“Somebody asked me: “What do you do? How do you write, create?” You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it.” — Charles Bukowski
I’ve tried to write this blog a dozen times.
Actually, that’s not true — liar, liar and all that.
It was going to be a short ebook but I decided, after parking it at the back of Google Drive for at least six months (and rarely showing it the light of day), that it was time to finish it or be damned.
And so with a slight sense of guilt, I offer you my first attempt at trying to make sense of the rubric to this post.
I say first, because even though I may not use the words subsequently in my blog posts, something tells me that it’s likely to be a theme I return to again (and again) in my poetry or all those wonderful books I’m now intent on writing.
(Remember, I’ve now pulled the plug on my inauspicious attempt at growing my consulting, coaching and speaking business.)
If I’m honest I’d like to have added a saucy little expletive between ‘Don’t’ and ‘try’ but I know that I’d get myself into some serious hot water and thought the better of it; I suspect it likely that I’ll have to properly retire before I can finally let my guilt-edged profanity have its wicked way with the page.
What does it mean, ‘Don’t try’?
It means precisely what it says.
You don’t have to think or apply great gobs of effort to do something.
But I suspect it’s unlikely to cover the majority of your ever-so-slightly, tedious life.
Just to be clear. It’s not reserved for the special people — the ones that people talk endlessly about in the same breath they use the words ‘thought leader’ or ‘guru’ — but those of you willing to drop the pretence that life is just about OK, and investigate what it means to be true to who you are.
In that space, you narrow your options, and do the one thing that connects with your soul.
I don’t know what that is but chances are, it’s likely to be something where you feel you’ve no choice but to do it.
Some people might describe this as scratching an itch or being compelled by some alien force in a direction of travel that hitherto you could only dream of escaping to, but I’m sure if you give it enough of your time and attention, you’ll immediately be transported to an-out-of-your-body place where time literally stands still.
But of course, if you’re part of the rat race — aka you’re hewn from the capitalist ideal which we’re all asked to swallow from the youngest possible age — then you’ve no time to do anything other than work.
And we’re not talking about the sort of work where you come alive all body, mind and spirit. I’m talking about work that kills you very slowly to the point where you’re sleepwalking to retirement — which can never come soon enough.
To be honest, if I’d not had the opportunity to escape the sameness of work for nearly 10 years (I’m not gloating, honest), I’m sure I wouldn’t be any the wiser in knowing that: (a) I had a soul; (b) I could (still) connect with it; and (c) it was unlikely to happen, unless I went back in time and rediscovered my artistic self.
Let me skip a few paragraphs and point out the obvious paradox with my ‘Don’t try’ message.
Can you see it?
Simple: I had to do a lot of trying — more like thrashing for my life — until I discovered, by chance, that flow or whatever it’s called would never come about by focusing on another process, or big hairy goal or being the best version of my stupid ego. No, it would only come about when I dropped the pretence and let things unfold naturally.
I make it sound so easy, don’t I?
It wasn’t like that at all.
Even to talk about an unfolding doesn’t do justice to the amount of time it took me to realise that perhaps law wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and there was something more invigorating than beating another stupid billing target.
When I look back though, writing has been a constant through all the work/life travails I’ve had to endure.
I still don’t think I’ve cracked the ‘Don’t try’ code. For a start, blogging, for all that it gives, is not writing. If anything, it panders to my lack of willpower in not being able to stick to anything for very long.
Also, I’m still vexed in not knowing what to write. Sure, I’ve shared a few areas of interest but I know I’ve much more to give and there’s a persona just waiting to escape from so much of the turgid crap I’ve felt forced to write about.
The key message then is for you and me to continue to work through our sh*t, no matter the amount of time it takes and especially when it feels as if it’s too hard to carry on.
In my case, having re-listened to “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg, I’ve relaxed into my writing knowing that it took her some 13 years of handwriting all her material before she got published. That feels much like my blogging exploits.
But again, what does it mean to ‘Don’t try’?
It means to let go.
To let go of all those thoughts that you’ve got to get somewhere or be something or find a purpose.
If you do that then perhaps out of the mist you’ll start to reveal the truth of who you are, and connect (at last) with your soul.
Yes, you’ve still got to work to pay the bills but at the same time your spirit guides you towards doing the one thing (most likely) you’ve been putting off these past few years. So what that you’ve only got 30 minutes a day to devote to unearthing your genius. That’s got to be better than going to your grave never having tried.
I do accept that what I’m describing sounds mystical — even mysterious — but if you trust to the soup, and allow the draw of your being to take you where you should have been all along, chances are the trying will be replaced by the doing which in turn will be replaced by effortless non-doing.
Are you willing to give it a go?
I hope so. I really hope so for you and your family.
As Kurt Vonnegut said:
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”