Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Purpose

I’ve been listening to another one of those self-improvement type audiobooks. Same author as the one about the laws of power. Must be a pretty nice gig collecting the combined wisdom of the ancients and organizing it for the rest of us fools. I would see about getting in on that racket but this guy seems to have it locked up pretty tight.

The book is called “Mastery” and deals with something I’ve contemplated myself. How do the legends of humanity get etched into history? Some people would say they were born with it. Maybe it’s a TV jingle. It certainly might seem to be true. After all, didn’t someone steal Einstein’s brain after he died to try and figure out what made him special?

Brain theft. What a caper. Probably isn’t true though.

Turns out not much is different about the father of relativity’s grey matter. At least, that’s what this book seems to be arguing, the effort is what matters. Nothing else. I wouldn’t know for sure because as of this writing I’m not even half finished. But like many internet denizens I feel imminently qualified to speak on something of which I only understand a small part.

In other words, this isn’t a book review.

I’ve wondered though, many times, what it is that separates those who accomplish and those that muddle through life. In some ways, it’s comforting to think that it’s all up to genetics, circumstances, or sheer luck. Takes the pressure off. I can’t help being mediocre if I was just born to it. Excuse me while I drink myself into a stupor to forget my problems.

It’s never that easy though. Nothing in life is because if it were we might never have moved off the savannah. If the cold didn’t matter, then we wouldn’t have figured out fire. No fire, no electricity. No electricity, no world spanning mega culture.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.

Birds don’t need to figure out how to get a job and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They just got to fly and find food. If they’re lucky, they’ll find a spot where one of us puts out the food for them. Because we like their pretty colors. Birds have got it made in the shade brother.

What’s our excuse?

We dreamed of something bigger and better. Looked up at the night sky and wondered to ourselves, why? Then some of us figured out that question. Busted their ass on it. Which led to new questions and new answers. A never-ending cycle. What did we achieve? The power to shape the planet in our image, even if it means destroying the whole thing in the process.

Take that birds.

Fighting the Entropy of Apathy

I took a few days off from my blog this week. I know I’ve only been at this for about two months. Plus, the “job requirements” I’ve set myself are pretty lax.

Three articles a week? Cake walk.

All of my other personal tasks are equally simple to achieve. Still, it’s always nice to feel like I am accomplishing things. Even if I’ve rigged the expectations. It’s easy to succeed when the bar is reading book instead of watching Netflix.

I shout them out all the dang time so it should be obvious that Netflix played a big role in my mini-vacation. Caught up a bit on House of Cards. It’s nice to imagine what having a competent sociopath in the Oval Office is like rather than an incompetent one.

Call it escapism.

I also worked on my fourth or fifth complete viewing of Parks and Recreation. Love that show.

The point is that I didn’t really “do” a lot over these past few days. I think I’ve made it obvious that I don’t exactly do much on a normal day. I can stretch what should be a few hours of accomplishment in to a whole day effort. I can also waste the day away without so much as a twinge of regret. Is this some kind of laziness superpower?

Are most people like this at heart? In Japan, it’s elevated to an art form. I learned from the best.

Don’t get me wrong. I can work when needed. I put in 80 hour weeks during the 2016 elections. I got up at 5am so I could drive an hour away through a hurricane in order to be in front of a Dollar Store an hour before it opened. Why? Because I was told it would help win the election. So, I did it. I’ve got no doubts about my capability to do work.

The motivation aspect is what I’m worried about.

Would getting up at 5am each day help me become a successful writer? Maybe. Is that even what I want to be? More importantly, is it right to require such effort in the first place? I think if I was pulling a steady paycheck and my boss told me to get up at 5am to write blog articles until the sun went down I could do it. Would it be worth it?

Probably not. So, why should I bother?

Too many rhetorical questions I know. I hope this is a common line of thinking for most people. It would make me feel better if it was. Why do I get up every day and do what I do? Why can’t I just crash on the couch and watch Netflix? I suppose this is the Republican nightmare of welfare. Give people enough money and they won’t do anything.

Then civilization collapses and anarchy reigns.

Obviously, if everyone just watched Netflix there would be nothing to watch in the first place. Until computers can do everything for us at all times perfectly. Which might not be that far off. For now, it’s up to each person to decide what is important to them. What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning?

Is it just to kill time until the next day comes so you can repeat the process? I’ll admit that has been the case for me more times than I’m comfortable with. That’s how I felt for a long time when I was living in Japan. For me, perhaps the best way to quit laziness is the same way I stopped drinking and smoking.

Cold turkey.

Something tells me it’ll be harder than either of those previous vices.

The Value of Writing Advice

You’ve probably read a metric ton of articles, books, blogs, stone tablets, semi-fore flailing’s, about how to write. Or maybe this is the first article on the subject you’ve come across.

Which would be weird.

Anyway, I have a degree in English, Creative Writing focus from one of the top Engineering schools in the country. I don’t say that to disparage my school or its writing program.

But it doesn’t often elicit assured nods and mutters of approval when I talk about it. This is why I almost never bring it up. Another, more important reason, is I don’t get out much.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately reading up on how to write. Consistent study of my craft is something I’ve put off for a long time. Here and there I would indulge in an attempt to “be a writer” and typically I’d stop. Maybe it was because photography had cooler toys. Or a podcast was more collaborative. Or improv comedy was more fun.

Time and time again I would do something else, anything really, rather than write. These past two months I’ve tried once again to write. My biggest fear is I’m only able to do that because I’m unemployed. Yes, that’s right, two months of regular writing is not enough to break into a world of riches and rocket ships. Is that what wealthy people buy nowadays?

Rocket ships?

I’ve also done a lot of studying about how to write. Mostly about how to write quality marketing copy and such. You know, riveting stuff. Important to be sure if you’ve got a six rocket ship a month habit. But these are just a bunch of new rules to learn. In school, I learned the rules of fiction, now I’m learning non-fiction, web based writing.

Plus, books on these subjects are more numerous. For some reason.

I wouldn’t call it advice though. Telling you to keep paragraphs to four sentences or less is more a guideline than advice. I think the issue with writing is that since it’s all subjective, telling you how to do something can easily be framed as advice. Take it or leave it. A lot of writing advice out there seems more like adding tools to a toolbox rather than teaching you how to use them.

Well, they tell you how to use them. However, showing you how to change the oil is different than learning how to become a mechanic.

With photography, for example, it’s easy to get hung up on the gear and figuring out how each number changes the result. Raise your ISO to make it brighter. Slow down the shutter to make it blurry. Spend several thousand dollars on a lens you’ll use once.

And so on.

One of my favorite purveyors of writing advice is Chuck Wendig, who talks about being a writer as someone who digs a tunnel. Once you break through to the other side of success you blow it up with dynamite behind you. So, no one can follow you, of course. Because fuck those people.

The point is you make your own path. It’s hard work and it’s not like you want to blow up the tunnel. You have to because there are dark things chasing you. There’s no choice. Everyone has their own reasons and their own methods.

The key is not giving up and letting the monsters catch you.

Which is good advice. Real advice, not just how many words should be in your title.

My personal advice is rather simple. Just write more. Doesn’t matter what or how much. People will ignore you until you give them a reason to stop what they’re doing and pay attention. You can’t really predict how that will happen.

Or if it even will.

The only thing you can control is the output. Maybe nothing will come of it. That’s how I feel about the whole thing now. But I’ll keep writing.

Write more. That’s my advice. Let me know how it works out.