Have you ever had a dilemma and suddenly–without any effort from you–the answer became clear? That’s what happened to me last week.
The dilemma was one of those fuzzy impressions, hard to put my finger on, a nagging weight on my mind, frustration. It seemed to be related to my many writing projects and interests, and the competition we writers face as we attempt to find readers and run our business.
When the dust cleared, the issue, in all honesty, was that I was become more aware of my limitations, and feeling more and more inept as I tried to compete with much more talented and experienced writers. Aargh.
The first “Answer”
While studying what were said to be good examples of short stories, I read “The Little Frenchman and His Water Lots” by George Pope Morris, a 19th century American editor, poet, and songwriter. It’s interesting how he starts out by telling us the theme of his story.
How much real comfort every one might enjoy if he would be contented with the lot in which heaven has cast him, and how much trouble would be avoided if people would only “let well alone.” A moderate independence, quietly and honestly procured, is certainly every way preferable even to immense possessions achieved by the wear and tear of mind and body so necessary to procure them.George Pope Morris
He introduces us to Monsieur Poopoo, living a simple, satisfying life keeping a small toy-store…
“You must recollect him, of course… When a juvenile, you have bought tops and marbles of him a thousand times… There he was as happy as a lark-and there, in all human probability, he would have been to this very day…had he been willing ‘let well alone.'”
When I read those three words, I instantly knew that was the answer to my own dilemma. Instead of focusing on the writing skills and experience I already have, and building on them, I have been frustrated over the new ones I am straining toward. Ah, me.
[By the way, if you prefer to listen to the George Pope Morris story, you can do so here!]
The second “Answer”
As if to underscore Mr. Morris’s point, a few days later I ran across a video of Paul McCartney driving around with a talk show host in the locations featured in many of McCartney’s songs. At the beginning of the video (5:00, but keep watching until 7:45, priceless!), the mega-star recalls that the Beatles assumed their music might have maybe ten years of popularity and relevance. In the 1960s his mother, who had passed away, came to him in a dream, and reassured him by saying, “It’s going to be okay, just let it be”. He’d never really heard that, but he believed her, and was relieved. The next morning, he pondered again what she’d said. Let it be. He let those three little words sink in, and become music. Life-changing–maybe career changing–advice!
By the way, it is a funny video for the most part, but much of it, especially near the end, is also quite thought provoking and heartwarming.
…Which reminded me…
Put another way, as my friend Pat recommended about thirty years ago when I confided to her about a problem I was struggling with, “Stop trying so hard.” Simple yet effective. I immediately took her advice and it did wonders for the current situation. I have returned to it many times since then, and passed it on to other friends. Mr. Morris and Mr. McCartney reminded me of Pat’s advice.
Another passage says, “Do not be anxious or worried about anything.” Philippians 4:6. And my favorite…
In quietness and confident trust is your strengthIsaiah 30:15 , The Bible
Well, there you have it, the same general message conveyed in different words and images. I know I find it easy to forget that I don’t have to stress out over things, and am always relieved to be reminded. I hope some of these words will pop into your mind and “be the answer” some day when you most need them!