40 Days: 030710-D19.0

(copyright 2010, Rus VanWestervelt, taken at Goucher College, Towson, MD October 2009)

Good morning. Blessed Sunday! It is 6:43 a.m.

I wanted to share with you part two of yesterday’s post. I’m sorry I didn’t get to it last night, but after coming home from Holland’s meet (she had her best meet of the season with placing second and third in floor and vault, respectively), we all just enjoyed the rest of the day relaxing. I really enjoyed the laziness of the afternoon and evening. Much needed for all of us, I think.

Yesterday I talked about the “major setback” that is already old news and a part of my past. I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to do that before. Writing it and sharing it with all of you was very good for me and helped in that process to move on. I thank you for your words of support, both public and private, that strengthened me. It is wonderful to feel such love and faith in the friends around me. “Grateful” is a word that simply doesn’t begin to describe my appreciation. . . .I thank you.

Onward to part two — something that has come about as a natural outcome of this journey: who I am as a writer, as an artist.

Many years ago, my mentor at Towson (State) University gave me a copy of Hugh Prather’s Notes to Myself. Great stuff on these pages, but one passage really spoke to me. In fact, 23 years later, I find myself pondering its meaning as much now as I did then.

Here’s the passage:

There is a part of me that wants to write, a part that wants to theorize, a part that wants to sculpt, a part that wants to teach. . . .To force myself into a single role, to decide to be just one thing in life, would kill off large parts of me. Rather, I recognize that I live now and only now, and I will do what I want to do this moment and not what I decided was best for me yesterday.

No single passage has ever captured my philosophy toward life more succinctly. Yet, no passage has ever caused me such internal debate and frustration in whether this is rationalization for procrastination, a sure sign of Attention-Deficit Disorder, or an acceptable way to go through life.

I have been accused of all of these things and more. I have been called a hedonist. I was also diagnosed in my youth (very early 1970’s) as a “genius on a roller coaster,” whatever that means. Psychiatrists told my parents that, for my entire life, I would go through periods of great productivity and energy, and other times I would be just the opposite.

Great. Way to label the kid with no hope or strategy to get off the crazy ride, huh?

So this is what I am left with. I’ve written two book-length manuscripts of fiction, I have a degree in creative nonfiction, I have a fairly consistent blog that focuses on living a better, more genuine life, I am a photographer, and I love the outdoors. I play the guitar and piano, but neither well. I draw, paint, sketch, and carve. I am a teacher at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels. I have started a foundation helping teens struggling with anxiety and depression, and I have my own small publishing press.

Each of these is compromised by the work and time I put into the other activities. I could be a better novelist, OR creative nonfiction writer, OR inspiring writer, OR photographer, OR musician, OR artist, OR educator, OR activist for mental-health issues, OR a small publisher.

Each compromises the other. As a result, both novels are unpublished, I’ve had very few of my creative nonfiction pieces picked up, I’ve done nothing with my blog entries, I am not photographing life as I see it more often, I am not good enough in my music to ever play with others, etc. etc.

Do I continue on in this vein, as Prather suggests? After all–is “success” defined by our products or by the way we live our lives? Or do I narrow the playing field, focus on just one or two, and allow them to thrive while the others wilt away?

Therein lies the dilemma of my ages.

I’m going to take the next few days to stop skating over this issue and work toward a decision on how I am going to live my life — not that a simple decision can be made in a few days, but I’ve not taken the time to still the waters long enough to explore it fully.

Do I become a writer of fiction? nonfiction? inspirational? Do I combine these somehow? Do I continue on works that are near completion or begin anew? What is my niche? How will I be able to make the biggest impact with my audience? What is the best contribution I can make to my society?

What do I really want to do? What is the best use of my time?

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I’ll be back later.

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