By: Jamie Collins
A few months ago, my in-laws visited our home. They live a few hours away in a small town called Vincennes, Indiana and visit us every few months. The visit would prove to be a life-altering one, although I certainly didn’t realize it at the time.
While en route to a “ladies day out” consisting of a little retail shopping therapy, a nice lunch, and the occasional gourmet cupcake or chocolate mousse indulgence to mark the end of a conversation-filled meal, my mother-in-law, Kari, launched a direct question my way. As I drove my car to our first retail rendezvous point, she turned to me and said, “I know you mentioned turning that room upstairs into a room you could write in. When are you going to do that?”
An internal flood of thoughts began dancing through my mind, much like rain drops streaking across the windshield of a speeding car in the midst a torrential downpour, as I attempted to find the appropriate words to respond. “Um…well, I would really like to do that. It’s something I definitely want to do. It would be great. But first, we would need to have an epic yard sale to clear a ton of stuff out of the storage room, so we can shift things from the bonus room into our storage room to clear it out. We would need to sell Gavin’s old crib and dresser to get it out of there. Then I would have to actually re-do the room; paint it, and I would need some new stuff for in there – some furniture and a desk. There is just a lot that would have to be done in order to make that happen.”
One final point exited my mind and made its way out of my stammering mouth: “It’s already July – I just don’t think we’re going to get around to doing it this year. There is really just a month left for a yard sale. There isn’t much time. It would be a lot of work. I guess it will have to be next year.”
Like a high-power windshield wiper slicking away countless droplets of excuses in a single swipe, she said, “Well, let’s get to it. You need to get that room done, so you can start writing. This is something you really need to do. I believe you were meant to write a book. I know you have a message to share. It’s something you were meant to do. When do you want to have the yard sale? What do you need to do in order to make that happen? We’ll come up and help. Just pick a date.”
In that moment, a seed was planted in my mind; one bearing fruit from the tree of my own potential. My mother-in-law became a powerful conduit in that moment, imploring me to quit making excuses, shaking me awake, and telling me (in a very direct manner) to muster up a major plan and follow through to make it happen, if it mattered to me. It did. One month, a big sale, room clear out, crib disassembly, few coats of paint, and a whole lot of work later – we did make it happen.
But that isn’t where today’s post ends. After writing my recent post “The Two Most Important Choices You Will Ever Make,” I felt inspired. I felt empowered. I felt like I had written a piece that finally allowed me to harness and capture my own writing voice onto a page. I was proud of it. I was inspired by it. And I wanted to write a million more pieces just like it.
Thoughts of a future book filled my mind. I wondered what I would write about. How long it would take. How good it would be. I wondered if I could “make it” in the writing world. I wondered if I was good enough. I thought about topics, pondered pieces, and contemplated the future of my writing voice.
The next morning while showering, I had a personal epiphany; one that came as clearly to me as the compulsion that prompted me to start The Paralegal Society. It was a powerful one. As the droplets of water danced across my face (the irony is not lost on me with the droplets…) I knew exactly what I would write about. I saw and felt my book as I thought it to be. I was ready to begin. After toweling off, getting dressed and wrapping a towel around my dripping hair, I excitedly texted my friend and supporter, Amy Bowser-Rollins, to tell her the big news. The gist of my message was, “Hey, I’m writing a book. I’m finally ready to. I’m really going to do it. I know exactly what I’m supposed to write about.”
Amy cheered me on and basked in the excitement with me. About one minute later, she did something that changed my life. She texted to ask me what my middle initial was. Seemed like an odd question, but we’re good friends, so I responded it was “L.” About a minute later, I received a text from her stating she had purchased the URL for “jamielcollins.com” on my behalf, and self-hosted it for me, as a gift. About 5 minutes later, I received another e-mail from her enclosing the announcement of a Kindle gift eBook called, “You’re a Writer, So Start Acting Like One,” by Jeff Goins.
Enough said. It was a strong message.
A few weeks later, as I began to re-vamp the space of my new “writing studio” with incredible help from my father, I decided to e-mail my friend, Chassidy King. She runs a blog featuring home improvement projects, sharing things she’s done with rooms in her home; everything from reworking organizational spaces to decorating walls and painting desks. I figured she’d enjoy e-chatting about my latest home décor endeavor and talking through the details of how to transform it into a cool space. I’ll never forget the day I sent her a picture of a unique clock and asked her if she liked it. It was a simple question. But her response changed my life. She said, “Does it inspire you?”
I was so excited to pick out the décor for this room (any room, actually – I love to decorate), but her question stopped me in my inspired tracks. She was right. The whole point of this venture was to create an inspired space that would be a cozy, happy, comfortable place to write. That one simple question became the standard of measure for every single item that would enter my room from that moment forward. Forget items that were “pretty” or “cool” – what I wanted was inspiring! People probably thought I was on a fast trip to crazy when they saw me staring down at a paper weight or up at a painting and internally asking myself “Does this inspire me?” If it did, I bought it. If it didn’t or I wasn’t quite sure about it, I continued on my way along the inspired retail highway.
The funny thing is, I’m not sure that these three people realize how greatly they impacted my life this year – in a big way. They helped to alter my path or shift my course of thinking, and in doing so, drastically altered my future life’s plans. It isn’t always something major that comes along to change your life. Sometimes, it’s the smallest of things that gets you driving down the road of life on inspired fumes.
It’s that thing that makes you remember the goal or “the dream.” The hope that makes you aspire to more. It’s like the difference between someone in your midst “seeing” you in the physical sense of the word versus seeing you in the same sense portrayed by the main characters in the movie, Avatar. When they said “I see you,” those big blue beings meant it in the truest, deepest way possible. Like not only do I see who you are standing before me in this moment, but I see you for who you really are. The type of “seeing” you that implores you to see the realest, truest version of yourself.
More importantly, I post this today to tell you that your own interaction with other people matters – greatly. It can transform a life. A simple gesture for the right person, at the right time, in the right way, can replace those droplets of excuses or self-doubt with droplets of inspired thinking that will propel a person forward. You can help to plant the seed for someone else’s tree of potential. You can make them see what’s great about them. You can inspire them. You can empower them. You can implore them to become more. To do more. To want more. To see more for themselves. You can help direct them onto a more inspired path with a simple question, a thoughtful word, a kind gesture or by filling them with the belief that they can do great things – and do them now. Sometimes, you can run for miles on the smallest of inspired fumes.
So to the amazing people in my life, all of the amazingly loyal readers of The Paralegal Society, and my encouraging family, I say thank you. Thank you one thousand times. For every kind comment you’ve ever left in response to my writing, each warm gesture you’ve extended my way, for those hard questions you’ve forced me to answer, and most of all – for your unwavering belief in me, which has helped me to transcend my own barriers.
“Writing a novel [and doing any other worthwhile, difficult thing] is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
– E. L. Doctrow
Wishing you sufficient lighting and inspired fumes on your personal journey. Keep your head up. Keep your eyes on the road. Keep your heart on the goal.
You can make the whole trip that way.
Write your life’s story in bold.
Pics One & Two: My new writing studio, complete with what Chassidy referred to as a “therapy couch.” I mean, it’s not like paralegals or writers need therapy or anything…seriously.
Pic Three below: The HUGE round, brown chair that almost didn’t make it up our stairway. First attempt? An epic failure, followed by fear on the part of the purchaser (me). Second attempt? I swear God moved the walls an inch. Up it went.
Consider this our first blog post up from an inspired place.
We’ll see you next week!