Guest Column: Open the Box
Our guest columnist this month, is Lynn Colwell. Lynn has been a freelance writer on and off for more than 25 years. She
wrote hundreds of articles for magazines including Family Circle, Reader’s Digest and Mothering
as well as numerous trades. Her column on home based business appeared in Business Start Ups,
for two years. Lynn wrote the only authorized biography of humorist Erma Bombeck.
is a life coach (www.coachwithlynn.com) and with her daughter, is the co-author of Celebrate Green, Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations
and Traditions for the Whole Family which will be released in October 2008 by Kedzie Press (www.kedziepress.com). Her children’s book, My Green Halloween Treasures debuts at the same time
also with Kedzie.
Open the Box
by Lynn Colwell
A woman was strolling along a street in Paris when she
spotted Picasso sketching at a sidewalk cafe. The women asked Picasso if he might sketch her and charge accordingly.
Picasso obliged. In just minutes, there she was: an original Picasso.
"And what do I owe you?" she asked.
"Five thousand francs," he answered.
"But it only took you three minutes," she politely reminded
"No," Picasso said. "It took me all my life."
It doesn’t take a PhD to recognize that whether you
write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays or anything else, who you are as an individual shapes your writing. Your life
up to this day, how you view the world, your emotional responses, all echo in some way through your words. Because this
is true, it always interests me when clients despair over “wasting” so much of their time living, rather than
One client confessed, “I only spend an hour a day
at my desk. The rest of my time is taken up with all the things I have to do—work, time with the family, exercise,
keeping the house up. To be honest, I often resent all the time away from what I feel so passionate about doing, writing
While I understand her frustration, the fact is, for most
aspiring writers, life is about living, not about writing. Yes, we can seek to carve out more time at the computer. We can
bemoan the fact that laundry keeps us from our love, or, like a clever client of mine, we can find a way to make the
time spent away from writing just as important as the time spent doing it.
My client had been plagued by guilt and even anger at the
way the obligations of life overshadowed his writing. In a 24-hour day, by sleeping only four hours, he managed an hour
at his desk every day. A single dad with a couple of kids, two jobs, a house to care for and no relatives nearby to help,
he simply couldn’t squeeze more time from his already overloaded schedule.
Then one night, he was washing the dishes when he looked
out the window. The moon was rising in a pitch black sky. The children were in bed. Except for the swish of the
water as he wiped the plates, it was silent. He heard a bird call, then a dog bark. The water felt warm on his hands.
For the first time in years, he told me, he stood “in the moment.” For a reason he couldn’t immediately
identify, he felt overcome with joy. Tears welled.
My client had been struggling with a particular aspect
of his book. For a few days, although he’d sat dutifully, little would come. But the morning after his experience at
the sink, the words flowed like honey.
He made the connection.
He recognized how tuned out he had been to life. Suddenly,
it became clear to him that he had been keeping writing in a separate box. He began to merge it with his life.
“I no longer resent the time I’m not actually
‘working,’ because I’ve decided that just because I’m not typing doesn’t mean I can’t
be ‘writing’ in my head. Now, when I’m drying the dishes, I’m observing myself and what’s
going on around me. I bought a digital recorder and when I’m out for a walk, I record what I’m experiencing--the
light at a particular time of day, the scream of a sixteen-wheeler passing by, conversations I overhear as children
play. I also check in with my own emotions as I go through the day. If I snap at someone who works for me, I wonder why. I’ve
become more introspective and connected to my own emotions,” he said.
“I feel so much more alive since I started doing
this. These observations find their way into my work and much to my amazement, make it easier. I find I’m using the
time I’m at the computer much more efficiently. Ideas flow more quickly than they used to. I’m no longer turning
off my life switch and turning on my writing one.”
Nothing changed for this client but his outlook. Instead
of compartmentalizing writing as a small segment of his life and wishing for more time, he expanded his definition of what writing
is. He allowed writing to encompass much more about who he is and what he is feeling. Being in the moment and examining the
world around him as well as acknowledging and exploring his inner world helped sharpen his writing skills. The time he spent
at his desk remained the same. But his angst eased and (in his own opinion), he became a better writer.
Copyright 2007 Lynn Colwell www.bloomngrow.net
“You'll seldom experience regret for anything that you've done. It is what you haven't done that
will torment you. The message, therefore, is clear. Do it! Develop an appreciation for the present moment. Seize every second
of your life and savor it. Value your present moments. Using them up, in any self-defeating ways, means you've lost them forever.”