Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Living a Making

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When finding my way, I came home from college to have a classic argument with my father. Over dinner the first night, I declared to him with excitement that I was a poet. I hadn’t yet written anything but knew it was true. He was incredulous and frustrated and loudly asked, “How are you going to make a living?” I’m not sure where it came from in me, but I looked at him and said, “I’m going to live a making.” I confess that I’ve spent much of my life learning what that means. And it is living a making for so many years that has led me to the place of true meeting that waits under all our struggles.

I have learned that making a living is tending the assignments that come from “without” while living a making is tending the assignments that come from “within.” Making a living is how we survive, but living a making is how we thrive. We need the strength and resilience to do both.

There is always a tension between surviving and thriving, between the assignments that come from “without” and the assignments that come from “within,” and between making a living and living a making. Part of the journey of individuation is withstanding the tension of both until they work hand in hand.

It’s humbling and inspiring that, no matter how many years I’ve been devoted to the craft of perception, I still wake every day with a sense of starting over and a yearning to get as close to the pulse of life as possible. And I admit that, whether aware of it or not, I write about what I need to draw my soul into the world. So, my books are my teachers. Once I understood this, I found more joy in writing. Now I welcome this vast unknowing. Each book leads to the next. Questions unravel into deeper questions. And here I am: following one question to the next, book by book.

The truth is that I barely understand half of what comes through me. The other half leads me. Still, I know if I give myself over to the creative force, it will use me up. It’s my heart that keeps me here in the world, and the creative force rushing through my heart is what makes any of what you might read.

A Question to Walk With: Describe your own understanding of the difference between making a living and living a making. How are you engaged in each?

This excerpt is from my book, Drinking from the River of Light (Sounds True).

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