I’m attending school this week – part of my MFA program at Goddard College. I am in my second of four semesters that begin with a week of residency in Port Townsend, WA. During these residency weeks we cram our heads full of ideas, inspirations, and fears, then give them voice and flesh on 125 pages submitted in five packets of work throughout the semester.
The theme for this semester’s residency is “risk and revelation.” These are two elements important for generating breakthroughs, too.
As one of the keynote speakers, Rebecca Brown, reminded, most of us don’t have to take the kind of risks that endanger our lives. We don’t write – or work, or play – in fear of being tortured or thrown in prison.
The risks most of us take are scary in a relatively safe way.
Being here with 70 talented writers is scary for me. And safe. The community is supportive, nurturing, and largely nonjudgmental.
Risks, even the tame kind, can facilitate growth. They expand our comfort zones by making us very uncomfortable.
One of the other speakers encouraged us to acknowledge the unseen and felt that we often know the unseen, but choose not to see it. It’s all inside and right under the surface skin.
Another speaker said that she writes her obsessions. She does not choose that about which she will obsess – it chooses her. I understand this, don’t you? Think about the topics, causes, movements that occupy your mind and sparks your energy and passion. How did that all get started?
As a writer, I fear being perceived as redundant and irrelevant. I am a bit obsessed by the desire to be interesting. This started very early in life. I was the baby of four children, the next sibling being seven years older than I. I grew up competing for attention with two parents, a sister, two brothers, and all their friends. They were all so much older and talked about older people things. My kiddy stuff was not nearly interesting enough but when I made the effort to talk like they did, I got some attention. I remember my first solo purchase – from a garage sale at the Russell’s house half-way down my street, Mikado Court – a third year German language text book. No, I did not speak German, not a word. But it seemed like an intellectual book to me and I thought that if perhaps I could speak few German words, they would pay attention to what I said.
This is not a sad story. Sure, I had to fight for airplay when I was young, but this obsession made me a voracious learner and for that I am still grateful. As a 40 something blogger and writer, the obsession with remaining relevant fuels my drive to learn and grow.
I like the notion of writing my obsessions and I like the parallels all this has for generating breakthroughs in other aspects of life.
Stepping into risk to create a revelation can start with an obsession or passion or fear – it almost always is a factor, anyway.
Just a sidebar: I don’t want you to think I am suggesting that people who obsess about destructive things like murder and rape ought to act on them. This post, and all the posts on this blog, are directed toward people like me and you who are trying to blow the lid off our fears and make positive contributions. Breakthroughs, generated with some risk, allow us to better our world and ourselves.
I have mentioned this before. There is a saying, “go where the energy is.” The energy can be an obsession, fear, passion, or some other driving force.
What’s at the seat of your energy?
If you were going to spend more time each day working from your obsessions, what would you be doing and how do this differ from what you did yesterday?
What’s the risk you must take to experience revelation?