• Meg Gaertner

Living for the Questions

My mantra for the past several months—and it’s a good one—has been “Chill the heck out, Meg.”

Feel free to insert an expletive if you like. I often do.

This mantra is a reminder to breathe, a temporary salve against the chronic stress and uncertainty that comes from being a creative person trying to make it creatively when the rest of the world (and my bank account) suggests I go get a real job.

This type of living raises a lot of questions, and often offers few answers.

There are always the more practical questions that come up:

  • When am I going to be paid for my writing?

  • Will I have an audience who enjoys what I write?

  • When am I going to go back to a full-time job?

  • Will my writing career be a success (whatever that even means)?

Then there are the trickier questions, the soul-deep questions, the crux-of-my-life questions:

  • What am I capable of, both as a writer and as a person?

  • What is possible in my life?

  • Am I reaching my potential?

When I get lost in trying to figure out how to answer these questions, how to meld creativity and business, passion and economics, inspiration and income—I remind myself of my someday readers.

The whole purpose of my new fantasy work-in-progress—as if a book even needs to have a purpose beyond existing for its own sake—is the feeling I want readers to take with them when they turn the final page, a sense that

  • life is a beautiful thing.

  • not all questions were made to be answered.

  • the world abounds with possibility and magic for those who take the time to slow down and look beyond themselves.

When such a wondrous world exists—and it’s right here, right outside my window as I write this, right in the fine grain of my writing desk, right in the heart from which these words emerge—when such a wondrous world exists, would I even want to be able to quantify it? To fully know it? To have all of those answers?

When I give myself a second to breathe, I realize that I don’t want to know what I am capable of. Rather, I want to continue to push that limit, come up against my edge, and then blast through that glass wall with a dozen machine guns and hand grenades.

Similarly, I don’t want to know what is possible in my life. Having the hard and fast answer to that question would be like a guillotine slicing down a hairs-breadth from the skin of my nose. I’d rather stumble blindly and bullheadedly ahead, walking right past the landmines and pitfalls that only catch those who look for them.

Living into the question rather than the answer requires a lot of trust and the courage to keep my heart open and willing and ready to be moved. As Skylar Grey sings in her song “Moving Mountains”:

For once, once in your life / for once push your ambitions aside / and instead of moving mountains / let the mountains move you.

Living into the question impacts how I relate to money (what does security look like? What does it mean to be abundant?), to work (what makes a job a “real” job? What makes one job better than another? Does the fact that I get to “make stuff up” as a writer make what I do less important, even though truth can oftentimes be easier to grasp through fiction than fact?), to success (who gets to define success? What kind of success?).

Living into the question demands a measure of spontaneity and comfort with the unknown. Admittedly, the unknown is often a scary and lonely place to be.

But I’d rather live into the question, live my life as an experiment and as play.

I’d rather live my life as a blank page than as an old worn copy of someone else’s path.

#writing #reflection

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