“I write to discover how I think about things.”

Unknown Writer From My Freshman World Literature Anthology

At the heart of writing for me is exploration. That being said, it’s very easy for me to lose myself in all the extras: beauty, self-expression, others-expression, argument, emotional movement, etcetra. Not that these things are bad or wrong or that they aren’t part of my writing craft. But for me exploration is at the center. And when I find myself getting too focused on any other of these elements, my craft suffers. I lose motivation. I cease to produce in the degree I know I’m capable of. I find myself listless and wandering like a post-college grad looking for a job (which, for all intensive purposes I am!). But when I bring my writing back to the center, back to exploring things ideas, feelings, things, people, stories, both for myself and others, this is when I get inspired.

Never lose the core of why you do something. When you do, you’ll feel lost, even while doing a thing you love.

The equivalent to this in my running life is when I get too focused on my running speed. How fast I’m going. What my pace is. When I do, I also lose motivation. I cease to run for the pleasure of exploring new places, new streets, new trails. My satisfaction becomes tied to what I think is “good” or ‘fast” which is a terrible place for it to be. What’s the quickest way for me to start to hate running? To make my joy based on my performance. I think that this applies to many other things in life as well. That’s why sometimes I have to take a break from training and just go out and run. No mileage, no pace watch, just running. Just exploring. Just finding new places, roads, and trails I’ve never been on before. And when I do, I find myself more inspired to train again as well.

And that’s the real lesson here, I think: never lose the core of why you do something. When you do, you’ll feel lost, even while doing a thing you love.

Now this asks the question for me, what am I exploring now in my writing life?

The first thing that I’m already doing is exploring my feelings through poetry. I’ve always been a passionate feeler. Yes, I know…everybody is! Okay, let me clarify. I’ve always been a passionate feeler without awesome emotional coping mechanisms. Poetry is, for me, a way of sitting down to explore my feelings about a subject or experience. It’s sometimes cathartic and helps me deal with powerful emotions I feel from day to day. Poetry is largely me-focused. Sometimes (even though poetry is what I write most) I think writing poetry is a bit selfish – a writing style dedicated to just how I feel about things. Sometimes I’m a bit ashamed of this. But then after I’m done feeling bad about my chosen (or God-chosen) style, I remind myself that the central faith of art is that when you feel something odds are someone else feels that way too. And in exploring that feeling and writing it down you help not only yourself but also that other person who also feels the way you do.

But there’s another area in my life begging to explored through writing. Ironically, I’m not quite sure what it is yet. Like a river at night, it’s sort of ethereal, moving, shifting. I don’t know quite what it looks like, though I can hear it and feel that it’s there by the moisture in the air. Often when I write a poem it starts this way, a vague feeling sometimes accompanied by a first line. And that’s when I know it’s time to sit down at my desk and do the work of discovering the rest.

The central faith of art is that when you feel something odds are someone else feels that way too. And in exploring that feeling and writing it down you help not only yourself but also the other person who feels the way you do.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the poem comes out in a single draft. Sometimes I get half way through and lose my way. Sometimes it’s a messy finish, but I get there. Sometimes it’s somewhere in between these things. But the important thing is that when I feel the call I answer it: I sit down at my desk and say, “Here I am with my backpack on ready to explore.” And for some time now I’ve been feeling this but on a bigger scale. Like a dog scratching at the kitchen door, something’s begging to be let out in a bigger way than poetry.

Sometimes and essay or blog isn’t the place for answering questions, only asking them. Not always, just sometimes.But I think that this post is going to be one of those with just the questions. Like looking at an atlas, I’m realizing just how many campgrounds, rivers, lakes, mountain peaks, little green dotted national forests there are to be explored. And the tough part sometimes is picking where to start.

But after awhile of sitting there, either alone or with the one you love, debating which place to head to first, you make a decision. Sometimes there’s a reason for that decision, sometimes there’s not. Sometimes you just need someplace to pitch your tent tonight. But reason or not, if you’re going someplace new, you don’t quite know what you’ll experience. And Oh, and the respect for Mother Nature to be prepared and not to die in the process. I’m not quite sure how this parallels with the writing metaphor, but I’m sure it does somehow.

Now, the next writing/exploration metaphor question is this: what do you do when you’re driving and you run out of gas? But that’s a question for a future post!

This is the essence of exploring: the desire to know the unknown, the faith to choose a direction, and the courage to take a single step.

About The Contributor

My name is William Bowman. I’m a fifteen-year video production expert with a degree in film production and five years of agency video production experience. I’m also the founder and owner of People Project media.