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[BREAKFAST WITH THE MUSE] Falling in with what you are given
Written by
Jill Jepson
October 2015
Written by
Jill Jepson
October 2015

"Always fall in with what you're asked to accept.Take what is given, and make it over your way." — Robert Frost

This is one of my favorite quotes, something I try (often falteringly) to adhere to. It has helped me deal with disappointments, discover opportunities, and find blessings in frustration.  

How do we do this? What does it mean to “fall in with what you’re asked to accept”? How can we make what is given our own?

Here are the ways I apply this to my life and my writing:

Release what is withheld. Underlying this quote is the assumption that what you’re “asked to accept” is not always what you wanted.

One of the early lessons most writers learn is that success is hard-won and elusive. Whether we long for a best-selling novel or simply an acceptance from a literary journal, we often find our desires thwarted. As John Green puts it in The Fault in Our Stars, “the world is not a wish-granting factory.”

What can we do when our dream is withheld? We can rant and rave. We can grasp and struggle for what we think we deserve. Or we can release it.

Releasing is not the same as giving up. It is accepting the fact that we don’t have what we want right now. We can still want it. We can still dream about it. We can still work for it. But we aren’t driven crazy with frustration. We stop saying, Why not me?

Practice patience. “Patience is a virtue,” my mother used to say when I was a child (to my immense irritation!) What she didn’t say was that patience is one of those virtues that actually makes you happy. When you are truly patient, you move to the rhythms of the Universe. You don’t try to make the world adhere to your schedule. You accept the fact that things happen when they happen. You relax.

Open yourself to the possibilities around you. When we are fixated on a goal that eludes us, it is often hard to see opportunities at our finger tips. I am reminded of a friend who longed to attend one of a handful of elite law schools. After he was repeatedly denied admission, his adviser suggested he apply to some good (but not quite so exclusive) schools. My friend refused, even though he had an excellent chance of getting in. He was determined to meet his goal of attending the absolute best.

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When my friend and I parted ways, he had been trying for seven years to get into his first-choice law schools. If he had been willing to go to a slightly less elite school, he would have been a practicing attorney by then. When our paths crossed again twenty years later, he had never attended law school. He let years of opportunity pass him by because he could not open himself up to the possibilities around him.  

Fall in with it. Frost doesn’t say to “accept” what is given: He says to fall in with it.  Don’t just accept the disappointments, the “failure” (whatever that means), or the struggles. Embrace them. Build them into your life. See them as opportunities, fuel, and grist for your mill.

Make it over your way. I love shopping at thrift shops and have found many wonderful items at them. My friend goes one step further. She brings home wearable items and embellishes them, adding beads, lace, and fringe, raising hems, and altering sleeves. In the end, she has something new and different—something she has made her own.

You can apply the same principle to your writing. When a story doesn’t pan out, make it a poem. When an essay doesn’t get published, rework it. Take your disappointments and frustrations, and turn them into work. Make over whatever you are given so it becomes uniquely yours.

Have you fallen in with “what you're asked to accept”? Are you able to “take what is given, and make it over your way”? How do you practice this in your writing and your life? 

Hi! I'm Jill Jepson, the author of Writing as a Sacred Path. I offer free life strategies for writers by email twice a month.

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  • Jill Jepson

    Thanks, Roselee. I'm so pleased this post resonated with you.

  • Jill Jepson

    Thanks, Susan. I'm glad this piece might serve as the basis for further exploration for you!

  • Jill Jepson

    Thanks for pointing out how useful the notion of recycling can be, Philippa. I love your story about "Trial of a Book." I never throw anything out, even after I've decided to delete it from a story or novel. I set it aside as possible material for later. I'm so glad you mentioned the "charoty shop" option! 

  • Such wise advice. Thank you, Jill.

  • Susan Sparks

    A GREAT piece! May be the basis for a sermon I give this Sunday. Thanks so much! Susan

  • Philippa Anne Rees

    Sage and necessary advice. Can't be repeated too often since just when you have 'fallen in' what you have fallen in with, changes!

    Recycling ideas in new forms at least saves the original idea in some form and it may well be a better form. I recently wrote a series of blogs called the 'Trial of a Book' in which I put my book under cross examination ( both Prosecution and Defense) to answer for its murder of my life. A reader suggested it would make a good stage play and that is now simmering as an intention. It is the 'charity shop' option, to re-cycle what is sound and can look quite different in another context.