Thank you to all of you who took some time out of your week to tell me your thoughts on this letter. The quantity of replies honestly took me by surprise - and your thoughtfulness and honesty…well, I just feel very honoured to have you all as readers.
You have given me lots to think about. I’m going to keep mulling things over for a couple of weeks and tell you what I’ve decided at the end of the year.
I’m sorry today’s letter is a little later than usual but you’ll see why in a moment!
I’m not a religious person but, as I get older and more in touch with my creative self, I have discovered that I am perhaps a spiritual person. While the science totally explains it for me I’m very open to the idea that there might be something higher - not a God, but maybe some kind indescribable energy that exists in the vast empty spaces up there.
I don’t think it matters what it looks like or what anyone calls it, so I just call it The Universe.
A decade ago, I was wrestling with the fear of quitting my job and walking my own path, and I almost didn’t go through with it. But one day I got a call - out of the blue - from someone I had never heard of, offering me a little bit of work, if I was free to take it. (#39)
It was the extended hand I needed to take the leap and, in the years that followed, things like that kept happening. I am, as I have admitted before, a pretty terrible freelancer: I spend too much time on my own personal creative endeavours than on finding clients. But somehow the clients keep appearing, usually just at the moment I was going to run out of runway. Not always my ideal clients, but clients none-the-less.
2017 was a close-call year. I left two long-term projects and lost most of my reliable income. I should have been scrambling for new work but I was committed to finishing Parallax. It was right then, out of nowhere, I received an email from the New York Times.
Are these things coincidences? Maybe. Another stroke of luck for a privileged white man? That’s a reasonable conclusion also. An unremarkable outcome of our interconnected world? Probably!
But, on this winding path in this frankly terrifying world, the thought that there is something greater out there that has my back…I’m not ashamed to say I find it really comforting.
Julia Cameron would call this Synchronicity and Liz Gilbert names it Big Magic.
They both put it far more eloquently than I can, that The Universe wants us all to be creative. It is abundant with ideas, energy and support and is generous in dishing it out. If you take two steps towards your creative ambitions, The Universe will conspire to meet you halfway.
Not always on your timescale, or exactly how you wish it, but it’ll be there nonetheless.
I wouldn’t share this, except something has just happened that I couldn’t not tell you about.
My partner, who I’ve called C all year but is actually called Caroline, is a very creative person. She loves theatre and comedy and at the start of this year she announced she wanted to write a play.
Throughout the spring she diligently made time every day to write for an hour or so. She found it difficult, was never satisfied with the end result, but persisted anyway. She read books and signed up to improv classes. And like this, she quietly worked away all year.
“There’s a WhatsApp message I’m avoiding” she told me over dinner about six weeks ago.
Her friend who runs the improv group had rented a small theatre for an end of year show but was struggling to find material to fill it.
“She’s asked me if I want to write a play for the show” Caroline said.
She was reluctant, of course, but to me, it seemed a no-brainer, because in my eyes, the short version of this story was looking inescapably like this:
Caroline: I want to write plays.
Caroline shows up and writes for a year.
The Universe: Hi, have a theatre.
That felt like some serious Big Magic to me.
It was a tiny stage above a pub and Caroline had to turn the whole thing around in about three weeks - but The Universe does not give you what you want exactly how you want it. The Universe was not asking for the play to be a masterpiece, just to be done.
And so, just a couple of hours ago, Caroline put on her play - a hastily written christmas satire for five actors.
It was funny and sharp and the audience loved it and I’m bursting with pride. Caroline moved in the direction of her dreams, and The Universe moved towards her.
This probably all seems hokey to you and that’s OK. I’m not writing this because I want to convert you; we all have to find our own way to get through this life, after all.
I just keep seeing evidence of its existence and acknowledging it brings me a little bit of comfort and awe.
Until next Sunday,