“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
— André Gide
It started many months ago, in a laundromat in Amsterdam of all places. My friend Erik said to me “Gray, you are traveling all over, talking with so many different people, learning so many different things…why don’t you share them?”
That’s not an exact quote. Actually, I think we were discussing methods of monetizing blogs, etc, and his point was more along the lines of “You’ve got all this great material, good lord, why aren’t you writing books and such and making money at it?”” Which is a good point, when you think about it. It’s been a common self-criticism of mine: If yer so smart, why ain’t you rich?
But after a year and a bit of almost perfect attendance, writing everything from strange allegorical parables to whiny-middle-aged-white-guy rants, I began to feel that I had nothing original to say. That other people were saying the same things I was, but saying it better, and to wider audiences, so why bother? Worse, I was beginning to feel that a lot of what I was saying might not actually be right in the first place…in a world where productivity is swiftly becoming the vice-of-choice for the privileged, did I really want to encourage more of it?
Yeah. I do. I’ve been on a hiatus, but only from the writing. I still voraciously read the blogs and listen to podcasts like You Are Not So Smart and think Fascinating. I wonder if others have connected this idea with that idea,. Or I’ll hear someone talking about some great and fascinating idea…except I happen to know of some other research that is showing that that particular idea isn’t quite what we thought it was.
Most of all, though, I think it’s the correspondence habit that changed my mind. One of the more successful changes I’ve made to my daily routine is that most days I set aside a half-hour to write a letter. Sometimes it’s to people I talk to almost every day, but there have been letters to past mentors, to relatives I barely know, to friends who I’ve lost touch with. Occasionally I get an email thanking me for them; even more rarely (thanks, Ali & Kristen!) I get letters back.
But here’s the thing: it’s not for them. It doesn’t matter if the letters get lost. What I’ve learned is that I’m not writing these for them, to make them feel better or for any other reason but that it makes me feel good.
On so many levels! I have an old cigar box (from P.J. Hajenius in Amsterdam, as it happens) which holds some heavy stationery (gray, naturally) and a few classy black envelopes along with the silver gel pen to address them. There’s a nifty “G” stamp and a silver ink pad. Or I have some heavy parchment paper that I can fold into its own envelope and decorate with strange stickers or cigar bands or just use Sketchnote techniques to create something new.
I have a nice heavy fountain pen. I often have a cup of coffee as I’m writing. But most of all, there is a satisfaction in the crafting of thought to ink to paper and sending it out into the world. It’s especially easy if you don’t have any expectation of return from the person you’re sending to. This is for me, and if you, the recipient, happen to like it too…well, that’s a happy bonus, I guess.
And that’s what’s happening with this blog. I’m not writing it for you, dear reader (neither one of you!). I’m coming back to it for me, and if you like it, find it useful, feel like commenting, I’m more than happy to hear from you. Heck, you can even buy me a cuppa coffee via my @luvlifepractice twitter account.
But what I suggest more than anything else? Go buy some forever stamps. Get out some paper and a pen (no need to be fancy; if you want talismans, you’ll find them). Write somebody. Don’t stress about who; when I wrote those two words, somebody occurred to you, and that’s who you should write. Just do it. Don’t think about it. Write something, anything, fold it up , stick in the mail.
If you don’t feel good about it, I will gleefully refund you double the cost of reading this post. Satisfaction guaranteed.