Have I ever told you about my old pal, Ben?
While not the most attractive of America’s founding fathers, he may have been the most desired. Not only was he a frequent guest at 18th-century London’s Hellfire clubs, he was also in high demand among French aristocrats. And it is said he had a natural talent for mastering the French tongue.
And exactly how did he become the Austin Powers of his day?
Easy: he was the man who tamed lightning.
After performing his now-iconic experiments with static electricity, Benjamin Franklin had proven that lightning was nothing more than an electric discharge from highly-frictious stormclouds.
This led to his later invention of the lightning rod: a device that lured lightning to strike a particular spot where it could be neutralized. Before this, there had been no way to defend a structure against bolts from the clouds.
The random and unstoppable nature of these tragedies had—for many centuries—convinced people that every lightning strike was proof of divine displeasure. That Ben Franklin had invented a method for shielding both the innocent and the guilty from such danger gave the impression that he was a supernatural force in his own right. Hence all the aristocratic adoration.
But this post is not about Ben Franklin. It’s about you.
Ghosts of Blog Posts’ Past
I have to admit, I’ve been extremely vague lately.
Part of that is simply my nature as a Keeper of Secrets. For example, when I told the world I had invented software that grants wishes, but refused to give any details on how the software worked. Because such a secret is valuable (and dangerous).
But there are instances, also, where I just haven’t spent enough time thinking about the subject. I have grasped the big picture, but I have not worked out the details.
Some weeks ago, I published “Quest for Catalysts”. And, in fairness to myself, I did a pretty good job on that post. It had a lighthearted voice to draw the reader in, gave away some personal stories from my life, and encouraged all people everywhere to seek out life-changing catalysts and reap the advantages.
However, I gave no instruction on how to trigger such catalysts. And I did not consciously know the answer myself. To me, it was simply an instinct I was following. I had to mull the subject over for a few more weeks before noticing a pattern. That pattern is what I hope to share with you today.
Like Ben Franklin, you are going to learn how to make lightning strike in the place where you want it to.
Build Your Lightning Rod
Much of the nature of catalysts remains a mystery to me (honestly, a large part of it will probably never be understood). But, looking back, it’s easy to see a few of the commonalities that mark each catalytic event.
And if you’re going to cause catalytic events, then these commonalities must be present. They are as follows:
- You must do something you have never done before, and that is quite unlike what you are doing right now.
- You must put yourself in danger.
But I’m being vague again. Let’s talk about each of these in detail.
Doing What You’ve Never Done
Detective fiction writer Rita Mae Brown once made a quote so smart that it was misattributed to Einstein. And I guarantee you’ve heard it.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.RITA MAE BROWN
And yet, despite the quote’s popularity, I see people (writers especially) fail to heed it. The entire world is made up of people who only know one mode of operating. Many of them refuse to change, even when their current situation is killing them.
Catalytic events don’t come to people who aren’t trying new things. And there is no way around that. Think of it as Beginner’s Luck. In order to keep it forever, you always have to be beginning something new.
Note that I am not advocating that you constantly start over in a completely new field (though there are instances where that is appropriate). Rather, I implore you to continuously shake things up. Do some A/B testing on your own life.
If we apply this to writing, then I can give several good examples. What time of day do you write? Where do you write? What word processor or other materials do you write with? These are all things that can be experimented with. Perhaps you could try writing longhand on a yellow legal pad, or at 4 in the morning, or on a laptop in the park. You can also write in a new genre, or use a different kind of narrator, or dabble in nonfiction, poetry, short stories, or ad copy.
Stepping outside your comfort zone makes you an easier target for lightning. No one ever gets struck while sheltering inside their own cave, after all. Which brings us to the next point.
Putting Yourself in Danger
Lightning is dangerous.
And causing a catalytic event requires more than simply doing something new. If all the new things are safe, if you don’t throw even a little danger into the mix, then your epiphany will never happen.
Your only hope is to put yourself in danger.
Oh, You Mean Taking Risks
No. That is not what i mean.
Risks can be mitigated. You can put training wheels on them. You can take steps to keep yourself from getting hurt.
Danger requires throwing away the helmet, the floaties, and all the other apparatus meant to keep you from getting a boo-boo. We are bowling without bumpers here. And you’re only walking away from this with scars.
In my blog post about catalysts, I mentioned my college days, where I took advanced classes before I passed the basic ones. That was dangerous. The advanced classes weren’t as forgiving as the ones for beginners. I was playing with fire.
But those advanced classes also had better-quality knowledge in them. Only after taking them did I have the tools to go back and pass the earlier courses.
Likewise, this year I hired the services of a freelance editor to help me ready a book for publication. This is also dangerous. Editors are expensive—like, dip-into-your-life-savings expensive. And there’s no guarantee that hiring an editor will lead to publication. I still don’t know whether lightning is going to strike here.
But is there a better way to summon a catalyst? Probably not.
Controlling the Power of Lightning
You don’t have to be a stud like Ben Franklin before you can capture the power of lightning for yourself.
I can certainly point to my own life as an example that it works. But I’m lucky enough that I’ve been doing it instinctively for many years now. Other people have been waiting for a good catalyst their whole lives.
The key is to stop waiting. You have to bring the lightning to you. And that requires making yourself a target for it. Hopefully, this post has helped you on your way to that.
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