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Words to Live By

March 22, 2013

Paying work being scarce these days, I’ve taken to helping folk with handyman projects in my spare time. Often they’re simple tasks like hanging towel bars or fixing a doorknob. It’s not my favorite job in the world but I’m good at it, and people appreciate my help.

A few days ago I got a call for just such assistance – a faulty doorknob, a new towel bar, a pet door, and a TV that needed to be hung on the wall. The client was a friend of a friend, so I quoted her a reasonable price and scheduled the work for the next afternoon.

She needed a new doorknob. I told her what to get and worked on the other projects while she was at the store. When she came in she gave me a strange look. “Is that your red truck out front?” It was, so I told her. She’d seen it at Trader Joe’s a few days before and marveled at my bumper sticker, Kids Need Happy Parents. A single parent herself who’d recently had ‘the talk’ with her son, it was the first sticker in a long time that she would consider putting on her car.

This quickly led to a conversation about making the sticker and my reasons for doing so, which turned into a discourse about my passion for writing but uncertainty about where to go or what to do with that desire. She seemed interested in continuing the conversation, but even as I spoke I was trying to fix her doorknob; my mind wasn’t completely engaged.

When it came time to settle up and say goodbye she presented me with a gift; a book. The Productive Writer. Which she’d written!

Today, browsing through the first few chapters, I came upon this question: What is your platform? In her words, “Platform is the turf you claim and name as your area of expertise in your writing life, and it’s everything you do to make that expertise visible.” It is “an organizing principle around which a writer’s many expressions of work revolve.”

What’s my platform? I know I have a message, but what is it? Maybe I have too many. Like she was when initially confronted with this concept, I felt lost. How could I possibly condense everything I want to say to the world into a short blurb of a sentence?

Then the realization struck. She’d already handed it to me! There, on the ‘About the Author’ page, she’d written: “Thanks for writing words to live by!”

Words to live by. That’s exactly it. I’m trying to make sense out of this existence, trying to build a life I believe in. Along the way I’m highlighting the absurdities, like that comic of a guy cutting down a tree to build a birdhouse. I don’t have to limit myself to a single message. I don’t have to fabricate myself in the image of a guru to share my words and thoughts. I’m just me, being myself. And ultimately I want to share that journey more than any end destination anyway, because it’s the living that counts.

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