Chapter Three: Revision.

There comes a point in life where we might master a lesson, but we don’t want to leave the lesson just yet. No, we’d rather spend more time being masters of this lesson. We want to continue to inhabit a space that we’re comfortable with. A space where we know our way around. A space where everything is familiar to us.

A lesson that may have been a pain in our back for such a long time, because it was such a difficult lesson to learn, now, ironically, becomes a source of comfort. A security blanket.

And yet, at the exact moment when we start becoming comfortable with a lesson, that is usually the exact moment when the clock starts to wind down—and the alarm goes off—signaling that the lesson is over. Time to move on to the next one.

But we’re not ready. We don’t want to go.

What the next lesson is we don’t know yet, and that’s what scares us. The unknown.

It always seems that it’s only briefly after we’ve mastered a lesson, that we’re whisked away again, into the next phase, the next lesson, the next chapter.

The More You Master Life, The More Life Expects Of You

Life doesn’t like us being comfortable for very long, does it? Life likes us constantly moving. Changing. Growing.

So as soon as we’re comfortable with a situation, the situation changes, and we’re flipping out.

Options that were closed to you before are now cracking open. And you don’t know what to do with all the new possibilities. It can be overwhelming.

Ideas you once thought were concrete suddenly take on a new kind of vulnerability. Old ideas start to crumble under the weight of new ones—right before your very eyes.

And how were you to know that, after passing this class, there was a new, far more advanced class just around the corner? How were you to know that with every new lesson, the class would bigger, the lessons would get more cryptic, the teacher would get more intimidating, and the homework would become a whole lot more daunting?

But I suppose that’s what inevitably happens to all students who pass the “end of the year” test. They don’t end school, they just move on to the next level. They’re not taken off the hook as they had hoped.

Laying Down Our Old, Worn Out Tools

A few months ago I was having a conversation with my friend E. She was talking to me about how our coping mechanisms are meant to be temporary. She said that coping mechanisms are only meant to get us through a certain tough spot in life, but once their usefulness is over, these mechanisms must be relinquished in order to allow us to grow.

At first, this statement bothered me because I never thought I’d have to let go of my coping mechanisms. My coping mechanisms were like old, worn out tools for me. Tools that I used to get me through the tough spots in life. They were reliable. They were comfortable. They were mine.

It made me very uneasy to think that I would have to relinquish these old tools and replace them with something else.

But after a while of thinking about it, I knew my friend E was right. Putting away our old, worn out tools is the first step to successfully leaving our comfort zone.

Don’t get me wrong. Our old, worn out tools were great. They were not useless at the time we truly needed them. At that time, our old tools successfully served their purpose: they helped us overcome.

But now that the lesson is mastered, these old tools are no longer necessary.

So, we need to set these old, worn out tools down and open our hands to receive brand new ones. What these tools look like, and who will give them to us, we don’t know yet. But we can’t possibly be ready to receive new tools if we’re still carrying our old ones.

As a new lesson looms, the time has come for brand new tools. Brand new ideas. Brand new thoughts. Brand new perspectives. Brand new ways of looking at the world.

The brand new tools are what will help us master the new task at hand. These brand new tools will humble us and encourage us to let go of what we thought we knew for sure, in order to embrace what is, in fact, for sure.

As we move forward, we might contradict our past selves.

We might, for instance, begin to realize that life isn’t always about having the courage to take risks, or having the courage to keep going, but maybe life is also about… something else.

The Courage to Revise

Leaving our comfort zone, and summoning up the courage to revise, means we have to be okay with realizing that what we knew to be right, may be wrong; that what we knew to be concrete, may be more fluid than we thought.

Who we were yesterday, may not be the person we’re going to become tomorrow. And the world we thought we we’re familiar with, may actually be stranger than we ever thought it was.

No wonder we love comfort so much. It’s one of the hardest things to leave.

Therefore, the best way to summon up the courage to leave our comfort zone is to go forward with the spirit of an eager student. We must try to let go of our dread, and simply become excited about the new lesson, the new teachers, and the new tools we will begin to use. We must enter the new classroom with a wide-eyed curiosity and a thrilling openness.

