A couple of months ago I finished the first part of my first self-published novel which I had started writing 7 years ago, at the age of 25 (I am 32 now if you are too lazy to do the math). I am not a fast writer, but I can still write the same amount of words in a few months, so why did it took me so long? This is the story.
Battling my ego.
The stage is set.
I turn to it and say “It’s gonna hurt ME a lot more than it hurts YOU”.
If you’re not a socialist before you’re twenty-five, you have no heart; if you are a socialist after twenty-five, you have no head. – anonymous
I am young enough that there are still people telling me that they too were anarchists/artists/communists/optimists when they were my age, but then they “matured”. And when they do that, I always think about what does the word “maturity” mean. Traditionally, it obviously means responsibility, taking care for yourself and other people. But, apparently, in today’s society it also means conformism. The logic goes like this, I think: in order to take care of your family you need money and in order to obtain money you have to quit “fooling around”, a viewpoint that is captured well in the quote I began the text with. But implicit in this quote is that thoughts that differ from the status quo aren’t “serious”, that they are just “dreams”. What the quote actually says is something like: “since birth, you have a natural capacity to dream, and you need to learn how to suppress that capacity i.e. you need to lose faith” (that’s exactly what being a conservative means, if you think about it, it means, stop believing a better future is possible and instead focus on changing as little as possible).
So, this is how the concept of maturity is used a tool for political/societal control:
The meaning of “mature” is shifted. It no longer means “being responsible”. Instead it means “being faithless”, for example, people who exhibit any quality that signifies they have any faith left, such as a sense of humor, practicing arts, sports, having rich social life, or even disinterested in material wealth, are perceived as “immature”, regardless of how good they are taking care of their responsibilities.
At the same time, we have a cult of this so called maturity. Immaturity is no longer seen as a normal stage of life that everyone goes through, each at their own pace. Instead, the word “immature” is routinely used as an insult, even towards children, who are also constantly told to “Grow up!”, (the disappearance of childhood being a natural response to this). It’s like a best thing that a person can do is mature as much and as fast as possible (and that it’s better for a person to be bad, mean, stupid etc. than “immature”).
A couple of points on this:
People who use that quote that if you aren’t into communism as a youth you have no heart, but if you don’t later drop it when you get older you have no brain, seem like they are so desperate over the fact that they have lost their hearts that they made up the second part to soothe themselves.
I find all this ridiculous, and I don’t even know how those “mature” people even find the will to live such a life.
Obviously a better world is possible, it’s always possible to be better. And nobody has any grounds to say anything else.
Even if a better world wasn’t possible, I would continue living my life as if it’s possible, simply because there is no point in living any other way, there is no point in living as a pet and there is no point in raising children to live the same way
When I am done with art anarchism and optimism I won’t be old, I’d be dead, at least mentally.
At that moment I knew what the plebs were, much more clearly than when, years earlier, she had asked me. The plebs were us. The plebs were that fight for food and wine, that quarrel over who should be served first and better, that dirty floor on which the waiters clattered back and forth, those increasingly vulgar toasts. The plebs were my mother, who had drunk wine and now was leaning against my father’s shoulder, while he, serious, laughed, his mouth gaping, at the sexual allusions of the metal dealer. They were all laughing, even Lila, with the expression of one who has a role and will play it to the utmost. Elena Ferrante — My brilliant friend
I could have went with “The world is a stage…” as an opening quote, but this one by Elena Ferrante rises the question I want to ask here: What is so bad about playing your role in life?
Shakespeare was clearly on to something too: roles are a fiction. We just act out models that we have seen. A teenager acts in the way that they have seen other teenagers act, because they have no other way to act. An old person acts like an old person, just because that is the role that society assigns to them. Because a teenager that acts like an old person or an old person who acts like a teenager are just ridiculous, no matter how much they themselve believe in their role.
But then, how is playing your own role less ridiculous? It kinda isn’t, but at least you wouldn’t be confusing people over who you are. And what about refusing to play any role — now you are just playing the role of the person who refuses to play roles.
The most ridiculous thing is to take your role too serious. To think that the “you” people perceive is the real “you” and to cling to that “you”, even after it lost it’s purpose. Sometimes roles have purpose. When you are working with people at a common goal, it is good if each one knows his parts. That’s when roles work.
By playing your role right, with good timing and without extra pathos, you acknowledge that roles aren’t something serious.
So, be like Robert De Niro — choose your movies by the script, not by the character you have to play.
Anxiety and writer’s block come when you attach so much significance to your work that you start to feel that you just wouldn’t do it justice if you work on it while not in your prime. This is a stupid idea - nobody will do your work, but you. Just do your best, you will delete it if it isn’t good.
If you do something and delete it, that is not the same as not doing anything, even if you don’t ever rewrite or publish i.
And more importantly, if you don’t want to work, then don’t: take a hour off, leave your work in front of you and start start reading some random book, or doing something else entirely, untill something in what you are reading/doing reminds you of your work.
One of the best pieces of advice that I got:
“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly”
And conversely, everything that is not worth doing poorly is not worth doing at all.
My focus for the next year or so is to stop being so self-critical. No reason whatsoever to beat yourself for stupid shit, and it destroys your self-esteem, allowing you to be exploited by people who don’t even know what self-criticism means.
Seeking instant gratification is not “living for the moment”, it’s a manifestation of our your fear of death (so kinda the opposite thing)