“It is a long time since I have asked heaven for anything, but still, my arms will not come down.”
It’s so simple, yet few us rarely do it. We yearn…we ache…we silently whisper and secretly wish.
But how often do we ask?
As writers, we can often find ourselves locked in daydreams – imagining what life would be like once we can truly devote ourselves to our craft – but acting on those far-off wishes is another story. And while I’ve talked before about the necessity of writing every day, I haven’t really discussed the flipside: the way that regular writing can help us achieve, manifest and actualize our wants and desires.
Ugh! I sound like some acolyte of “The Secret.” I am no wannabe self-help guru. That is not my intent, and I certainly don’t want to bury my opinions or suggestions under a pile of overused words like “manifest” and “actualize.”
Instead, let me pose a simple question – what have you asked for recently? I don’t mean “pass the salt” or “can I get a 2% latte.” I mean requesting real help and guidance.
“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
It can’t be that simple, right? But when was the last time any of us tried it? And what would we do if all our prayers were suddenly answered?
It would be chaos, right? Or at the very least more than mildly disconcerting. And don’t forget Oscar Wilde’s warning, “When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.”
When you think about it, there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty in asking for what you need.
What if somebody says “no?”
What if they say “yes?”
While I’ve always believed that “no” is not the setback it appears to be, I understand the heartbreaks and headaches you can encounter when you are denied. But, from a philosophical standpoint, if the answer is “no” then you’re pretty much exactly where you started. Asking at least presents the possibility of a change in circumstances, a “green light” that lets you move on to the next step.
Of course, it’s always easy to be Zen about things when you’re far removed from the desire. When it really matters, “no” can be more terrifying than no answer at all.
But a “yes” can be equally frightening, and I think sometimes we don’t ask precisely because we’d rather not deal with the ramifications. What if you do get that dream job in another state? Now you have to move, maybe make new friends….you could fail miserably and end up dying alone in a tiny studio apartment…unloved-unwanted-unsung. And good lord, imagine if you got that picket fence and the picture-perfect family that goes along with it! Diapers, and carpools and vacations at Legoland.
Yeah…sometimes “no” can seem like a more manageable outcome.
But you know you don’t want to live that way. If you’re a writer (or a creative soul in general), you know that the “yeses” are what make it all worthwhile. The journey instead of the destination and all that jazz. Giving in to “no” means giving fear the upper hand. And if we are afraid, then we can’t ever really be free
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
About a decade ago, Albert Brooks wrote and directed a marvelous little film entitled “Defending Your Life.” If you haven’t seen it, give it a shot. Brooks is a great comedic writer/actor, and Meryl Streep is always a delight. The premise of the film relates to what I’m talking about: in the movie, Brooks plays a man who dies and finds himself in a sort of purgatory. The purpose of this pit-stop on the way to heaven is to determine if the recently deceased has learned the real lessons of life, or if they must return to try, try again. Brooks is appointed an attorney who attempts to convince a panel of judges that the character has indeed learned to face fear and should be allowed to move on. There’s a prosecutor (of course) who uses evidence from Brook’s life to demonstrate that the character has, in fact, allowed his entire life to be ruled by fear and so he must return and start all over again.
You can probably guess what ultimately happens, but the way in which the character finally overcomes fear is a bit of a twist: he has to ask for what he wants.
Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.
William S. Burroughs
When it comes to writing, it’s okay to ask: for help, for inspiration, for guidance, for just one goddamn minute to think! You won’t necessarily get what you want, but if you look hard enough, you just might find the answer that was waiting all along.
In the book Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach offers up this advice:
“Today, start asking…Ask for the day off. Ask for a raise. Ask when the next sale will be. Ask Spirit for a daily portion of grace. Ask Divine Wisdom for operating instructions. Ask your guardian angel to manifest holy assistance. While you’re at it, ask for a miracle.”
“Ask for what you need and want. Ask to be taught to ask the right questions. Ask to be answered. Ask for the Divine Plan of your life to unfold through joy. Ask politely. Ask with passion. Ask with a grateful heart and you will be heard.”