Tag Archives: William Kenower

If you have said, “I am not Creative,” Read This!

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“Everyone is an artist, and our materials are all about us. To use them, you must see them, and to see them, you must accept that they exist.”  — Bill Kenower

People tell me all the time, “I’m not creative.”  This is simply not true.  We are all creative.  We choose the clothes we put on, the way our living room looks, the words that come out of our mouth.  Usually this is a reaction, sometimes a violent one, to something that someone told us along the way.  “You’re a jock.”  “You’re a brain.”  “You’re artsy.”  Which is to say, that for the most part, we filled in the blank with: “I’m this, not that.”  While this may be true of some things, it is not true about creativity.  Everything we do, no matter what we’re good at or what roles we have chosen in life, EVERYTHING requires creativity.

Not a believer?  Usually it’s because we run into these roadblocks:

  • We think we need to seem smart, or smarter
  • We think we are not original enough
  • We think we need to belong to some sort of method or way or institution for validation
  • We think that we need to have certain accolades
  • We think that someone already did it better than we ever could
  • We think we are just plain not enough

In his wonderful book, “Write Within Yourself:  An Author’s Companion, my friend, the author, speaker, and founder of Author Magazine, Bill Kenower, wrote a wonderful chapter about this topic which helps us see our way through these roadblocks.  He helps us see that we don’t need to try so hard to tap into our creative flow.  It’s right there where we live.  In the way our heart beats, in the way we breathe, in the way we cry and laugh and dance.class

It’s the same thing I tell my Haven Writing Retreat attendees over and over again:  go where you feel most natural, where you feel most at ease.  It does not have to be hard.  That’s not to say that the subject isn’t difficult to face or the details aren’t hard to extract or develop.  It’s that the theme and the attraction to it must be honest and charged with something that comes from deep inside you, something that is already flowing.  You just need to accept it and enter into that flow.  It is in this natural state that you become hungry for what makes your creativity unique, and without-a-doubt:  ENOUGH.

Excerpt from the book:  “Write Within Yourself:  An Author’s Companion” by William Kenower1275_10151421704756266_1852761235_n

WHERE YOU ARE

Though it can seem strangely counterintuitive, the quickest way to change something is to first accept it. Or to put it another way, no matter where you may think you want to be, you are where you are.

For instance, there was a low time in my life when nothing interesting or satisfying seemed to be happening. This puzzled me. I felt capable; I felt curious; I felt creative; I felt ambitious—and yet, nothing seemed to happen.  All was rejection and disappointment.  During this period, I spent a lot of time living in my imagination. In my imagination, things were happening. In my imagination, I was having all kinds of marvelous success, meeting all kinds of interesting people, going to all kinds of interesting places.writers_writing_2

I suppose I can’t be blamed for retreating into my imagination. I was a writer, after all, and by necessity I spent a lot of time there. I learned to create interesting worlds in my imagination, so why not visit one such world if my world seemed less than interesting? It was a pleasant way to pass the time until things in my real world got interesting.

And then one day I was taking a walk, swimming as always in my imaginary waters, when something—literally—stopped me. Here I was making, and making, and making this happy imaginary world for myself that was really not making me any happier at all. It only made me happy as long as I hid there. I stood where I was, and I asked this question, “What could you make with this world?”10430493_10152074148911266_2767363178567064548_n

And as I asked this question, the world around me changed. I saw it all—the bushes, the pond, the birds—as clay. All of it was material. What could I make with where I actually was? Why not start there and see where it goes?

laughThis is why every spiritual doctrine in history teaches acceptance. Acceptance is not passive. Acceptance is not capitulation. Acceptance is an understanding that to create, no matter what you want, you must begin by working with what you have, with where you are. If you resist where you are, you only create an imaginary world where you are not where you are. Everyone is an artist, and our materials are all about us. To use them, you must see them, and to see them, you must accept that they exist.

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Inspiration Ain’t for Sissies!

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August 7th-11th (just a few spots left)
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What inspires you?  I bet you can make a long list.  I know I can.  At the top I’d put things like:  My kids, Montana, horses, really great writing, people who sing and play music, people who can speak more than one language, really great home-made bread.  Try it.  It’s a nice exercise, much like keeping a gratitude journal.  I have a friend who daily keeps a gratitude journal.  Just lists the things she’s grateful for—no qualifying or comparing or justifying.  Just wide-open THANKS!  In fact, add her to the list of things that inspire me:  people who keep gratitude journals.