It really does feel like one’s first day of class at a new school when you’re leaving your comfort zone.

So, go forward with the willingness to learn and soak up all the new information like a sponge. Go forward with a willingness to ask questions when you don’t understand, and a willingness to make mistakes, and look foolish. Thirdly, go forward with a willingness to stick with the lesson for as long as it takes you to master it.

And, of course, you must enter the new classroom with a trust in your new teacher, and a trust in her own, unique way of providing guidance.

We must allow ourselves to be creative once more, and be open to abandoning old formulas that we’ve relied on thus far because they were safe and served us well. Because now these old formulas are exactly the things that are holding us back.

As we summon up the courage to revise, the questions we must seriously ask ourselves are these:

“Can I allow myself to look at the world differently? Can I allow myself to be taught by new teachers? Can I allow myself to try on new tools and new formulas? Can I allow myself to let go of comfort, and give myself the freedom to grow, which, in the end, will bear me more fruit than simply staying stagnant? Can I allow myself to look at life as an event that unfolds in stages, and not in one, uninterrupted frame? Can I allow myself to live in each of these stages, mastering each stage, but not letting a single stage master me?”

And at last:

“Can I be okay with losing all that I once had, in order to gain so much more?”

Revision

Two years ago today I started this blog, and on that day I made a vow to finish the first draft of my novel. Today I renew that vow: I commit to finishing the third draft of my novel by January 1, 2013.

Now, where that vow leads me this year is anybody’s guess. But as I stay true to that vow, I hope to remain open to any new vision that comes my way.

That being said: Chapter Three of the C2C begins today.

much “Happy Two Year Anniversary Courage 2 Create!”

Ollin

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35 comments on “Chapter Three: Revision.

  1. BC (before children) my husband and I had a sailboat in the Hudson River. At times the tides were so strong that you needed to keep sailing forward to maintain your position. If you did nothing you would find yourself miles from where you want to go. At other times, working with the current you could go further and faster than before. When we walk through life it is like walking through a current. Nothing stays the same and if we are not willing to revise, move forward, learn more, we will find ourselves drifting with the current and may not like where we end up. I get nervous stepping out of my comfort zone, but it is only in the new territory that I feel a great excitement and challenge. I am a believer in God, and it took years for me to get to God. God did not save me for me to stay the same, He wants me out there, out of my comfort zone and forging new territory for His Kingdom.

    Have a blessed day. This was a great post.

    • Ollin says:

      What a perfect analogy Heather. I’m going to think about that analogy this year – I have to keep going forward or else I’ll be lost to the current. Great advice! Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. unikorna says:

    I had to stop and tell you how delightfully inspiring your blog is . I am a beginner blogger and I’ve been looking for some blogging tips. I’ve discovered there is a lot to learn here🙂. Kisses…

  3. Cindy McGean says:

    You’ve definitely captured that feeling at the end of a draft. I think in your opening you’ve also glanced at a piece of the struggle of knowing when to STOP revising. I’m closing in on the end of my latest revision of a novel (I think this makes the 5th draft??) and the sense of leaving the familiar as I prepare to face a novel I HAVEN’T spent so much time with definitely feels like what you describe at the top of this post.

  4. Shaleen says:

    I wanted to thank you for this post Ollin. I meditated this morning and the subject of your post was precisely what came through to me. Those old coping mechanisms are just that…like the teddy bear used to be when we were younger. Perfect at the time for where we were in our evolution, however not going to do us much good if we kept clinging to it instead of playing with new friends in the park:-)
    Such a true lesson…just not always so easy to apply. Your post and Heather’s analogy above really help to see it for what it is though. Time to let go of obsolete comforts!

    • Ollin says:

      Oh yes! Definitely not easy, and I sense that this year will be me trying to figure out how exactly to do that, and I want to hopefully share everything I learn so that you all can do the same. Wish me luck!

