Writing every week has had the outcome I was hoping for, and I’m sure the one you expect. Prior to the Weekend Unwind, the only pieces I had written and shared came following my trip to Asia in 2016. Looking back, I realize how different that writing was from this. Clearly, traveling through new places, places that many of my friends and family have never seen, makes writing easier. I wanted to have an impact and experiencing a world full of novelty and grandeur made it easy to forward such feelings onto the reader. The Weekend Unwind has been more challenging, partly because in many ways London is not as foreign as Asia, but moreso because I’m fully invested as a student. Rather than rounding up fresh scenes and customs through hundreds of daily photos, fully invested in the experience, each day is lived with one ear open for a new story. Wide eyes at a supermarket in China easily lead to 1000 words. Unfortunately, grocery trips in my current life don’t hold so much excitement. Rather, it’s a treasure hunt for one of the many impressions that makes life fun.
A change in focus is needed to move from travel writing to ‘everyday’ writing. Sure, the challenge of finding a topic is more difficult when monkeys don’t interrupt a seemingly innocent hike, but far more difficult is balancing the observations with life’s other necessities. A month long trip to Asia leads most people to put you out of their mind, and in turn allows you to forget about them. All energy can be spent absorbing the environment, the people, the customs. Everyday life is different. And it’s not something I’m against. My expectations for others are incredibly high. Regardless of location, I expect messages, calls, and emails to be returned. Relationships shouldn’t disintegrate because of distance. And that takes effort, particularly from the guy who lives on the other side of the world.
The task, then, means not only observing and understanding, but doing so while navigating the rest of life. Discovering new interpretations while building relationships, staying healthy, and studying for finals. It develops a background process that is always looking for openings in our expectations. This background process, the curiosity and attentiveness that makes any interaction a potential discovery, is what makes a story; where the rubber meets the road.
Such a process isn’t unique to writing. Plenty of people keep the light on when the work day ends, hunting for the new Fall catalog at an antique fair or scouting for talent in the church choir. What separates the best, those with an insatiable thirst, isn’t the ability to spot the talent however. Everyone has an eye for talent, whether trained or not. The difference is consistency.
To really value consistency in writing, it’s important to appreciate a story’s origins. An idea may be born out of a decision in class or a walk down the street, a quick interaction or a long conversation. It can happen first thing in the morning or Friday night after a few pops. It may sit in the scope of normal thinking, something about school or London or some other detail that’s in plain view but rarely analyzed. Or, it may require a mental jump to appreciate another person’s situation. It may come from a foreign cab driver whose family and friends live in a war. It may be born out a child’s seemingly ridiculous question to a parent. And each of these situations is just the tip of the iceberg, an indication that there may be something interesting, a path to pursue.
Walking down that path, a few steps toward the story, is what amounts to consistency. Insights are everywhere in the world, but for whatever reason, most make excuses to avoid pursuing them. It may be for a lack of time, a lightbulb that goes off during an important meeting can only be indulged so much. But how often is such a thought reserved for later and how often is it completely forgotten? How often do great conversations shared over beer number five become drunk ramblings by morning? How likely is it that an impactful moment, discussed with a friend on mile two of six, is analyzed when life returns us to the keyboard?
I think this type of consistency is born from the inner fire that is so often mentioned of creators. Those with a deep desire, a need for the next great story or amazing invention, know that life is flexible. Opportunities to take advantage of this flexibility are everywhere, usually most noticeable where they’re least desired. A family reunion somehow turns into an hour long Q&A with your cousin’s friend about Bitcoin. A relaxing post-work chat somehow keeps returning to a solution to a work problem, a problem that put the whiskey in your hand.
Few things can be more frustrating than an expectation spoiled. But that’s what consistency is, really. Welcoming unpredictability and delivering the same response regardless the situation. To be creative, to cast a light on the best things, requires pursuing as many insights as possible. Fortunately or not, great ideas don’t care if you’re ready.