Monday Motivation – The Paleontologist

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Welcome to Monday Motivation – Finding the bones

Imagine you are a paleontologist. Yes, I want you to channel your inner seven-year-old. During the day you wander the countryside, your eyes focused on the ground for dinosaur bones. At night, around a blazing fire, you read books on excavation and proper technique.

After wandering for weeks, you finally spot a little bone sticking out of the ground. And so excited, you set up your dig and get to work, but after only a few days, you see the bone is a just a fragment. It isn’t even identifiable. And so you throw it aside and keep wandering. But, you got to practice your new excavation skills for the first time, and so the effort wasn’t wasted.

You wander again until you find another bone, and the dig process starts again. This time you find an entire section of a dinosaur leg. It wasn’t a full skeleton, but you know what? You got more practice. And you saw that maybe the way the bone sticks out of the ground has a lot to do with how intact it will be. Soon, you’ve learned that you need to look for fossils at a certain depth, soil type, and location. You’ve learned the bones that stick right out at you don’t lead to much.

And so finally the day comes. You find a bone with just the right conditions. You set up an entire dig with all the right tools. Day and night, you use a chisel and brush to slowly release the bones from the rock. It takes forever. The work is slow and tedious. Most days you are inches from the bones, but the skeleton is massive. And exciting. It is exactly what you prepared all those nights to find.

Exactly two years after you found that first bone fragment, you look down to see an entire skeleton of a brand-new species of dinosaur. What a find. What a moment. Your back aches. Your hands are banged up, but it was worth it. And so now you set off to remove the skeleton from the ground. It takes another two years, but now the skeleton has been released from the Earth. It is off to a museum to be displayed in a beautiful new exhibit.

After the ceremonies and news articles and champagne and a quick vacation to the beach, you’re right back it, wandering the countryside, looking for another skeleton to dig up.

As writers, our stories are the bones we find in the ground. We didn’t make the bones. Or put them there. They’ve been hidden for millennia, before we stumbled across that one little piece that stuck out to us. And the bones aren’t “of” us. They existed independently, but our journeys merged at just the right time. We found the bones in the ground when we had the skill to excavate it.

Our job as writers is to have the skill, knowledge, and just raw work-ethic to scrape away the dirt with our tiny little brushes, to see where the bones lead, what they show us. We don’t know what is down there until we excavate it.

The overlap with the writing life is one-to-one. This is my go-to story when people ask what it is like to write a book. Because I view myself as a paleontologist of sorts. My stories exist outside of me in a layer of rock. Its going to take my skill, effort, and experience as a writer to extract them.

But, it isn’t up to me to make the skeleton. Like, I don’t get to take the leg bone and make it into an arm bone because I think it’ll work better that way. I am not the leader of the story, I am the follower. The steward.

When I say that, it takes a tremendous pressure off my writing journey. When I view myself in charge, I put expectations on my writing to be smart, compelling, driven, original. But, when I let myself be the one who finds the bones and gently removes them from the rock, I get to follow where they lead. All that counts are my skill and dedication. I can let the story be the story.

The big transformation here is when you let go of being the creator of the bones, you become the vessel for them to be lifted from the rock. Your job is to follow the skeleton. To have the right tools and skill to see where the bones lead you.

I want to take a minute and invite you to schedule a 45-minute intro coaching call with me. There is something incredibly powerful about a coaching relationship, and for some of you who want to tell a story but don’t know how to start or believe in yourself, or get out of your own way, coaching is a beautiful tool to help move you forward. I’m not here to tell you what to do. You already have your own answers. Coaching is a tool to help you hear them. Please visit www.howwriterswrite.com/coaching for more information. 

Thank you for joining me today, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.

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