NYR 1905: “Be More Creative.” Part 1 – The Elevator.

I’m sitting on our balcony, distracted by the cars and the laughter and the other sounds of the street in the evening. The sun has set and my wife has gone inside, complaining that the mosquitoes were eating her alive. I don’t feel them.

I’ve sat down to write and, for the moment, I’m feeling isolated. This happens sometimes, and normally I don’t mind being alone. The problem is… I’m not alone.

Doubt is here, looking over my shoulder, his face glowing silver in the light of my computer screen as he whispers in my ear:

Just close your laptop, go inside. You have more important things to do. The dishwasher needs to be unloaded and the laundry needs to be folded and put away. You have work in the morning, it’s getting late and you barely got any sleep last night. Your daughter was up at 3:00 and you couldn’t get her down until 4:30 because she was scared.

I’m scared too. Not about dragons or yetis or whatever else my two-year-old daughter conjured up in her tiny head last night. I’m scared to start this blog series.

Because I know that in order to do it properly I have to admit something to my friends, my family, my readers. It’s a secret I’ve kept from everyone my entire life, even from myself until very recently. And I’ve kept it hidden so well that I almost forgot about it. But it’s there, and the only way to confront it is to get it out in the open. So here it goes:

I’m trying.

I am trying. At life, at being a husband, at being a father, at work, at the gym, and yes, at writing. I am trying really, really hard.

And that’s tough for me to admit. Somewhere along the way, I learned that trying is not something to be proud of. I learned that admiration comes from effortless success. That “making it look easy” is more important than making it happen. As a result, I’ve gravitated towards things that came easily to me and haven’t taken many risks. And I’m not complaining; it’s made for a fairly comfortable, no-fuss lifestyle.

But I wanted more.  

I wanted to express myself. I wanted to think, to learn, to entertain, to inspire. I had thoughts swimming in my head and I figured if I could just find the time I could sit down and get those thoughts on paper. If I spent enough years writing alone in the dark I would eventually create something so magnificent that I could show it to somebody and they would be amazed and it would lead to instant fame and success and I would never have to endure that most terrible consequence of trying: failure.

Maybe that’s how it works for some people, but not for me. I guess when push came to shove, impatience overcame fear and I took that first step. My New Year’s Resolution for 2019 was to start a blog, which I did just seconds after the ball dropped.

And now I’m a writer.

I am a writer. I don’t think I’ve ever actually written that sentence before. I like it, but I don’t have time to dwell on it. I’m a writer now, and writer’s must write. But that’s not all.

I stumbled upon the following quote a few years ago:

“No matter how successful you get, always send the elevator back down.”

-Jack Lemmon

…and here comes Doubt again:

Wait a second. Are you seriously about to compare yourself to Jack-freaking-Lemmon? Are you suggesting that just because you started a blog and have written some posts over the past few months that you now have the right, the OBLIGATION to help other people be more creative?

Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.

The first part of the quote reads “No matter how successful you get… always send the elevator back down.”

A writer’s a writer, no matter how small. And I’ve read enough books, browsed enough forums and listened to enough podcasts to learn that the most common question in writing is: how do I get started?

And I can help you with that. I’m in the building, and I’m standing in front of the elevator right now. I can send it back down.

Granted, it’s a BIG building. And I’m not exactly sure what floor I’m on. Right now I feel like I’m on four. On some days I might feel like I’m on five, maybe six if I’m highly caffeinated. Other days I feel like I’m stumbling around in the underground parking garage.

But if you’re reading these words and you’ve ever wanted to start writing and just don’t know how to get started, I’d love for you to join me up here on four. It’s got a nice view, infinitely better than the ground.

I realize it’s just a few floors up and you could probably take the stairs. But who knows? Maybe you’re in a hurry, or you have small children with you, or you’re carrying something heavy. Maybe you’re just tired.

If so, read on – over the next few weeks, I’ll do my best to send the elevator back down.

See you next week!

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