On Writing

I’m attending a weekly memoir-writing workshop this month in Portland. It was a way for me to brush up on my writing skills, meet some fellow writers and learn how to excavate and tell my story.

So much has happened in my life. Making music, traveling the world, living in many different cities, raising a family, starting a business, starting another business, starting yet another business, conversations with friends, the books I have read, the people I have met. And of course, that’s just what comes to mind right now.

The act of telling my own story in a cohesive, sensible way is what frustrates me the most. I have been digging and digging these last few months to find a way to tell it authentically and honestly—and also in a way that connects to my readers. And that has been much harder work than I anticipated. It’s not that I thought it would be easy; it’s that I had no idea it would be so difficult.

In fact, it sent me into a pretty dark hole at the end of 2018. I was fraught with self-pity and self-doubt. What did I possibly have to say or offer that hasn’t already been said or offered? And I sat with this for some time. I read some Pema Chodron. I meditated. I drank. I got outside and soaked in the sun as the wind battered my skin.

Why did this question bother me so? Is it because I am an enneagram four and so I needed to know that my contribution would be so unique? What a burden to place on one’s self when you’re first getting going writing a book—writing or doing anything really. But that is my struggle. Two parts of myself in argument over who is right: the creative or the critic. Let’s hope the former wins.

The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. — Elizabeth Gilbert

In each of our workshops, we are given writing prompts and asked to write for 10-15 minutes. In the ultimate act of vulnerability, I thought I would share a couple with you. My hope in doing this is to give you the courage, too, to find your voice, to tell your story and to Do Something…Your Own Way.

By the way, that’s the tagline for my life-mission that I came up with a few days ago. I was going over and over, looking for what sort of thread was there when I traced everything back. And that’s what I came up with: Do Something. Your Own Way. That’s kind of what I’ve always done. And what I will continue to do.

Anyway, please enjoy these two pieces of mine in their original, unedited format…

Siddhartha

It took me more than a decade to finish college. I was a pretty good student, so it didn’t have anything to do with that. I put a pause on my schooling to chase an opportunity to play music full-time.

When I got off the road, I figured I should finish. I didn’t really care about a degree, but I thought I might as well have one.

I took all my remaining classes at a local community college. By now, I was almost 10 years older than the average student in class.

My favorite class at this college was a religion class. East. West. All of it. We were assigned a few books to read, one of them being Siddhartha. Funny, I never read it for the class. Call it rebellion or some weird disinterest. I honestly don’t even remember why. I guess the cover didn’t leave much of an impression on me or the idea of spiritual fiction wan’t compelling.

Years later, this book would come up in conversations and I would remember my not-reading of it. Even now as I reflect, I wonder, Was I not ready?

Almost 15 years later, this book has found a home in my heart.

Oh Siddhartha, how I get it. How I am still trying to get it.

A young man in search of a way to live that is different than his father’s way, different than his own culture’s definition. The pursuit of an authentic life.

[sigh]

Siddhartha the Young eventually becomes Siddhartha the Old. His story twists and turns as opportunities arise and fade away.

His questions shift in each season. But a thread is woven into it all: What is my good path? Enlightenment? Through fasting? Through riches? In love? At the river? With my son? Without anyone or anything but myself?

Siddhartha, if I could ask: Would you change anything? Would you have sought the river sooner? Or was it all necessary?

And also: Am I doing okay? Am I on the right path?

[sigh]

Siddhartha believed. But he couldn’t take anyone else’s script for the good life. He had to find it for himself. How courageous. How lonely.

I hope to have half the courage of Siddhartha, half the devotion of Govinda and excavate my own true story. Not borrowed, not invented, but given.

The Table

She was late
No real surprise as
It was her style

I didn’t mind
Though at one time
I had considered leaving

This room, so familiar
With the oversized
Maple table slash desk

We had anticipated it
To be a great hall
With decadent banquets

But it seemed to want
A different life as
My oasis, desk and chair

It was still dark
How these northwest winter
Mornings dragged on

Until finally there was
Hope on the horizon
Oh, the warmth of that hope!

My chair had been
Appropriated by another one
Of my identities

So I sat uncomfortably
On the IKEA bench,
Decorated with a sheepskin

I missed the chair
That allowed for more that
Writing…for being

It was in service to
A different part of
Me now

I wonder if I will
Get that chair back
For my own personal use

And what miles must
Be travelled
Before I will know

I am waiting
Not just for her to wake
But for some resolve

Is that too much to ask?
Some sense of up and
Down to guide me?

I can bear the bench
I can bear the dark
I can bear her tardiness

But is that what this
Is to be?
Simply bearing?

This two-inch maple is beautiful
An art piece more than
A table or desk

Is that just creative re-framing?
Or worse, deception?
Delusion?

What is this table if not functional?
What am I if not in service,
If not in relationship, if not useful?

Well, I am me
Whatever the hell that means
Just me

And I’m grumpy that I cannot
Have my chair at home
And at my office

And the miles to travel
To connect the two
Feel so very long

And I am tired already