSITIVE. But I can’t take that all the time. I need the balance of uncertainty in my life! XO Jennifer, you are fab!

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