So, I’m reading Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man (I know, I know – I still haven’t finished it. But A., I’m in Grad School, and B., I’m closer to the end than I was yesterday!) and just ran across a great couple of pages in which I believe the author is giving some wonderful inspiration to the reader. The following scene shows Arlen (one of the story’s protagonists) working in a library.
**And don’t worry – there are NO SPOILERS here, just some good dialogue and (I thought) a couple of nice inspirational messages.
Arlen took an hour each morning to read, then reluctantly put his book down and got to work. (The Warded Man, p. 206)
That’s the first message. Read. In 2004 I purchased a vocabulary-building series called Verbal Advantage whose host, Charles Harrington Elster, guided me through the wondrous waters of English vocabulary. Without digressing too much, it’s a purchase well worth the money. In one of the chapters Elster related that the national average for college-educated adults was TWO BOOKS A YEAR. Yes, two.
Now, I’m not the fastest reader around. In fact, I feel like often times, I can’t even get into third gear with reading. But with that kind of statistic, all I need to do his hit three books in twelve months. That’s a book every four months! If I can’t do that, something’s way off.
But, the days go by and we throw out myriad reasons for not reading: “I don’t have time, I’m too busy, wish I could, but, you know how it goes, I’d love to, but my kids/wife/friends/parents have this thing tonight and…..”and on and on and on. Yeah, we know. But, you know what, when you really want something, (I’m not talking ‘kinda’ want, or ‘sorta’ want. I’m talking when you REALLY want something, you don’t let any excuse get in the way – cue Example #2 on the next page. Arlen’s friend Jaik is asking him where he finds time to practice his craft.
“Then when do you find time to practice messengering?” Jaik asked.
“I make time,” Arlen said.
“How?” Jaik asked.
Arlen shrugged. “Get up earlier. Stay up later. Sneak away after meals. Whatever you need to do. Or would you rather stay a miller your whole life?” (The Warded Man, p. 207)
And that pretty much sums it up. The question, truly, is ‘what do you want?’ Not what you tell people you want, not what your major in school is, not what your job title is, but ‘What do you want in life?’ What do you want to BE?’ It’s not about telling people. Words are just words. We’ve all heard the pithy little phrase, ‘actions speak louder than words.’ Well, this is a nice subtle reminder that time waits for no one. And if you spend years merely talking, telling people you want to do this or that, telling people how you’re going to play for the Bulls, or own a yacht and sail around the world, or get a PhD, write a book, run a marathon and all that stuff, it’s all empty without action.
Our actions are the true speakers of our heart’s desires. Ask yourselves what you TRULY want, and, without words, go from there. You will hit walls, you will have to cross mountains, but at the end of the day, you do it because you want it. This is why we must live our lives just as the characters in the stories we adore. We must show, and never tell.
Peter, Arlen, thank you.