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Inspiration

By Charles Towne

The one thing I’ve learned from the writing life is that the hounds of knowledge always send the lions of fear running. I learned this from my own life as a zoo director, and para-phrased from Brenda Ueland.

As a zoo director and wildlife photographer I have been mauled by an African lion.  In my lifetime I have been on the verge of drowning twice.  I have swam with sharks, wrestled alligators, had an African leopard shot off the top of me with a ten gauge shotgun, been bitten three times by poisonous snakes, bluff charged by black bears and attacked by an angry African elephant… and after all of this, I am still terrified of writing.

I have been chased by a mad bull elk, had a tooth pulled by a drunken, masochistic dentist without the benefit of Novocaine, lived eighty some eventful years, survived three heart attacks, and yet I am afraid of writing.

The first time I entered a lion’s cage I was deeply moved by two almost overwhelming emotions – fear so intense that I could taste the bile of it rising up in my throat, and a sense of excitement so hot that it burned. There are those times as I write I sense the presence of those same identical emotions.

Perhaps the boy was eight or nine years old when he climbed the tree.

Way up there in the top of that tree he looked around and could see that he was above the tops of the other trees.  Wow, he could see way over there! Then, he never could figure out why, he looked down, and down was an awful long way to the ground.

The first thing that entered his mind was a very profound, “How the dickens did I get way up here?”  And then, ”What if I fall?”  Followed in rapid succession by, “I might break an arm, a leg, my neck!  Daddy always did say I was going to break my fool neck.  OH M’ GOODNESS, I’M GOIN’ T’ DIE!”

To say the boy was scared was an understatement; he was terrified.  He was probably going to starve to death way up there in the top of that tree, or he was going to fall and break his neck, or at the very least, be horribly crippled.

There was no way to know how long he stayed up in the nether regions of that tree.  It seemed like days, but he eventually realized that his destiny was in his own hands, and inch by inch he made it to the ground and arrived home in time for dinner.

The next day, I went back and climbed that darned tree again and went through the same agony, the same fear, all over again.  And again, and again, ad nauseam.

I grew to love that old tree.

For me, writing is like that, continually climbing that tree. And every time after I climb up there among the clouds, I have to make my way, inch by inch, to the ground again (that’s the editing process). And do you want me to tell you a secret?  It never fails; every time I get to the top of my creative writing tree the view is more grand, more wondrous than before.

Ralph Keyes, in his excellent book The Courage to Write, explains it very well, and I quote, “A life of quiet desperation is no alternative for a working writer. To write well, they must risk themselves, and always in public. The one risk a working writer doesn’t run is of slipping into a safe monotonous dotage.”

And there you have it.  Writing for me is the heart of creativity that pumps the blood of purpose through the veins of life.

SEVEN KEYS TO SURVIVING THE WRITER’S LIFE

(1) Know in your heart of hearts that as a writer you possess the gift of life. Some call this gift ‘talent’, others refer to it as ‘creativity’, whatever it is called everyone has it to a lesser or greater degree. Know that you are unique and that you have something important to say.

(2) As a writer, fear is not a thing to be ashamed of. There is not a writer that has not experienced fear – fear of rejection, fear of failure.  Face your fears, your worst nightmares, and your writing will be the better for it.

(3) As writers persisting in our craft, we learn that it is possible to survive this incredible adventure we call, “the writer’s life.”

(4) As a writer you should never forget, the raging lions of the imagination are always, always, always worse than the lions of reality.

(5) As a writer you should remember, fear is a warning intended to keep us from danger, but we must also remember that 98% of all fear is created in the mind.  In other words, it is not based on reality.

(6) As a writer you pay a price for what you do, but you also pay a price for what you don’t do, so write, by all means, write!

(7)  In a bygone era one of the jobs of the sexton, other than that of digging graves and burying the dead, was to listen for the tinkling of a bell. This was in the days before embalming was common, when the poor soul sometimes awoke from a coma to find they had been buried alive.  A cord was tied around the wrist of the unfortunate and on the other end of that cord, above ground, was a bell.  Upon hearing the bell ringing the sexton dug up the recently awakened.

Our job as writers is to listen for the bells of inspiration, and by the light of the lantern of the imagination, we will take up our shovel of research and craft and liberate the buried story.

A WRITER’S PRAYER

You are holy and grand ,Lord God. You are all powerful, and awesome in that power.  Teach me.  Inspire me.  Reveal to me your will in all things. Let me come to you now and pour out my heart to you.  Let me worship you in all of your power and glory.  Accept my heartfelt prayer, and hear my words, for I love you, and you give me great joy.  Guide me into your paths of righteousness.   Let me always realize your presence, let me know your compassion, your love, your mercy, your tenderheartedness, that my life will be acceptable to you.   You are so good to me Lord, you are my keeper, my protector, and my friend; in you do I trust.  There is nothing that I want more than to please you O Holy God.  Let me worship you in the fullness of your glory, for you are my God.  In the sweet, sweet name of my lord and Savior Jesus I ask this, knowing that you will give what I ask. Amen.


Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Beautiful! Yes, it is often the fear of self reflection and bearing of our soul for all to see that makes it so fearful. Your words are like music my dear friend. Keep writing and sharing.

