Sunday, February 27, 2011

One Writer's Search For Meaning

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.~Viktor E. Frankl


All weekend I've been sick, nursing a cold/sinus infection. I've been pretty miserable, but trying to "will myself better" so I can go to work tomorrow. I've allowed myself to be sick, and to take care of myself, to sleep and drink a lot of tea (lemon/ginseng and orange/jasmine tea with hot water and honey), broth, and watch what I want on television (mostly Netflix) and just laze around.

This is not my normal state of being, I assure you. What brought my sickness about is a run down immune system caused by stress and worry. Stress of mind, body and spirit. Worries that haven't manifested or may never manifest, but they still keep running through my head. I keep running on the hamster wheel, going nowhere, not allowing myself time to think, time to sleep, or time to just BE. It finally caught up with me.

As you all know, I dream of being a published writer, someday.

I write here on my blog and tell all my little stories and adventures thinking someone out there must be reading it, even if it's only a handful of my family and friends. I used to wrote articles for the local newspaper, and I'm re-writing and editing a few novels I have written and finished, thanks to National Novel Writing Month in the past, but I never seem to get any further than that. The writing gets pushed back, or I get distracted with something else, or I find some excuse not to finish what I started.

Why? What is the point of writing if you are not going to share it with the world? Why keep doing it? Why not just publish something, ANYTHING, and get it over with? What's the obstacle that keeps me from finishing my so-called dream?

Fear. Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear that I will change and that everything will change (which is really silly, because EVERYTHING changes. Nothing is stagnant forever). Well, that is part of it. Mostly, I feel that without becoming a writer, my purpose, my life, is really meaningless. Without the actual act of writing, even for a blog, or a journal, or even a letter or a thank-you card, I feel I am not fulfilling my life's purpose. Everyone keeps asking me when the book is going to get published, when I'm going to have it in their hands and available to buy. I always say, "I'm working on it. I'm editing it. Soon. Soon." But then "soon" never comes. I am not only lying to them, but I am lying to myself. That's wrong. Not fair to them and not fair to me either. I didn't really understand why I was doing this, and how to move beyond it to the place I really want to be. I keep sabotaging myself. 

This weekend I did some reading. I ordered a book I've been wanting to read for a very long time. Since I was sick this weekend, I finally gave myself the time to read it. The book is called, "Man's Search For Meaning," by Dr. Viktor Frankl. If you have not read it yet, please, get this book by any means necessary and read it. If you have children, especially teenagers, give it to them and have them read it. It's that important.

In this book, Dr. Frankl describes in detail his life as a prisoner in four concentration camps including Auschwitz. You would think the subject matter would be depressing, and sometimes it is sad, and I did cry in some parts and at the end, but it is also full of hope and inspiration.

He tells how he and his fellow prisoners could see when someone had lost hope, the signs of their soon to be demise, their inability to get dressed, to even go to work, even if under threat of a beating by the SS guards, how they would just sit, literally in their own juices, smoking their last cigarette, until they died.

It is very dangerous, and deadly, to lose hope, to believe that there is no meaning to your life, when you are faced with such unavoidable circumstances such as unemployment, prison, or death. He details how you can survive the three most horrible things: pain, guilt and death and do them with dignity. That if a man has meaning in his life, something or someone to live for, he can survive anything. And even if it is not possible for him to survive, he can hold his head up high and stand up with honor, while facing death or disease.

This is a man, who lost his whole family: his elderly parents, his young and pregnant wife, his brother, and came back to Vienna to help those after the war, and also in the process, helped himself. He wrote this book in 9 days.

That's not a typo. Nine (9) days. And he went on to marry, have children and continue his work until he died in his 90's in 1997.

But most importantly, he found a way to live, to love and to work to help others. He was able to put that nightmare behind him, find the beauty and humor in that experience and go on to be a joyful, grateful human being, with meaning in his life and his life's work. So many times, the odds were against him surviving, and yet, he made it, because of his attitude toward his situation. He was able to see, even in that horrible place, the beauty of the mountains, the trees, the flowers, the sunsets, and the spirits in his fellow inmates.

Most of what is stressing me out is real: the threat of unemployment again (I keep having bad dreams of it happening again), of not being able to provide for my family, of failing again at my writing, at not measuring up to my expectations or the expectations of those I care about (mostly my expectations are almost impossible to achieve), being good at everything and when I'm not, beating myself up for it, blah, blah, blah.

Now, after reading this book, I ask myself. What is there to fear? If this man could go through losing everything and becoming just "a number", as he describes it, and then write something touching millions of readers and helping them out of the abyss of their despair, and it continues to inspire teachers, therapists, and writers, then isn't it the purpose of every write to touch the life of one person with their words and their work, and leave a legacy behind that will be as true today as it was when it was written? Isn't that why we all write?

We surely write for ourselves on one level, even if it is just to calm the voices and the storms in our heads and get the words on the screen or on the page. But ultimately, we write for the reader, hoping on some level, we are able to help them escape, or laugh or cry or be touched or excited, even for just a little while. And to inspire future writers to take up the pen, or hit those keys.

A blog will disappear with the stroke of a key. And while I really enjoy writing this blog, that is not what I want. I want a legacy. I want a permanent legacy. I want a real, hold in your hands book with my name on it. I want someone to say, as I did tonight as I closed the last page of Dr. Frankl's book, "Thank you for writing this. Thank you. It's what I really needed right now."

I'm feeling much better.


Kelly McClymer said...

Powerful. I have to read that book. Thanks!

Laura M. Crawford said...

Your welcome, Kelly. :)

Turning the Clock Back said...

I have a friend (my age...late 30s) who comlained that he had not done anything meaningful (things he had PLANNED) with his life. I told him that his LIFE had a whole lot of living left to do and maybe he wouldn't discover his purpose until much later.

An inspring post, thanks for sharing!


Mayra Calvani said...

You really have to send those mss to editors and agents! You have to get past the fear. Join a coaching club. This one is great:

terri.forehand said...

You have stated the same fears and blocks that I feel. Thanks for sharing. I write because there is nothing else I want to do, but I still have to have my nursing job to pay the bills. It is a daily goal to keep writing and perfecting the skills it will take to get published.

Laura M. Crawford said...

Thanks for all the comments. This is why I write. Knowing I touched a few people keeps me moving my fingers across the keyboard. And to all of you, I am sending out mss this week, and a few queries. It's like planting your bulbs in the fall in the hopes you will have tulips in the spring. You can't enjoy them if you don't plant them in the first place, and while not all of them will peek out of the soil and bloom, you sometimes have to just let go and let nature take her course and enjoy the flowers while they are there. I hope all of you have a fabulous week. :)

Laura :)

Cheryl said...

Excellent post, Laura. I wish you luck in fulfilling your writing dreams. Part of coping with that fear is admitting it exists.