Love of the Writing Craft

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Love of the Craft Q & A

Listen Closely, the Answers are Already Inside of You

Seeking Wisdom from Within

By Writing Coach David Duggins | Posted October 18, 2007 | Updated July 27, 2019

I have a confession to make: I have no idea what I'm doing.

You're probably thinking: Dave, are you crazy? You just committed career suicide in front of hundreds (hopefully thousands) of readers. Nobody's going to hire a coach who doesn't know what he's doing.

So I guess I'll take up underwater basket weaving. It wouldn't be the strangest skill I've picked up in my eccentric and varied career. At this point, there are literally dozens of things I can do well enough to earn money.

Tell the truth and shame the devil, as they say, and there the truth is: I make my way through most of my professional tasks with no more conscious forethought than I expend on breathing. This is an interesting — if somewhat precarious — way to make a living. Especially after twenty years in the Air Force.

I've gotten a lot of value out of 17 years of mentoring, but I've gotten more out of the mentoring I've done in the past five months than I ever did before. Since retiring, my mentoring — and my entire life — has become exclusively creative.

This is pretty exciting, as you might imagine. Also terrifying. I'm using a lot of skills I had previously acquired, but there's one very new skill I'm developing that is of utmost importance.

I'm learning how to stand blindfolded on the end of a diving board, my toes curled over its edge, ready to jump.

I'm learning how to do that and feel good about it.

It's what we all do, all day, every day. I've only been adrift from the military for five months, but I've already learned a very key truth: security is an illusion. It is an illusion many of us become dependent on — the idea of comfort, relying on safe, bland lives with little risk. We don't take chances on self-expression, creativity, truth. We conform. We play it safe.

Nothing could be more dangerous. Nothing could be more hurtful, less productive. We not only deny ourselves. We deny the world the value of our true selves, expressed in as perfect a way as we can express it.

Does that sound like a bunch of new age hogwash to you? Six months ago, I would have thought so myself. But a lot has happened since then. In getting rid of the trappings of my old, limited life, I find myself waking up in all sorts of unexpected ways. It's pretty wonderful.

We all have the same opportunity to do this. We just have to throw off the fear and take it.

Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm still afraid. What am I going to be doing six months from now? I really don't know. Where will I be? I literally do not know. We just put our house on the market. It's late in the selling season here in North Dakota. The nights are getting chilly. Two years ago, on the night of 2 October, a blizzard dumped eleven inches of snow on this unsuspecting town, causing millions of dollars in property damage across the city and killing most of the trees in our front yard.

If we don't sell the house by the end of November, I really don't think we'll be moving until spring.

Will we sell the house? I think so. We have done what we can to positively affect the outcome. We have assisted the few controllable variables.

I think so. I believe so. I have faith.

But I don't know.

When we do make the move, will my various business ventures be successful? Again, I think so. I love everything I have my hands in right now, and that's a great starting point for success. I've been running one business part time for almost a year, so I have some momentum. Some writers know who I am. And that's good.

But I don't know for sure. Will my family and I be happy? It's a good bet. When we're together, we're usually happy. And we're together all the time now.

I have reasonable expectations for happiness and success. But there is more uncertainty in my future now than there has been since May 13, 1987, when I boarded a flight to San Antonio for basic training. It has definitely affected my thinking, my personal philosophy, and my creativity. Some effects are good, some seem less so ... but that's just for now. A year from now, when I look back on this, I am sure — and this in the face of all the uncertainty — that I will think, "this was the best change I've ever made in my life."

I just emerged from a situation that was all about control. I have a high need for control, which is very likely why I stayed in the military long enough to retire. There were a lot of things I didn't like about the military, but there were plenty of opportunities for control.

Now I'm in a situation filled with variables I cannot control. This leads to a lot of anxiety, as you might imagine. At least initially. But over the course of the past few months, I've come to see truth in the cliché: like security, control is also an illusion.

I had heard this a million times before and discounted it. Now, I believe it. I have faith, in the same way I have faith that I will find success and be happy with my family.

Control. Not just an illusion. A lie. A lie your own brain tells you.

The desire for control — the idea that you can have it and then do things to gain more of it — is the single most destructive force in human society, responsible for everything in our history we're not so proud of. Wars, famine, poverty, disease — all of it.

Depending on your own history, that will sound a) audacious, b) ridiculous or c) obvious. Whatever your perspective, the message bears remembering and repeating. We don't control everything. We're not meant to. Creativity is about finding the flow, jumping on and riding it like a wave. If your job is hard and you're always stressed out, it's because you're not in the flow. Quit that job and find a better one. There are plenty of them out there.

I was raised with the idea that you have to work hard to get what you want. You have to struggle. Life is hard, work is not fun, and when it's all over, what have you got? Enough money to putter around in the garden for twenty years before you shuffle off?

Come on. You know there's more to this. You feel it. Sense it. If you didn't, you wouldn't be here, reading this, looking for answers.

I'm not the guru. Your answers are already inside you. Listen closely.

You don't have to wear a blindfold, but you might find it helpful to close your eyes.

©2007 David Duggins. All rights reserved.

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