The Encyclopedia Salesman Who Steals Your Dreams

Thanks to Joanna Penn (@theCreativePenn on Twitter) I caught this excellent excerpt from Steven Pressfield on keeping the drama on the page, from his new book Turning Pro:

My life used to be a shadow novel. It had plot, characters, sex scenes, action scenes. It had mood, atmosphere, texture. It was scary, it was weird, it was exciting. I had friends who were living out shadow movies, or creating shadow art, or initiating shadow industries. These were our addictions, and we worked them for all they were worth. There was only one problem: none of us was writing a real novel, or painting a real painting, or starting a real business. We were amateurs living in the past or dreaming of the future, while failing utterly to do the work necessary to progress in the present.

When you turn pro, your life gets very simple.

When we turn pro, the energy that once went into the Shadow Novel goes into the real novel. What we once thought was real – “the world,” including its epicenter, ourselves – turns out to be only a shadow. And what had seemed to be only a dream, now, the reality of our lives.

Yes. This. He’s just described my twenties in that first paragraph. And there’s a healthy dose of my thirties, C.S. Lewis and 1 Corinthians 13:12 in the last one.

I have been waffling lately, friend. I have been flirting with drama, pondering the idea of inviting it back into my life. Like an old boyfriend from so far in the past, you’re sure you must be completely over him. You figure it’s safe. But if you’re finding yourself tempted to strike up a relationship with him again, you’re already telling yourself it’s not.

Drama is like an encyclopedia salesman. You can’t let the encyclopedia salesman in your front door, even just to be polite, even because he looks pitiful and it’s raining and you feel sorry for him. Drama is the time share presentation on your supposedly free vacation. You can’t tell yourself you’ll smile and nod and enjoy the drinks during the presentation and just won’t buy the timeshare.

The rain is an excuse to tell you how he can’t afford an umbrella without this sale. The free drinks are there to dull your mind, convince you how happy you’d be if you had a timeshare in paradise. Everything about those situations is designed to suck you in, lock the door, wear you down, and steal your money.

Drama is worse, because it doesn’t steal your money, it steals your attention. It steals your time. It steals your energy. And stealing your time and attention and energy is the same thing as stealing your life.

You can’t give the Devil a foothold, friend. And I have been hanging on my front stoop, listening to the encyclopedia salesman and not noticing he’s got one foot half in my door. But the good news is that Drama requires an invitation. It can’t bully its way into your life if you don’t let it.  I’m making a distinction here between “Drama” and genuine struggles, the normal ups and downs of life. Life happens; Drama requires an invitation.

So don’t give it one.

I needed that reminder. How about you?

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