  2. Yes, you created a very profound and thought provoking piece this morning! I think everyone, somewhere inside, has a bit of a writer in them trying to escape to be heard. Most people just call it thoughts, but it really is our deep desire to say what’s in us and not only be heard, but be accepted. The fear of knowing we are never going to be accepted by everyone, keeps most people from doing anything at all, except daily humdrum life. God made each of us unique and valuable, with gifts worth giving. So let’s give of ourselves, be happy and please God.

  3. Csg, wise words! Even though it is a tad off the article, the greatest enemy of the creative gift is criticism. I fear critics have destroyed more great art of all forms than they have ever created. A pox on all critics! Bless you, Chas

  4. I have been with you when you were write. You hide your fear well. As always I look forward to next week.

  5. My dear Wise friends the Weissman family, Shelley and Herbert, and as usual you make me smile. Bless you dear folks, Chaz

  6. Emily Dickenson was compelled to write, but writing to her was a private internal conversation. She lived a reclusive life, rarely shared her poetry. Consequently, she was not recognized as an innovative poet until after her death. Was she afraid of rejection? Is that why she remained private, or did she merely prefer her internal conversations? The fact is, she found solace in her writing . . . I believe that is prods one to write.
    She wrote:
    I am a nobody.
    And you?
    Are you a nobody to?
    Then there are two of us.
    To be somebody –
    How absurd!
    How common,
    Like a frog
    Shouting your name the
    Live-long day
    To an admiring bog.

  7. Dear Dr. Pinky Doodle, writing, or so it seems at least to me, be it poetry, ridiculous limericks, or ludicrous blatherings of noisy nonsense; or even a frog on a log in a bog whispering your name, is all a part of the creative processees that if left unexpressed would somehow diminish all the worlds logs, frogs and bogs until they were no more? Thus and so, you and I are all part of the whole which gives substance and purpose to little Em so that she is no longer a nobody, but a somebody bringing miles of smiles to us all. Blessings to you and yours, Himself

  8. Writing something that blesses, inspires or encourages is a gift. All good gifts come from above…as long as we are listening for the sound of His voice….the tinkling bell so to speak….we are blessed to share what He gives us! Blessings!!!!

  9. Dear Faith, “And He spoke in a still small voice,”yes, a whisper if you will, and we heard the whisper speaking our name. Wow, aint it the truth! Bless you and yours, I love you my little girl, Your papa

  10. Some days I am at a “loss for words” when writing a comment on your articles. That “loss for words” is sometime my fear of not being able to relate to the article. This week is a great example. While I really enjoy reading your works every week I cannot imagine being a writer. I don’t think it is so much a question of courage as it is a lack of desire. Every week you teach us a lesson and I for one intend to remain the student and not the teacher.

  11. Mike, my friend, you are one of the few to acknowledge what I would call a great strength, not a fear but a lack of desire. Therefore, what you do you do with all your might, trusting God to make roses and gardenias grow and flourish where nettles have grown before and making the world a better place for us all. Keep doing what you do best my friend, blessing God’s own by your presence. May our Holy Friend bless you and yours always, Chaz

  12. Another thoughtful piece my friend, I have at times stared at that blank paper and have been astonished at how much fear a blank, white, rectangle can generate! I look back at how and what I learned as a child and remember things I was told and realize how lucky I was. Some of the things were only idiots are never afraid, the secret is in how you handle it, cure a fear of writing by writing, it does not have to be good, no matter what you do there will always be someone better! But it does have to be done! I was taught to climb many different trees, to try and avoid complaincy, that the only real sin was not even trying because everyone fails at something sometime! And finally, I was blessed with a Mom who raised three rather rambunctious boys and I still remember her telling us things like go ahead but if you break your legs don’t come running to me!!! So far the journey has been quite interesting, I like to think I have managed to keep my guardian angel on his toes!

  13. Richard, and just so you get into trouble by broaching the subject of guardian angels, and clever beings they are. I was the only one that actually had a guardian angel that was assigned, not one, but an entire gaggle of angels, three of which were crippled. Have you ever seen an angel with a broken wing? Not a pretty sight if I must say so. I must admit that I am still terrified of writing, but the task must be done so I sit my old tush in my chair and sooner or later I make little squiggles on the paper that man some semblance of sense, or not? Bless you my dear auld friend and may you have the courage to keep writing. Chaz

    • Chaz, in my case it seems to be that I do not lack the courage to write, I just also have the common sense not to! (see, I end sentences with prepositions!)

  14. Richard, one thing I have figured out almost on my own is the assumption that as to involving the rules and suppositions of writing there isn’t a single one that can’t be broken, busted, bent, or badly dented occasionally, once in the while, maybe badly somewhat distorted. Chaz

  15. Well Dear Little Brother … All You Do with Your Heart is a result form your own Soul & Spirit … So, knowing You, keep going ‘cuz You Are An Inspiration !!! GOD Bless You !!!

  16. And the same can be said of you my little buddy. What is the chance that a guy from Venezuela and a guy from Florida, both Christians, meet and become brothers? Praise Papa God, Chaz

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