What to Write When Writing a Written Work

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Photo taken by the author; Three Sister’s Mountain Range; Canmore, AB

“Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”

– John Green

Here I sit, on a late Thursday night, with my Macbook open, ready and willing to work on a blog post I’m writing (this one, for example.) I think to myself, as I have often thought before, “What do I write about?” or “Where do I start?”

I look at the word count on the footer of my page and it shows: 12 words – mostly consisting of some random thoughts I’ve jotted down. In one way, it’s exciting as I have a couple of ideas to work with as I create something out of nothing. In another way, it feels overwhelming to be staring literally at a blank screen trying to first pick a topic to write on and to then follow a specific train of thought in producing a 400-500 word work.

As I write, I am left to the few devices of a laptop and the ideas that bloom ever-so-brightly in my own mind. I think to myself, “Where am I going to get the ideas, let alone the words, to fill all this empty space with some sort of substance?” You know, the good kind that people will actually take the time to read and thoughtfully think about, and perhaps even take to heart. At times I feel I don’t really have much to go off of, except for an aspiration to write something meaningful, something worthwhile.

My goal in writing is to be authentic. That is, with the topic I have chosen and how to go about communicating it. Being authentic also means expressing something that is honest and real to me and that people can relate to and connect with. After all, we’re human being’s living a shared journey, in many respects, and one of the key benefits that writing affords is to capture these similar experiences we all go through in a written format – for the purpose of being read, reflected upon, and shared amongst others.

In keeping with authenticity, this task has proved to be rather difficult and challenging for me. One reason is that it can feel as if I’m laying myself bare before a reading world of the Internet sensation. Being honest takes guts. It would be easier to write on something that someone else has already said or to write about current, contemporary, cultural topics – the kind you hear everyday. But then, how boring would that be to listen to the same old song?

All this to say, it’s a work that can seem pretty daunting at first. At times I feel lost, like a hiker in the Rocky Mountains without a compass, guide, or map, and the sun setting rapidly over the Western landscape. At times I wonder, “Will people even read what I have to say?”

Yet, the process is pretty incredible when reflected upon: an idea comes to mind, words are then transferred on to a page, then edited (many times over, that is), and then published to this blog site – all to sit before someone else’s eyes to gaze upon via any number of technological devices (whether a phone, iPad, tablet, or laptop) in any type of setting (on a lunch break, in between meetings, in the evening, at home, in the bathroom, or before bed.)

 

The Crippling Effect of Loneliness

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Photo taken by the author; sunrise over a silhouetted NW Calgary neighbourhood 

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Upon what do you find meaning for your life?

What are those things you do, go to, or look for in order to find some sort of meaning in your life? You know what I mean: those idiosyncratic, impulsive, and compulsive habits you venture towards to contrive a sense of meaning and purpose for yourself.

Everyone these days, as in days of past, is on a quest for discovering meaning in his or her life. That is, both for the short-term and the long-term. We want to be significant and do things of significance for a significant reason. When our temporary, fleeting time on Earth is done we want to have contributed towards something that bears the mark of a life of significance.

People who know me know I don’t fare well with surface-level areas, but rather am drawn to and inclined towards deep and meaningful aspects. The kind that has an aura of permanence to it and sticks like concrete cement. I need things that last, that hold, and that matter. This is important to me – it’s who I am. For even though I do change, and that will not change, I am growing and learning new things all the time about myself, others, and the things going on around me.

Of course, the disappointment and frustration (along with a host of other dark emotions) comes when we don’t discover the meaning we were hoping for. Of all the human emotions one can feel in their lifetime, the worst one I have determined to be, after much contemplation, reflection, and experience, is loneliness. There is no other human feeling worse than this. Nothing can compare to it for nothing is as painful as it. And it sucks. Deeply.

When you are alone, it plays with your mind and you are capable of getting all those negative and distorted thoughts, often about things from the past or imagined scenarios about the future. All in all, it isn’t helpful or healthy.

I know this is not just me and that I am not alone in this one. It’s a horrible, miserable feeling and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone to experience; yet, we all go through this from time to time. No one is exempt and there are no favourite’s or exception’s to this part of the human, fallible condition.

Have you ever been in the middle of a crowd and suddenly you feel all alone? That’s what I mean. Or, have you ever been alone by yourself, without intention, like getting lost in an unfamiliar place? That also counts. Here’s another one: being stuck all alone on a Friday or Saturday night, hoping and desperately wanting to get together with someone – anyone. At any rate, it all contributes to this very unpleasant feeling and experience of being lonely.

