What Is My Purpose in Life? And a Book Review.

Do you ever ask yourself that question?

Do you ever ask yourself that question repeatedly at 3:17 a.m., when you’ve been awake since 1:30 a.m., and hear nothing but silence in response because it’s dark as night because, well, it’s the literal middle-of-the-night?

Yeah. Me, too. Not that it’s a new question, and not that it sparked any kind of existential crisis. Just that it’s there, it lingers, sometimes stronger than others.

The hard part is knowing the answer can only come from me, and I feel like I’m running in circles, running out of time to find out.

Video by Prawny from Pixabay

I have done massive work to get to where I am and I know I’m on the right path. I know I’m refining as I go.

Normally, I’m OK with that answer of not knowing for sure where this collection of cells and consciousness is heading, but feeling I’m pointed in the right direction.

But not today (or tonight, three hours ago, anyway.). I feel like my internal compass is jammed, or that the magnetic poles somehow shifted and I’m afloat on an iceberg melting beneath my feet. I have the urge to grab on to something, like Rose on her flotsam (there WAS room for Jack. I may not know my purpose in life but I know she could have been kind and moved over) but there’s nothing there to hold on to that will bring me comfort in my questioning. No security.

Exactly. Credit to Meg at Half and Half Blog. View her post here.

What is my purpose in life directly correlates to the question of what is the purpose of life. What’s funny is that I think I know the answer to that one.

We’ll save that answer for later. Back to the witching hour dilemma of my purpose in life.

Still don’t know, TBH. But I remembered a digital download in Libby that expires this week waiting for me to read. I convinced myself that saturating my eyeballs with the brain-altering affects of blue light from my iPhone would be fine for the purposes of reading myself back to sleep, which I do when insomnia strikes.

The book is Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. You should thank him for this blog post. Here’s his email if you’d like to: austin@austinkleon.com. (Fun fact, in looking that up, I discovered he’s from Circleville, OH. That’s about 25 minutes from me. Small, wild world we live in.)

The book came into my sphere from a podcast recommendation (I forget which podcast). I haven’t read any of Austin’s other works but will probably check them out now that he’s made my insomnia pay off.

The book is a short, easy read. I finished the entire thing in about 45 minutes, maybe a little less. The prose is like hanging out with a friend–not stodgy, and not written for any other purpose than to share and enlighten…enlighten the mind, enlighten the soul from worry and confusion and lack of direction.

It’s exactly what I needed. Maybe not at the exact waking hour I needed, because I’m going to have to catch up on my sleep sometime later today. Here are some takeaways from Kleon’s book (that my brain was able to process on minimal sleep):

Middle of the Night Book Review for Show Your Work!

  1. The creative life is/can be lonely. It can be easy to give up/give in on creative work and creative dreams.
  2. We all have a creative purpose, even if you’re not connected with your creativity yet. (I may have extrapolated that).
  3. While it’s a great, meaningful accomplishment to publish/sell/make money/gain notoriety from our art and creative work, it’s more important that we begin to share the processes by which our art and creative work come into being. This is where we undiscovered or disconnected or creatives bobbing about on flotsam in the wild seas of life can find our way back toward ourselves, our craft, and our communities.
  4. People are quite possibly more interested in our creative, behind-the-scenes life (as a writer, painter, poet, computer programmer) than they are in our polished and perfected pieces. There’s a mystique to the life of the creator (definitely lower-case c) that can transmute external curiosity to community.
  5. Stop being afraid to be your whole, messy, unpolished creative self and start showing up in the world the way you want.
  6. You are interesting, engaging, cool, and creative…but you’ll never know it if you don’t show that soft, tender, scary part of you to others.

Both my review and the book are small but mighty. What he said and how he said it really coalesced in my sleep-addled cerebrum to lead me back to this blog. Yes, I’ve been away for some time. No, I haven’t quit. Yes, I’m writing another blog on an unrelated matter, but this is the space that called to me for this post.

You see, while I’m convinced the meaning of my life revolves around getting bylines and publishing credits, Kleon’s book made me realize that sharing the process of the writer’s life is where meaning can happen, too. What you may not know is that I have a bad habit of starting and quitting blogs. Well, maybe you had an inkling since I’d not posted here since last year–kudos to the sleuths out there–but in all seriousness, since I started my first blog back around 1994 or so, one of my dreams that I haven’t really allowed myself to have is to make a living from blogging. (Bet you didn’t know that.)

It isn’t that I quit blogging, really, it’s that I don’t get much engagement and feel like I’m a waste of creative time. If I’m writing and no one is reading, then why write? I should go get a job somewhere (my leave of absence from teaching is coming to a close in a month and I’m not going back), make use of my time, be productive, do something with my life that others find valuable.

Except that isn’t what I want. I want to blog and be known as a blogger through blogging. I know the term is dead in some circles. I know that once I can get my feet wet and my words established that I can use my blog as a springboard for other things. Believe me, I’ve heard, read, YouTubed, and workshopped it all.

I want to be a blogger so much that I started a blog with the intent of it being my next creative source of income. I know it doesn’t happen overnight (but if I was able to finish a book and a blog post in one night, anything is possible…nah…), and I am learning that while I may know writing, I don’t know SEO, keywords, metrics, conversion rates, affiliate links, and all that. I like learning those things, but while I do, I still have few/no readers on the new ‘business’ blog, and that wounds the creative soul.

It makes me want to give up.

But after reading this book, I am not going to give up, quit, or go gentle into that good night (even though it technically is still night. Terrible, I know. Leave me a comment if you got the reference.)

In fact, I’m going to get louder. I’m going to return here for the reasons I started this blog during the pandemic, as a daily check-in. I don’t know if you’ll get prose, photos, or some weird middle-of-the-night book review (check!). What I do know is that this book just inspired me in the best way to be honest about the struggle of the creative and share the journey. Hope you can come back for the ride.

What if the purpose of life is to simply live in the way that feels right for you, and to show that beautiful iteration to the world? (oh, and maybe to get enough sleep…we’ll work on that.)

Have a great day. I’m going to go watch the sunrise.

xox

Beth

2 thoughts on “What Is My Purpose in Life? And a Book Review.

  1. My purpose has changed over the decades, and now, in retirement, I have a list of purposes, headed with reading books to first and second graders. Everything else takes a backseat to these purposes. Anything that requires time and energy, I look at very carefully because those resources are limited now in my older years.

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    1. I love that you’re in touch with your purposes and know what makes the list of the most important. It can be tough with so many things in life vying for attention, but when you figure out the right ones, it’s magical~

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