If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don’t bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
—Jesus, according to the Gospel of Thomas
There are some people who will talk but will never do it. They will plan and be inveterate schemers but they’re waiting for a day that might never come. So many different ways to get derailed along the way. We continue to climb up this mountain past the wreckage of so many who have tried and failed. So many who have given up and will fall off. So many ways to be ruined:
You can talk a big game but never put in the effort.
You can plan to do it but then you get sidetracked and die.
You can sell yourself for money and then be too tired to pursue your dream.
You can scatter yourself with haphazard and cheap endeavors, trying to do too much, your energy scattered. You hope that one will sprout and save you, and are bitter when it doesn’t.
You can never achieve synthesis.
You can find a great person to spend your life with and decide that having a family and raising children is your true life.
You can overdo what you do and oversaturate others.
You can underdo it and have people tell you “It’s so great” but you’re secretly dissatisfied because you know you could have done better, could have done more.
You can be tragically born in the wrong time, like anyone who’s attempting a career as a poet in the late 20th and 21st century.
The Rush to get good at something, to become something! Always goals that lead to becoming something more! If only I read a couple more books or went to the psychologist to help me out with my problems or learned a new language or if this person loved me or if I marketed myself in my life differently everything would be different. This empty longing to become a more complete person. Better to just turn up the gain and volume knobs on what you already are. There is something unique genetically preprogrammed inside—all the words, all your achievements, all your failings, your life and death already written inside of you, seared onto your spirit. The problem is learning how to awaken it from its long slumber.
You can play little tricks on yourself in order to get blood from the stone of your life.
You can get a job you don’t care about so you can have to the time to work on what you’re really committed to.
You can pursue your passion without compromise or preoccupation at the end of the day—you do what you love without the nauseating scent of commerce.
You can continue with some horrible situation so you can have a repository of blame for all your easy self-distraction.
You can move into a nice, quiet house without distractions and are forced to confront your own shortcomings, and then either overcome them or fall victim to them. There’s nowhere else to place the blame. Once you’re in the good situation, it seems hard to go backwards, to regress back into the old. The hard questions that everyone is looking to answers to. But they’re looking in all the same places for answers—jobs, grad school, relationships, therapy—Why aren’t you becoming what you are? What’s the excuse this year?
I used to stay up all night doing nothing just biting my fingernails and watching my life pass. I would grab for any frame of reference to hold on to, which at the time meant books written by dead people who were about my same age. First novels—The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, This Side of Paradise, Other Voices Other Rooms, anything by a writer heading in their mid-20s. I would flicker through the Wikipedia pages of the authors–Stein, Baldwin, Hemingway, Wolfe, Didion, Capote, and look at their birthday, then scroll down in the biography and try to find what they were doing when they were my age. What they were doing was what I felt I should be doing. But what I was doing was so much different than what they were doing. Most of them were already grown-ups at 24. Most were married, they had been to war, they had worked steadily at many jobs, they had written articles and their first books. I didn’t know what to do or where to start with my life so instead I just voyeur their lives, looking for it to provide some kind of guidance to my present. Capote had already finished books, as had Fitzgerald. Wolfe didn’t do anything until he was 29, but it packed all the steam and emotion of 29 years into one great masterpiece. Hemingway put out a couple of measly stories and poems, the featherweight of the group, but hell, he was still published. Most didn’t get really revved up until they were about 25. I guess for a lot of people that’s when life really starts to set in—when you’ve explored your options and it’s time to start working on the thing that you’re going to do. I had some time, just a little bit, but what was I procrastinating for? Why as I obsessing over the milemarkers of the dead? I never thought so much about time as when I was twenty-three, feeling like I was standing on the cusp of something big and horrible— ADULTHOOD—and hoping that I would think about it less as it went on. I was playing a matching game—looking at their timing, their years and matching it with mine. What I know now is that age is just a number. As Gorilla Biscuits put it, you can start today. The problem is that of being defeated at to early an age, or having a limited amount of willpower and spirit that has to be rationed through your life with respect to your artistic pursuit. You can blow your load when you’re young, but accept that you will probably die young. The willpower is depleted by jobs, school, relationship, excessive masturbation. Without willpower, you don’t have the drive necessary to do your ideas justice—you slump out over your computer. There are benefits and drawbacks to the different approaches, a million little tricks and routines to maintain willpower— you can live outside it all with cheap rent and an easy job which provides you plenty of time for artistic pursuit but at some point you will be faced with the daunting prospects of either making art all day or losing your self-confidence because you feel like you’re doing nothing with your life. Or you can work and work on your art in the in-between periods, at night, in the morning. There’s also the problem of living in the city, this great core of human energy and willpower, but filled with so much culture that you have to beat away other people’s stuff with a stick—it’s hard to separate voyeuring what they’re doing from focusing on what you’re doing.