Huge storm last night–sorry I didn’t post. No excuses, I just spent the night watching the storm and spending time with my love. Hope you all had sweet dreams.
This weekend I heard an interview that have really resonated with me. It was a clip from a 1985 Terry Gross interview with jazz great Artie Shaw on NPR’s Fresh Air. In it, he discusses his famous rivalry with Benny Goodman.
And so I said finally, Benny, you’re too hung up on the clarinet. And he looked at me, and he says, that’s what we do, isn’t it? I said no, I’m trying to play music. I’m not interested in clarinets. It’s a means. It’s an instrument. You use an instrument to do something with.
And I saw a tiny light bulb go on in his eyes. I don’t think he ever seriously considered the idea that the clarinet was a means, not an end.
This quote hit me like a bullet in the shoulder, knocking me completely off balance. When you ask someone what they do, they say, I’m a writer. I’m a mechanic. I’m a doctor.
We identify with the means, not the end.
We get so hung up on what we do, we forget to figure out why we do it. Why are you a plumber? Why are you a photographer? Why are you a politician? To make money? To pay the bills? To gain status?
For years, I tried to figure out a way to get myself writing on a regular basis. Nothing ever worked. And the reason, in retrospect, is pretty clear. I was too hung up on the writing, without ever wondering what story I wanted to tell.
Back in my fan fiction days, I would get obsessed with writing a particular story. I remember once leaving a party halfway through, pulling my floppy disk out of my purse, and working on a story on the computer in the host’s bedroom. Rude, yes, but it proves a point. That story was burning inside of me, and I had to tell it. Writing was the only means I had to tell that story, so I wrote with fury and passion and single-mindedness.
When I decided I wanted to be a “real” writer, everything stopped up. I rarely if ever had those moments of obsessed, burning productivity. It was because I was pursuing writing, and not a story.
Barring the occasional amazing thunderstorm or computer mishap, I’ve been very good about keeping up these blog posts. These days, I rarely if ever have to force myself to the computer, and when I start writing, it’s almost always easy to get words on the page.
I think the reason is that I no longer care if you call me (or if I call myself) a writer. Writing is a means, not the end.
The end is my message, which is that we are more than our jobs, more than our self-images, more than animals on a sickly planet just waiting for everything to die off from our own stupidity. We are connected. We are powerful. We have everything we need to transform ourselves and our world right at our fingertips, if we only have the courage and grace to reach out for it.
Writing is my means. The end? For everyone who encounters my words to wake up, take a moment, reassess, and then commit to doing everything in their power to make this world a better place using any means at their disposal.
The end is a beginning, a chain reaction that spreads like healing wildfire across our planet. I’m not silly enough to think that I’m the only spark. I know there are thousands, maybe millions of people like me out there, each sending out their own spark. The world is a big place, but someday, our sparks will collide, and we will transform the world.
So, what spark are you sending out into the world? Are you living to the means, or moving towards an end?
Live fabulous dreams, my friends, and send out sparks of love that blow our freaking minds.