October 10th, 2004
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principles rather than formulas…confessions of an autodidact

I am one of those people who is constantly looking for answers of some kind. It is just my nature. This is the reason that I love books so much. If there is a topic that I need to know about I will find a book on it and figure it out for myself. I am an autodidact. Maybe this is why I did not do well in school, I do not like to be told how something is, I want to discover it myself. Read about it on my own.
Early on I was drawn to self help books, a fact that is not very glamorous to some, (maybe not to myself even now.) There seems to be a stigma of sorts attached to the person who reads self help. An assumption that they are needy, lacking in self confidence, a willingness to trust in the beliefs of others more than their own. I will admit to having these feelings now when I enter the self-help section in a bookstore. Yet I am still drawn there for some reason. It is a human trait to want to seek out answers to our questions, and to regularly question our existence. Where not the early philosophers of our time the precursor’s to the self-help movement? The existentialists themselves offered much advice on how one should view themselves, god (or absence of god), and offered methods for facing our mortality.
Over time as I gained more confidence in myself and my ideas, my interest in self-help titles waned. I became less interested in people who wanted to share their “methods” of living (and coping), and more interested in those authors who live by example, sharing their life experience not in a dogmatic way but in an annecdotal sense. The ones that actually live what they talk about. Life does not always go according to some formula, but is rather a compilation of transitions and evolutions. Formula falls apart in the wake of intense change, adaptation is key. The difficulty I find comes not with in seeking the answers to our questions, but rather in putting one’s faith in someone else’s answers.
You may find this strange coming from an author whose book can often be found in the self-help section of your local bookstore. Yes, indeed. But these are the things that run through my mind as I think about writing another book. The best books in my opinion are the ones that cause me to ask the interesting questions of myself, not necessarily provide answers. (Just as the best teachers I had in school.) Some of the great works of literature (fiction) may act as the best form of self-help, causing us to ask questions of ourselves, forcing us to look at what we believe in, what scares us, what fill us up.
For several months now I have been thinking about what to do as a follow-up to ‘Living Out Loud’. Trying not to push it too much, I want the answer to come to me naturally. I refuse to do a book for book’s sake, because that is what is expected of me, it must be genuine. It must have a reason to exist. (Maybe ‘follow-up’ is not the best way to phrase it). I do not want to be the author who puts out a book a year because that is what people expect of them. Nor do I wish to do the same thing over and over, (this also goes against my nature). When I have put things out into the world it has been a kind of ‘giving birth’ to an idea, there was always a knowing in my gut that I had to get this thing out. I will admit that there is definitely a pressure when one has published to “follow-up”, “strike while the iron is hot”, “keep people interested in your work”. All fear based thinking. I fall into it from time to time. But I know that is not where the good work comes from. That is not the motive I wish fuel my ideas. And it does not make for an honest creation.
“Charles {Eames} said that the first step in designing a lamp (or anything) was not to ask how it should look–but whether it should even be. He always started fresh from the beginning. He showed us how to develop principles rather than follow formulas.” -Corita Kent (from Learning By Heart)
There are many things bubbling up in me yet I don’t know what form they will take. Both my journal and the blog serve as a planting ground of sorts, allowing me to put down ideas and let them formulate without judgement. They are not about doing ‘great’ work, but instead about giving space to the concepts. More importantly about living the concepts.
Only then will I have something to write about.

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