Do It Until You Know What’s Next

Today I’ve been poking away at a fiction story about an accidental guru, and blog posts about not second guessing your happiness, realizations versus answers, some possible trajectories about self-inquiry, and an intro to a series about the Integral Model. While doing all that, I realized why I write several posts simultaneously.

One of my favorite pieces of advice to writers comes from Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway recommended that you should, “write until you… know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.” I have found this a supremely effective tool for writing at a good clip and avoiding writer’s block. If you sit down knowing what will happen next, you have no pause to doubt yourself.

What I have recently seen is this advice is just as good for writing non-fiction pieces. You write until you know what you are going to say next, and stop. Since non-fiction writing involves a lot of saying specific points, you can get to this point rather quickly. That is why I work on several pieces at once. I can plunk away at a post, get to the point where I have a clear notion of my next point, and skip to a different post. It’s a little bit like cooking a meal with several dishes all at once. (Without the pressure of needing them to get done fairly close to each other so the dishes don’t get to room temperature before they are eaten.)

Not every suggestion works well for everyone. However, if you are a writer, and find yourself frequently hitting “dry spells” you might try Hemingway’s little gem out. Let me know how it goes if you do.

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One Possible Strange Benefit of Religion

I think it’s pretty apparent that some sort of religious impulse exists in many human beings. I don’t think there is any single definitive cause for this (though there may be). It seems to come from either a desire for outside authority, or a lack of self-confidence, or an intuition of a higher power, etc. Whatever the reason for the person in question, many of our fellow human beings seem to have the drive towards religion. I have been thinking about that lately, and wondering what benefits religions might provide for their followers aside from the fulfillment of this drive.

We all carry notions and ideas that are contradictory. These are the source of cognitive dissonance that’s a common occurrence in life. Examine what you hold to be true long enough and you will encounter these sources of contention. I know of no place in life where this is more apparent than in the scriptures of most organized religion. This is especially true when viewed by someone who is not a member of the religion in question. Those inside the religion tend to have some emotional armoring against such contradictions. However, any rational and objective examination of a religion’s scripture will call these contrary notions out.

That leads me to what I think might be one of the strange benefits of following a religion. Due to the contradictions inherent in most scriptures, the followers of the religion are compelled to pick and choose which directives to follow. Some leave this to others, and the priest cast tends to be the ones given the authority to make these calls. Different religions encourage a differing level of self-study. Whoever is compelled to pick and choose from the scriptures must face these contradictions head on. That type of decision making calls for critical thinking, and the development of critical thinking has many benefits.

Critical thinking skills appear increasingly rare in our world. Could it be that religions are a place where critical thinking is encouraged?

There are famous examples from most religions of people dealing with the paradoxes the scriptures extol. Zen is replete with students coming to the point of burning all of their books in order to free themselves from the tyranny of doctrine. In Judaism, there is a famous story of a renowned Rabbinical scholar who, in the middle of study, suddenly threw up his arms and declared, “There is no truth!” He then retreated to his chambers and did not emerge for some years. When he did, he picked up studying and teaching from right where he left off. Most people seem to think that facing the contradictions of the scriptures will always cause followers to abandon their beliefs. However, that Rabbi came face to face with the contradictions in the holy texts, and when he resolved those in his own mind his faith was strengthened rather than abandoned. Perhaps we could all learn a little something from his example.

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On Being Inspired

I just got to watch an unreleased video by a guy who I might get to work with in the near future. Excitement about the new gig aside, I found myself very inspired by the guy’s story, and sharing. I got pumped. He has something of a Gary Vaynerchuk vibe (in a very different industry) and as I happen to be a big GaryVee fan, it really hit my chords.

I noticed something interesting in the process of being inspired, beyond the content. I think it’s a good idea when being inspired to not be inspired by what someone is doing. I don’t feel a particular pull towards the industry this guy is in (though he nearly got me there) as a career. It’s not something I can be passionate about. Excited yes, but passionate, not so much. If I tried to follow that excitement all in, I would burn out, and I’d be back to looking for the thing I really want to do.

I also don’t think it’s wise to be inspired by how someone is doing something, when being inspired. I loved the style in the video, and the energy, but they are not me. Again, if I tried to go with copying his style as a way to put my passion out there, it would fall flat sooner or later.

What sticks for me, and what I think is good to emulate when being inspired by something is the simple fact that they are doing. Period. The inspiration that can last, and serve, is the oomph to get up and move forward with my passion. Not how they do, or what they do, but that they do.

In other words; when inspired, try to remember, “You do you.