Sunday, April 26, 2015

Follow Your Bliss

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls. —Joseph Campbell
And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss. – J.K. Rowling
It happened again this past week.

I was sitting at my desk, fully absorbed in a new trail of information about a subject that I’d discovered unexpectedly, when my phone rang.

The sound broke the spell, and I looked at the Caller ID screen and saw the name and number of a friend who I’d arranged to meet for coffee that afternoon.  Uh oh.

I glanced back at the computer screen, wishing that I could stay glued to it for the next few hours, but knew that I couldn’t continue working.
Luckily, my friend was a forgiving sort and still willing to meet, and I left my work so we could get together at a nearby coffeehouse to share our thoughts on writing.

As I backed my car out of the driveway, I realized how lucky I was to have a project that absorbed my attention so deeply that I could forget everything else on my calendar.

The same thing had happened a week earlier.

I had scheduled a Facetime conversation with a friend, only to remember our date when my phone rang at noon to start the conversation.

Those moments before the phone rang, when I was so absorbed in my work, were blissful.

It felt like the universe had opened a door, as Joseph Campbell suggests, and all the walls, which once felt so confining, had disappeared.

How did I find the subject that led to such feelings?

It was an accident, nothing that I could have planned—a question about our family’s history—and it was my curiosity about the question that had led to this blissful state.

That’s a helpful clue to remember if you want to follow your bliss.

Whenever you find yourself struggling to write or trying to figure out what you might write next, consider what inspires your curiosity.

Perhaps it’s a question about your family that you’ve never asked or never felt received an adequate answer. Or it might be a question about the way something works, or behaves, or who that person might be down the aisle in the grocery store.

The other clue, I suspect, is your interest in certain subjects—your love for these subjects. In addition to your curiosity, your interest or passion about a subject may lead to a blissful state.

When you can lose yourself in your subject and forget your doubts about writing and about the marketplace and the response of editors and agents and readers, when you reach that place where it’s just you and your imagination and you are absorbed in whatever you are discovering, that is the place where you’ll find your bliss.

Last week I found my bliss when I lost myself in research and discovered new facts about a subject that I’d never known before.

It was the kind of intense absorption that let me forget to check my calendar that morning to see what I might have scheduled because I was too involved in following the trail of my story.

I felt as if time and space had disappeared--as if the walls had dissolved--and all that mattered was the screen in front of me and the words on the screen and what I was discovering that I hadn’t known before.

These moments of absorption are gifts that our writing practice bestows upon us.

They are moments of pure bliss that we may wait days or weeks or months to enjoy. When they arrive, it’s hard to let them go.

They remind us that writing is our heart’s way of exploring the universe, our pathway into the world … and into ourselves.

It’s ironic that the path appears only when we least expect it, isn't it?

To find the path, we have only to stop pushing, pleading, prying, persuading, demanding, expecting, and let ourselves fall or slip or slide into whatever draws our interest and inspires our passion and curiosity.


Pat McDermott said...

Wonderful insights, Bruce. I enjoy research because I not only find what I was looking for. I also find much more, inspiring detours and enchanting side roads. When this research enriches a story whose writing absorbs my attention, I'm quite content. May the walls ever dissolve.

Bruce Black said...

Thanks, Pat, for sharing your experience with the bliss of research and writing. Isn't it amazing how the walls seem to keep dissolving, returning, and then dissolving again?