  5. That’s awesome. I look forward to one day reading your novel.

  6. Jackie Cangro says:

    May the next chapter bring you as much joy and inspiration as this one did.

  7. Tonia Marie Houston says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey, and best wishes on the new chapter of your life, and with your third round of revisions. I’ve just begun the revision process on my first book, and your words make it all a little less scary. Cheers and happy writing!

  8. jmcmurray says:

    I admire your ability to stick to it. I understand where you are coming from. My 1st novel finally got it’s “final” rewrite. I am excited as all get-out about it. I wish you nothing but good luck.

  9. RD Meyer says:

    Revision, true revision, is one of the hardest things to do. We can all cut words, but changing content is hard for two reasons: first, we tend to get emotionally tied to what we’ve written; second, substantial revision changes everything that follows, which means more work.

    It’s tough, and it takes courage and determination to do.

  10. Anne Kemp says:

    Wonderfully written and reflective – I’ve enjoyed your journey Ollin!!!

    XO,

    Anne

  11. Rainamay says:

    Ollin:

    Nice! All I have to say is “get outta my head man!” I have never had anyone write about or even talk about things that were (unbeknownst to them) my concern at the very same moment. It is quite eerie, but it keeps me coming back to read your next entry. I agree with all that you have said…only I am not quite there yet…I’m working on it, (or should I say, it is working on me), but it’s coming, I can feel it. I’ve left my comfort zone many times in my life and every time, it made me stronger, wiser, and more resilient; only, I think that you become more resistant and/or hesitant with age…as the stamina of youth begins to wane and you WANT to slow down and settle in. The truth is, if you have something to offer, there IS no slowing down or settling, and sometimes, there is no plan B…you roll with it, adapt, and carry on because change is inevitable, and if you don’t move with it…the past will swallow you.

    • Ollin says:

      Beautiful said, rainamay! I loved your take on the subject. Oh yes, it is difficult and that’s part of the fear of the new, next lesson: it’s hard because we have no idea–no previous framework for it. It’s so new. That’s why it’s so difficult. We know our way around our old lesson, but the new lesson, we don’t have a clue. And that’s why it’s so hard and that’s why we stick to what’s comfortable.

  12. Fantastic post Ollin. I am motivated by your persistence and dedication to your work in progress. So much about your post resonates with me. I am in the the midst of a drastic rewrite of my life plan as I step out of my career as a physician in to a new realm as a writer. You are so right, comfort is one of the hardest things to leave. However, comfort is a poor substitute for seeking what you are truly passionate about; what defines you in this moment and will redefine you in the future. Thanks!

  13. You’re making me think of the “beginner’s mind” which I first learned through martial arts, and then through Natalie Goldberg in her book Writing Down the Bones. The humility to always take the stance of a student, ready to learn, gracious enough to admit faults, ready to grow and gain wisdom more readily than dig in heels to pride and stubbornness. Happy anniversary, good luck on draft 3, and thank you!🙂

    • Ollin says:

      That’s right. Like that story of the monk and the overflowing teacup. Or like The Matrix: “empty your mind.” You got it.

    • Wow, such sage advice Elise. I will certainly keep this in mind as I travel down this path as a writer. It really does put you in a position to consider endless opportunities.

  14. Two years already! Wow! Congrats Ollin and good luck for your next draft.

  15. Nymfa Aranas says:

    It’s great finding this blog! Indeed, writers should do more of courageous writing.and revising.

  16. jess says:

    I am so glad to have found your blog (via HedgeWicket)! Your words here and the perspective you offer are familiar to me, yet beautifully expressed and a timely reminder with where I am in my life at the moment. Thank you. I’ve experienced that kick in the pants out of my comfort zone more times than I care to admit (perhaps one day I’ll learn to anticipate it and not end up with a bruised back side!). I think it’s important to remember especially in those moments that the Universe is conspiring on our behalf and not against us.

    Happy anniversary to you, Ollin. May this year find you blessed beyond your imagination! I look forward to visiting more🙂

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