On my way to work this morning I listened to Jason Schwartzman being interviewed by Marc Maron on WTF. He talked about how scary writing a novel must be, because of the lack of immediate feedback. With a three-minute song, you can play it for someone to see what they think. With a four hundred page novel, you need to have some pretty generous friends in order to get someone to read it. Not only that, but it might take you seven years to write it in the first place, with little to no feedback along the way.
The enormity of this does wash over me sometimes. But I think, like most things in life, you just have to have faith. Faith that your subconscious is not a moron, and will steer you in the right direction. Plus, so what if you spend seven years writing a novel and it ends up being terrible and no one wants to read it? Hopefully you would have learned some things along the way, about writing and about yourself, that would have made the process worth it. (That’s my newly acquired laissez-faire attitude speaking. Pretty convincing, right? Old Lisa would be pretty upset if everyone hated her book.)
It’s interesting to think of sitting in bed tapping away at your laptop as brave. To me, brave is going out into the world. Brave is interacting with other humans and asking for what you want and what you need. Brave is leaving the house.
From the outside, a creative life may seem brave. Shunning traditional work in favor of uncertainty is ballsy, right? Except it doesn’t feel that way to me. It feels much easier to fixate on my creative goals than to examine what lies beneath them. What’s fucking terrifying is letting go of the idea that your creativity defines who you are. And what keeps me up at night is the inkling of a suspicion that perhaps the structure of a day job is the only thing keeping me remotely sane, even if I rebel against it at every turn.
Having the guts to say that I need a comfortable, if slightly routine life might actually be braver than proclaiming that I’m the one in a million who will be a successful novelist, that I deserve artistic accolades, that I’m special. That’s real cowardice. That’s allowing the ego to steer the wheel.
Everyone’s ideas of what will make them seem successful to the world are different. For some people, it’s money. For others, power, success in a competitive field, freedom, putting braggy travel photos on social media, having no responsibilities, having lots of responsibilities, having kids, having a house, having a tiny waist and fat ass. Some combination of two or more of these.
When I take a look at what other people are valuing, I usually come to the conclusion that most of it is bullshit. What’s scary is turning that judging eye back on myself, and wondering if perhaps what I’m valuing is also bullshit.
I think there are a few constants, a few things people will crave independent of their upbringings, predilections and social influences. These are things that are explored in almost every movie, TV show, novel, and self-help book.
The biggest one is love. There isn’t a single person of sound mind who doesn’t crave it, in one form or another.
Other than that…some sense of purpose, I suppose. Finding your place in the world and connecting with it in some way.
For me, the third core desire would be freedom. I don’t like being told what to do and when to do it. But there are plenty of people who relish having their plans laid out for them. Who feel completely directionless without a road map. So I don’t think that one is universal.
So, love and purpose. That’s it, really. And I guess if you were really zen, and just took things as they came, you might not feel the need to have any particular purpose, either. Although I do think there’s a special type of satisfaction that comes from doing something you’re really good at. I don’t know if there’s a word for that. Mastery? Okay, love and mastery. That’s what I’m going with.
The rest of these cravings and desperate desires I have? Pah! Silly ego, trying to trick me. My best bet is to sprint into love and diligently work on mastering things. The rest is just noise.