But what most of us don’t think about or even realize…is that we actually, quite possibly, have inspired someone elseNah…we scoff and sniff.  Me?  Inspire somebody?  That’s the way I fly, at least— in a pinch, I go into self-degradation.  Even when someone tells me flat out that I have inspired them, my brain resists it.  It’s something I wrote that inspired them.  It’s my Haven retreats that inspired them.  Not me.  It’s like when people compliment me on my kids’ achievements.  “It’s not me,” I always say.  “It’s them!”  But I’d like to give you a personal challenge here.  Think of the things that you have created in your life.  I’m not asking your ego to explode, I’m merely trying to help you claim what is yours so you can make more of it to spread around.  Think of the traditions you have started or carried on.  The things that you have started from scratch, whatever they might be:  cookies, a fund drive, chicken soup, a letter to a loved one, a thoughtful gift, a verbal vote of confidence to someone you believe in, the way you put flowers in the windowsill or the fact that you picked up trash on the street when no one was looking.  Well, take heart.  People notice your good efforts and are, indeed, inspired by them, whether or not you meant them to be inspiring.  You are not invisible.  Your heart language speaks fluently in the country of humanity. 

There is a writer named Bill Kenower who I met through the labyrinth of the writing life.  He is a brother in words and heart and has compiled a collection of essays about writing that yes, INSPIRE me.  Here’s his story.  As you read it, I encourage you to ask yourself, “What can I create that will inspire others?”  Because just by doing what you are already doing, just by being who you are already being…you are helping to make the world a better place.  So take in a deep breath, and give yourself permission to be inspiring.

Yrs.

Laura

Share Alike, by Bill Kenower

I have just published a collection of short essays called Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion, and you could say the book might not exist were it not for Laura Munson. The story of how Laura and I met is a story of social media. There I was on Facebook one afternoon when I noticed someone had posted a piece from the New York Times. I rarely read such things when they’re shared on Facebook, but for some reason I decided to read this one.

When I finished this essay about a woman in Montana who used her years of accumulated wisdom from the experience of writing and being rejected and writing and being rejected to weather a marital storm, I thought, “She’s one of my people.” I am editor-in-chief of Author, an online magazine that focuses on the intersection of creativity and spirituality. One of my primary functions is to conduct video and audio interviews with authors, and I knew immediately I should interview Laura.

It was a great interview, and Laura and I stayed on the phone after I had stopped recording and continued talking about suffering and happiness and doing the things you love. Yes, I thought again, she’s one of my people. Another of my functions at Author is to write a daily column – a blog if you must – which Laura stumbled on shortly after our conversation. I soon received an email from her that began with this sentence: “You inspire me!”

I did not understand until that moment that this was all I wanted to do in the world – inspire people. It was all I wanted because it was all I was searching for in the world itself, those songs, books, movies, stories, and people that inspired me, that turned my attention toward a steady voice that, despite any evidence to the contrary, forever said, “Do what you love. You cannot fail.” It was this voice that had guided me to Laura, the same as it had guided my to E. E. Cummings and Bob Dylan and Beethoven and the woman I married.

Laura and her story are inspiring, but there is something holy about being inspired that can compel one to deify those who do the inspiring. Growing up, I had no church or temple to attend, and so my sermons were stories, poems, and songs. It was there that I was reminded again and again why life was worth living, and why meaning always lay patiently beneath the noise of suffering. This seemed like a sacred job—reminding people why life was worth living—a job for which one must be anointed.

Which is exactly what Laura did, though accidentally. It’s silly, I know, but because she had inspired so many people, because her piece in the New York Times and her book had reached and helped so many souls, and because I had apparently inspired her—if only long enough to write that one sentence—and since she was one of my people and so not a deity, this job now seemed entirely doable.

A year later Laura was in Seattle and we met face-to-face for the first time. It was a bit like meeting a sister from which I had become separated at birth. She was full of excitement for writing and traveling and living, and over a bottle wine she told me, “Bill, you have to get paid for these essays.”

“But how?” I asked.

She laughed. “By publishing them in a book!”

“Oh, right,” I said.

So now they’re a book. Of course there were other people who helped as well, who said, “Bill, you really ought to collect these into a book,” which to me is the story of the inherent generosity of writing, writers, and life itself. Here is Laura now sharing this space with me, as she has shared it with you, her readers, these past months while she toils on her new novel. True generosity always teaches us the lie of sacrifice. If you share what you love and what you value – like a story, or wisdom, or a joke, or a kiss – nothing is sacrificed. Rather, you have increased the value of the world, which is only measurable in love. So share and share alike, you readers, you writers, you lovers. Share everything you wish there was more of, and as fast as you can say, “Thank you” there will be.

William Kenower is the author of Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Author magazine, an online magazine for writers and dedicated readers. He writes a popular daily blog for the magazine about the intersection of writing and our daily lives, and has interviewed hundreds of writers of every genre. He also hosts the online radio program Author2Author where every week he and a different guest discuss the books we write and the lives we lead. To learn more about William, go to williamkenower.com.

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