Filling the Hole

If we do not do what we are called to do, a cavity — a hole — appears at the center of our soul. 

Ignored, this hole sucks away at our humanity. It drains our energy. It eats away at our ability to enjoy life. With time, the hole expands, leaving us angry, frustrated, and bitter.

The hole hurts. People who are not fulfilling their purpose — unable to bear the pain of that yawning emptiness — will try to stuff the hole with other things: overwhelming jobs, endless work, empty relationships, drugs, sex. These alternatives temporarily ease the pain … but, in the end, they will not — they cannot! — fill the hole.

The hole can be filled by only one thing: our calling. Whatever that calling is, it has a shape … and that shape precisely matches the dimensions of the hole. When we do what we are called to do, our purpose clicks into place, filling the hole precisely and completely. The hole vanishes, and, in its place, wholeness appears.

* * * * *

If we do not do what we are called to do, a cavity — a hole — appears at the center of our soul. 

Ignored, this hole sucks away at our humanity. It drains our energy. It eats away at our ability to enjoy life. With time, the hole expands, leaving us angry, frustrated, and bitter.

The hole hurts. People who are not fulfilling their purpose — unable to bear the pain of that yawning emptiness — will try to stuff the hole with other things: overwhelming jobs, endless work, empty relationships, drugs, sex. These alternatives temporarily ease the pain … but, in the end, they will not — they cannot! — fill the hole.

The hole can be filled by only one thing: our calling. Whatever that calling is, it has a shape … and that shape precisely matches the dimensions of the hole. When we do what we are called to do, our purpose clicks into place, filling the hole precisely and completely. The hole vanishes, and, in its place, wholeness appears.

* * * * *
From the very beginning, my calling has been to be a storyteller. 

I learned the alphabet by playing Scrabble. I was reading by the time I was two. By the first grade, I was reading well beyond the eighth-grade level … and by the time I was eight, I was writing (bad) stories about traveling in time with four reluctant classmates. 

Friends will tell you I'm at my very best when I am telling them a story — a story about what happened at the diner, a story about that time I was too fat to ride an elephant in Ayuttaya, a story about my father's struggle with cancer, a story about a so-called psychic I know who gives every first-time client the exact same reading. 

When I'm working for the Company in my role as a communications professional, the questions I ask again and again — What matters? What are you trying to say? What do people need to know? Why should people care? — boil down to just one question: What's the story?

* * * * *
By now, frankly, I had planned to be an established author, and have dozens of books on the shelf. 

To my credit, I have finished several books — non-fiction, niche-market books, to be sure, but books, nonetheless. I worked hard on these, and I'm proud of them. 

There is even one novella, though very few people have read it … and, since it can only be purchased in tandem with a deck of Tarot cards from a foreign publisher, very few people ever will read it. (And that's a shame, because, as novellas go, it's not all that bad.)

The unfortunate truth, though is this: by now, the books I had planned to finish were novels — complete stories, peopled with characters that readers would love. But despite the fact that I've earned two degrees in creative writing, generated dozens of false starts, and penned one very rough draft as part of National Novel Writing Month … I've never finished a novel.

Which brings us back to the hole.

* * * * *

There is a hole at the center of my soul, and its shape is the shape of a finished book. More precisely, that hole is shaped like a series of finished books, packed with characters, themes, plot twists, and all the other elements of story.

I have been avoiding or ignoring the hole for almost forty-four years.

And, like most people avoiding their purpose, I have been trying to fill that hole with other things, from dilly-dallying on the web to eating enormous quantities of food. More and more, though, I'm realizing that those hours spend surfing are rarely productive … and those calories I'm consuming are doing little more than shortening my life. Neither activity — surfing or eating — can fill that hole for more than a minute or two … because the only way to fill the hole is to answer The Call.

* * * * *
In my head, full and complete, are a multitude of stories, waiting to be told. 
– There's the group of eight friends on a dream trip to Thailand … which becomes a nightmare thanks to one person's hidden agenda.
– There's the group of seven criminals who escape life sentences by hijacking an experimental ship. When they discover one member of the group is the runaway son of the ruling emperor, will they band together to protect him, or turn him in to save themselves?
– There's the unhappy man who receives an unexpected gift: a chance to see how his life would have turned out had he made different choices at four critical points in his life.
– There's the team of time-traveling agents who discover their assignments — which seem innocent on the surface — are part of a dark and terrible master plan.
– There's the professional magician who, at the request of a father figure, goes undercover to expose a team of psychic investigators as frauds. But what will he do when the psychic investigation uncovers evidence that the magician's father figure is, in fact, a murderer?
– There's the linguist whose investigation of an outbreak of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) in the hills of northern Alabama suggests that a vast and terrible disaster is just days away. 
– There's the story of a disaster consuming our world — and a team sent to a parallel world to steal the one object that will save us. Will they steal it — and doom everyone in the parallel world — or will they give in to the temptation to abandon what's left of humanity and live a comfortable life with parallel versions of the friends and family they've already lost back home?

These stories have percolated for years. I know the characters and settings and plot twists and surprises in great detail. I have outlines and sample chapters. What don't I have? The finished books, of course.

* * * * *
A few years back, I had the gift of five wonderful years of self-employment. 

I finished several projects during that time. It would have been the perfect time to plant my butt in my seat and finish a novel or two. But I didn't do that … and, as a result, a lot of that time was wasted.

Now, of course, I have a demanding full-time job — a job I love, a job I need, a job I am tremendously thankful for. But I've come to realize that, like me, this job has a purpose, too: it provides me with a wonderful opportunity to do something I love … while paying the bills and providing insurance for me and for Clyde … 

… and while also making it possible for me to finish these books without having to worry about paying the bills in the meantime.

So, while clocking in every day, for hours and hours a day, and giving 110% to meet the challenges I face at the Company … I'm also getting back to the business of storytelling — to the work of bringing books and characters and stories to life. 

I have the stories. I have the best tools a writer can have. I have a wonderful partner, whose capacity to love me seems, again and again, undiminished by any of my many shortcomings. I have a tremendous support base. I've come up with a strategy that makes it possible for me to write, finish, and share these books with eager readers. 

More importantly, I have the determination to finally, finally get this done.

The work began this past weekend, and, soon, I'll have some things to share.

Stick with me. You're going to play a bigger part in this than you know.

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

3 comments

  • What I would enjoy and would purchase is “Pieces for the Not-So-Right Hand” by J. Mark McElroy, a book full of bed time stories and lessons and tales of your world!

  • I’m in! I can’t wait to read what you have posted every day on your blog, so a whole novel…Oh boy, Oh boy! I’m already looking forward to it!

  • Us too, count us in – We read your online novel in 2002 and have been a steady reader of your blog since then!Karren & Allan

  • Us too, count us in – We read your online novel in 2002 and have been a steady reader of your blog since then!Karren & Allan

Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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