To be alone is by far the worst of the emotions known to mankind. It goes against our natural tendency to not be surrounded by people, for it is in community that we are known, loved, and supported. It goes against the logical mind, for we intuitively know we are not meant to go through life alone, or at any point in between.

 

The Reason for Which We Are Born

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Photo taken by the author in Canmore, AB

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

– Mark Twain

For the above quote I’ll make a blanket assumption here, you know, just step out on a real limb: If you are reading this blog, you have been born, physically speaking. I don’t mean to undermine this event as this quote states it is a very important day, the day you came into this world, and I agree.

So, at this point, we can all say: “Check, done.”

It’s that second most important day, “the day you find out why”, that can prove to be rather difficult for most people in checking off. This is not just true of our culture today but this quest runs deep down through the ages. People, from long ago and today, are constantly asking themselves: “Why am I here?”

Why else do you think there are jobs for counsellors, psychologists, pastors, chaplains, etc? It is this very question that provides employment and income as a global population seeks out answers for this trivial question. It’s a very important question to ask yourself and to keep on asking until you’ve found an answer.

The line after this quote says: “The second day is the day you learn to fly.” Have you ever seen an eagle fly? This is how I imagine it to be like when a person finds out the reason for their existence.

Our family has a ski boat and one of the places we love to go boating is on Lake Windermere, in British Columbia. Towards the south end of the lake there is one particular tall tree on the banks where an eagle or two can be spotted sitting on its branches. The eagle in this area was first spotted by my dad several years ago and we look for them each time we cruise by.

What I’ve noticed about watching these majestic creatures is they often fly high in the sky, higher than most other birds, and their wingspan is ginormous. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an eagle try to fly or work hard at flying. It’s kind of an oxymoron.

They hardly have to flap their wings, yet their motion and movements appear to be effortless, like nothing at all. They can cover great distances expediently. Other times they are just gliding in the sky, barely having to move their wings with great exertion. They look peaceful in that large expanse, at rest, marked by stillness and just being who they naturally are.

This picture is what it looks like to me to have found one’s purpose. It illustrates the reason for why God made me and placed me here on this earth, at this particular place and time in history. When you find out why you were born everything just makes sense and fits together, like pieces in a puzzle.

Do you want to fly?

I know I sure want to.

To be honest, I haven’t found out or discovered why I was born. Pieces of it have come together over time, but I am still on a search for this. This blog for me is about searching and as the one writing this post, I too, am searching for a number of things, including this big one. In a way, this is partly why I’m writing these thoughts, to see if being an author and a writer is one of the reasons for which I was made. I don’t know yet, but the search is underway. I do know that one day this journey of discovery will be revealed to me.

And the same is true for you. You will discover why you were born and you will fly; in fact, you’ll soar. So, in the meantime, keep on doing your thing, keep having hope and keep clinging to the Giver of Life. He will reveal it to you, in due time.

Greatness as a Way of Life

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Photo taken by the author; Baker Park pathway

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”

– Roger Staubach

When I was in Africa two summer’s ago for a mission’s trip, my team had the unique opportunity of meeting the former Ethiopian President, Girma Wolde-Giorgis.

When asked what is the one piece of leadership advice he would pass on to aspiring leaders, he replied by saying: “Be a servant of the people.”

This statement was a reflection of his approach towards leadership and as a leader.

And the results spoke for themselves after a lifetime of leading in this way.

With diplomacy being among his top abilities, President Girma is well-known and well-loved by all who know him – because he served his people.

This is what servant leadership is all about – learning how to serve other people, on a consistent basis, even when you don’t feel like it; perhaps, even more so when you don’t feel like it.

It’s about putting other’s needs ahead of your own and sacrificing what you want for the good of another person.

This is the big idea.

Granted, it is much easier said than done.

The challenge from Gary (whom I mentioned two posts prior) is very fitting and timely for young, single men: Learn to take responsibility, first for yourself, and then for other people.

Start with one person (you) and then go from there.

Jesus is, without question, the greatest servant in the history of the world.

He is the perfect model of what true servant leadership really is.

The King of kings has this to say about being first in this life:

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (1)

Some of us need to learn how to be last in certain areas of our life.

It could be at work, church, sports, family, entertainment, or whatever area you feel is being tugged in your heart right now.

The idea is not to be last for last’s sake, for no one wants that.

Rather, it’s to serve others ahead of ourselves and having that ever-present “selfishness-gut-check” in place, so we’re not always looking out for the selfish trinity of me, myself, and I.

In other words, it’s about other’s and not just you – an entire world, in general, and the people within our world, in particular.

Notes:

(1) Matthew 20:26-28 ESV