Sunday, May 1, 2011

When Passion and Purpose Align

"I believe God made me for a purpose, but I also believe he made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire

This week marks the first year anniversary of The Lit Coach. While I've been consulting writers for years in one capacity or another, last year my passion for helping writers aligned with the purpose of The Lit Coach - to offer intensely focused counsel, direction and coaching beyond the nuts and bolts "how to get published" advice to writers dependent on their publishing goals (traditional, self and/or E) - and instantly, I knew I was on the right track. I knew I was on the right track when people I respect in the industry told me I was onto something. And most importantly, I knew I was on the right track when the emails I received from writers I had never met thanked me for telling them exactly what they needed to hear when they needed to hear it. It feels good to receive that kind of feedback, those validating pats on the back - it's the stuff that keeps you moving forward, right? Sure!

But. Validation, while lovely and at times, very necessary, is low energy fuel. It delivers just the right push you need at just the right moment, but when the fuel runs out, it's out - the quick feel good moment has passed and you're left waiting for someone to come along and give you some more. I've often written here on this blog that writing is a marathon, not a sprint. In able to contend in a marathon you must have a source of energy that runs deeper than the validation of others - it must flow through you as a part of you to begin with. You are the source of the slow-burning fuel that keeps your passion aflame.

I can think of no better example of this deep, slow-burning passion than in the movie Chariots of Fire, the true story, as IMBD so adequately puts it, "of two determined athletes, one a Jew and the other a devout Christian who compete in the 1924 Olympics." The devout Christian was Scotsman Eric Liddell, who believed with 100% conviction (and a rather Emersonian one) that God was present when he ran and not only that, but He was joyous and that joy manifested itself in Liddell whenever he ran. And although his races were short (100 meters, until the end when he chooses to run the 400 meter race), he pulled from within every time an energy that can only be described as ecstatic. The source of Liddell's passion came from deep within - it came from knowing his purpose - the why behind his swift feet...and more importantly, what to do with them!

You're here not because you want to be a runner, I know, but because you want to be a writer. Many writers have told me that without writing, they don't do so well. Something is missing - a part of them is lost. But as I dig deeper into their writing habits and processes, I find a lot of questions lingering around upstairs - a general unsureness about their ability, and sometimes even the "why" behind their writing. So they're writing, but something is in the way, yet they carry on. They feel better about their writing and themselves as writers when they get a bit of validation but, as I said, eventually, that energy is used up quickly and they're back to more wondering and waiting.

Writers, you can't wonder about your ability to write, your talent, whether or not your book will sell to an agent, to a publisher and everything else that hasn't happened to you yet, you must just DO. But in order to move ahead and DO, you've got to first dig deep and find that well, that deep running source of energy that will sustain your passion for writing.

How do you do that? Spend some quality time with yourself with absolutely no distractions whatsoever. Whether it's a night in with yourself or a weekend getaway, spend some serious alone time with yourself and ask yourself why you're where you are as a writer. What's holding you up? What do you want to accomplish as a writer? What are your motivations? Who do you want to reach as a writer? Why? When you know the answers to these questions you've come closer to that deep energy source.

But you'll only really find that well when you DO. No amount of reading all the how-to-write advice replaces the act of doing. And doing is either reading another's work first for the enjoyment of the writing, then for the study of it; and then the actual writing itself. When you're choosing the right words, when you've formed the perfect sentence, leading to a collection of sentences leading to a great paragraph to a page, and on and on, when you're in the practice of writing, when that deeply sourced energy is flowing through you taking you from one page to the next, that's when you connect with your passion. That's when your purpose is realized and that, my dears, is when you begin to fly!


  1. All around my intricate Web of friends and advisors I have found the answers I have been seeking this week. Yours, Erin, most especially. Keeping oneself fueled is indeed a problem I believe most writers face. What we do in itself is so solitary, we must find that inspiration in ourselves or I fear, we never find it at all. Thank you, once again, for coming to my emotional rescue.

  2. I am a blogger and a beginning runner. (In fact, just three days ago I was thinking it's time to watch Chariots of Fire again!)

    Thank you for words that touch both areas of my life.

  3. Thank you, Jill. I'm glad you're finding the answers. You're right, writing is so solitary...we do need those pats on the back to keep us motivated, everyone likes that...but the real source of inspiration is soul deep.

    And Suzy, thanks. I'm also getting back into running after a long break. There's just something about that quick, forward motion (I might like to be quicker!)and the sound of breath and pounding feet that connect me with my surroundings and clear the head. Sometimes I have to force myself to do it, but once I'm moving I'm always glad to be running.

  4. That is my favorite writing quote because I like putting my own "when I write" mix to it. I have also begun trying to channel that feeling with running. I like what you said: "There's something about that quick, forward motion"-yes.

  5. Thank you for the honesty and compassion with which you write your blog, Erin. I appreciate that you do not mince words, that your advice is direct, doesn't leave out the sweat. And today, thank you for your words of encouragement, for reminding me, and all of us, to look deep for the source of energy and the "why," because it is obscured and lost all too easily. I have only recently begun to take myself seriously as a writer, though I've written for years and enrolled in workshops at University (yes, that old story). I think you've hit on one of the main reasons it remains "that old story." Writing can be isolating work; certainly, it is solitary work. Your blog helps me feel less alone, helps me feel more sane in my decision to keep on writing, as if it were important, as if my life depended on it. Thank you for understanding that it does. This is the first time I've responded to a blog. It seemed important that I do. Thank you.
    - Kathrin

  6. Joules, thanks for your comment - I love that quote, too. And I love Eric's story.

    Kathrin, you are very kind, thank you so much. One of the reasons I began The Lit Coach was to help writers shift from that old tortured, lonely artist paradigm into a way of life that was creative, compelling, productive and a little more balanced. You always have the choice to create that balance. It's work, sure, but the choice is yours alone.

  7. Happy Anniversary, Erin! Today at lunch I listened to your interview on "Your Book Is Your Hook" (very positive and helpful), so while I read this post, I heard your calm voice.

    Your words come at the perfect time for me, as I'm realizing I need some of that quality time with my writing self to take a closer look at my priorities, especially as more choices and options have come up recently. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with the kind of writing that makes me feel whole.

  8. Thanks so much, Lisa! Your blog posts always leave me thinking and inspired. The issues you've covered recently have been very timely for me, as well. Sometimes it takes a little writing out loud...addressing those issues you know are holding you re-connect you back to that deep energy source.

    Here's to your writing!


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