Since returning from Portland, I’ve had my horse blinders on, totally absorbed in final edits for Sketchbooks, my new book.
If I’ve been quiet on social media and in real life, it’s simply because when I’m really focused, it’s hard for me to be “out there” in the world. Do any other writers and artists share this dilemma?
I’m barely able to leave the house. This is why I’m grateful for friends who show up and visit, inviting me out hiking and mountain biking.
Anyway, since Sketchbooks is so damn long, inevitable cuts must be made. The following story is being cut from the manuscript, so I thought I’d share it here instead.
It’s about risk-taking. About venturing out into new territory. And about self-publishing and self-promotion, pre-Internet. Many take-aways here. Enjoy.
There’s a story that I heard back in the 80’s about the singer Beverley Sills and her bracelet with the initials IDTA. A reminder to herself: I Did That Already.
Doing a fact-check for this chapter of Sketchbooks, trying to find the source of that story, I came across this short section of an interview with Wayne Dyer.
Turns out, that his take on risk-taking is just what I needed to hear today.
Interviewer: You’re obviously a risk-taker. How do you think about risk and what’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken, and did you feel it was risky at the time?
Wayne Dyer: I have such a different perspective on risk-taking now than I did a few years ago when I wrote quite a bit about it in some of my earlier books. It’s only a risk if you’re concerned about the outcome, if you’re worried about how other people might perceive it, or if you’re concerned about what the outcome might be or whether or not you’ll be accepted, or whether you’ll make money on it or whatever. If your focus is on those kinds of things, then what you’re doing involves risk.
If in your heart you know why you’re doing what you’re doing and you’re doing it because you feel this passion and you want to dance with it, then outcome is something you’re completely detached from.
You’re not doing what you do because what might come your way or how much money you might make or what people might think or what the reviews are going to be or what merit badges you might accumulate, or what kind of trophies you might have, or what people might say about you, or even what you might achieve.
That isn’t why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’re doing what you’re doing because it’s the purpose and the process of your life. And you’re letting the universe handle the details, you’re letting that thing that’s out there handle the details.
There have been many things that I’ve done that I thought were risky at the time, but as I look back at them I realize that it was just part of what I was here for. I left a tenured position as a professor at a university when I was 35 years old, which means that I had guaranteed employment forever, as long as I lived, and I walked away from it.
In fact, there was something about that guarantee that I would always be able to be here, in this office, in this place teaching at this university that was bothersome to me — that I was almost like “stuck” having to stay here.
And I remember the day that I drove down the Long Island Expressway and went into the Dean’s Office at St. John’s University and told her that I was going to resign.
And she said, “I can’t believe it, you just got tenure and you’re a full professor, you’ve written textbooks, I mean you’re a shining star. How could you possibly even consider leaving?” And I just said, my heart isn’t here anymore. I’ve done this already.
I remember the first time I ever met Beverly Sills, who was a great opera singer and the head of the New York Metropolitan Opera. She had a television show. And she was wearing a bracelet, and on her bracelet was a charm and it had the letters IDTA, printed I-D-T-A, and I just couldn’t resist, I asked her right on the show, “What does IDTA, what does that mean?” She said, “Oh, that’s a reminder — I did that already.”
And I’ve done that already. I mean, I knew I had been a professor, I had proven that I was good at it, I had written textbooks, I knew I could do that; but I’d done it already and there were things still that I had to do.
And so I wrote a book called Your Erroneous Zones, and I went across the country and purchased them all myself, the first two or three printings. I spent two years on the road just doing what I love doing. If you ever saw A Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn going from little tiny radio station to little tiny radio station just asking them to play her [song], that was me, that’s exactly what I did and I did it for years. And a lot of people think that it was an overnight success but it wasn’t, it didn’t work out that way.
Wow! I love that he went around for years promoting his book that way.
There is so much wisdom and courage I’m taking away from that excerpt.
I especially resonate with this:
You’re doing what you’re doing because it’s the purpose and the process of your life.