Lightbulb moments

lightbulb via kimberlyanncoyle.com

I checked my blog stats recently, and it appears I’ve written over 800 posts since the birth of this internet baby. I can’t quite believe it. Over the past few years, I sat down over 800 times to throw a few words to those of you who kindly show up to read them. Thank you, friends. Thanks for showing up and emailing and commenting and sharing. Thanks for honoring me with your time, because goodness knows, we have precious little of it. I know what it costs you to spend a few minutes with me, reading here.

I visited the Thomas Edison museum yesterday, and I have much to say about it, starting with the fact that third grade teachers are saints. Especially third grade teachers who manage to keep order and control over unruly kids sitting on a school bus in ninety-degree weather. I was absolutely no help, as I spent the day in various stages of wilting in the heat or wandering off in the museum. I also may have taken a few too many solo trips to the bathroom for a mental health break.

Did you know that Edison held over 1000 patents in his lifetime? He dreamed up 1000 new inventions that worked! Imagine all of the inventions he dreamed up that didn’t work. Imagine how long he worked on each one that did. He spent years researching, dreaming, working prototype after prototype, trying, failing, trying some more. When I think about my 800 posts sitting here in this little slice of the web, I feel like I’ve been working towards refining the one thing I want to say, the one idea I want to follow and point to, and say that is my lightbulb moment, that is where my work illuminates my world.

I don’t think I’m there yet. I’ve tried over eight hundred times to say it, but I find myself coming here week after week to try and refine the message once again. This has caused me some angst over the years because writers hear a lot about relevance and felt need and marketability. I find I return to the same ideas because I’m trying to figure out how to make them work in the context of real life. When I think of it in terms of Edison and how he returned to the same problems time and time again, I realize the refining process is where we meet and shake hands with the essential work. Anyone can come up with a great idea. Fleshing out that idea and putting skin on it is where the hard work happens. Sometimes you meet magic there too.

Like anything worthwhile in life, this returning and refining requires, as Eugene Peterson says, a long obedience in the same direction. I may not be able to market it in a flashy package, but I hope when you show up here you find me standing alongside you, walking in the same direction.

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What one thing do you repeatedly return to as an act of refining? I’d love to hear about it.

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  • Mark Allman

    Kimberly,
    I know Edison continued to work on those patents trying to make them better even after he secured his patent. He did so with the light bulb. Likewise as you say the worthwhile things in life deserve our attention to make sure we continue to try to refine how well we do them. I think there is always something to learn regardless of our skill or knowledge level. I hope I will be one who never stops trying to do thing better. I think we can all love better, work better, rest better, improve our attitudes, be more compassionate, less judgmental, more understanding and the list goes on. We should wear out not rust out.