always be loving


Recently a very talented illustrator friend of mine posted on his Facebook page that he had gotten a client based on an offhand sketch he’d made on the back of a napkin in a restaurant. He declared that the lesson learned was “ABD: Always Be Drawing.”

Gray speaks at Ignite Madison 2014
Of Pancakes and Daughters…

I ran into the same lesson this week when I got word on Tuesday morning that my proposed Ignite Madison talk was accepted after all – and needed to be ready by 2pm Wednesday afternoon. Keep in mind I’d put in my proposal weeks before, and after being rejected the first time, the idea had simply been put in the “oh, well” section of my brain.

Suddenly it was moved to the “RIGHT NOW!” section and I confess I panicked at first. Then I found an essay I’d written several years ago, and it resonated. That essay, it should be noted, had also been rejected. I proceeded to ignore the wise advice of the Ignite team (“Start from scratch!“) and spent a frustrating hour or so trying to fit the large square peg into the round hole.

I wised up, mind you, and did end up starting with a blank sheet. That old essay was barely recognizable as the fertile ground from which the final Ignite talk grew. Both the material and the exercise of writing itself gave me the material I needed to make it work.

It All Comes Down to the Present Tense Verb

One of my regular haunts is Medium, where there was an article today on How to Be a Writer.” The site indicated that it was about a seven minute read, and I chuckled even as I clicked the link, because I was imagining what it is that really should be there.* It shouldn’t be a seven-minute or even a seven-second read. It should be about .07 seconds, and after you click the “How to Be a Writer” link, you should get a page with one word:


That’s it, really. All of the Pressfields and LaMotts and Kings and other writing coaches are basically saying the same thing. It all comes down, in the end, to giving up on all the things that keep you from writing, from all the things that you think you need to do before you write, and just writing.

You can take that last sentence, put in whatever verb you like, and it applies. There is knowing how, there is wanting to, there is wishing for, but in the end Yoda had it right. There is only do. Or do not.

“Stop Trying to Be Happy. Just Be It!”

That was the advice of a friend of mine when I was discussing with her some of my “life hacks” I’d changed to try and improve my happiness. Of course, it’s not that easy – there are all kinds of reasons people aren’t happy, from chemical imbalances to the many pervasive ways our culture convinces us we need more STUFF to be happy.

At the same time, there does come a point where what she said is exactly right. If you want to be happy, you have to be happy – not wait for someone or something to make you that way. The more I think about it, the more I think it applies to everything, including love. What if we took my cartoonist friend’s mantra and applied it?

Always be loving.

What kind of seeds of love, of kindness could be stored up? What kind of skills would we develop for those times when love is most needed? What kind of interactions would we have if we started every one – yes, every one – with the thought “How can I do this in a loving way?

I don’t know the answers. But I think it’s a worthwhile question…

 * By the way, it is a great article,
well worth the 7 minutes,
whether you’re a writer or not.



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