For me, patience is the hardest part of being a writer. Many of us have goals, and I pity those of us who don’t. But we’re also not all in the same place in life. Some of us might have had more opportunity to pursue their goals, and others might not have had the right circumstances to be able to form specific tasks with specified goals as an outcome. Even my goals as a writer are also very vague. At some point I’d like to finish my first novel, A Well Worn Seal. At some point I’d like to be ‘a great writer’ (whatever the fuck THAT means). And at some point I’d like to either have sold a lot of copies of my books, or at least be recognized among a community as a great writer (these two goals are very different from one another, despite what you may think).
But (and you can imagine a very ‘droopy dog-esque’ ironic voice when I say this next part): “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. This means that we’re all going to have temporary setbacks, failures, and even realize we might have wasted some small or even huge chunk of our time on our journey to the mountaintop. Lately I’ve been doing double time, trying to increase my Instagram presence while going to school full time, taking a very demanding set of college courses. I’ve also been trying to read more, write more, and have a social life outside of this, and enjoy myself playing the occasional video game. After all that work (and play) I find my eyes and hands not only taxed, but strained painfully. I have to take long periods of rest and stay away from the video games, and even minimize my use of Instagram, and parse out my school work very carefully as to avoid more hand and eye strain. This has all been very frustrating, and I live at home with a mom who’s always working a dead end job with almost nothing to show for it, so whenever I need someone to talk to about my problems, I’m usually met with a thorny wall of ‘well how the fuck do you think I feel!?’
I didn’t come here to complain, but to share my experience with the hope that you and I might both walk away wiser, and closer to our goals. Over the last week I became more and more frustrated with my lack of progress, saying things to myself like: “God, everyone’s such a stupid fucking asshole except me!” and: “Why can’t people just see the truth about the world around them: they’re all such stupid fucking idiots! If things were fair, I’d be at the top, and THEY’D all be at the bottom!” But then I realized: “Wait a minute, where’s this attitude getting you? Is it making you succeed at your goals? Is it making your eyes and hands recover faster so you can get back to reading and writing? No: it’s making you crazy, and your eyes hurt more because you’re stressing out so much it’s having a psychosomatic effect on them, making your condition worse.” Then I started to snap out of it. I stopped blaming everyone else in the world for my problems, and buckled down to doing the one thing I really needed to do to start moving forward again: which was to do nothing: to relax.
For the past few days I’ve been thinking over and over about a quote from the Netflix original series Mindhunter. In it, special agent Bill Tench tells his younger colleague Holden Ford, who’s so worked up about his lack of progress he starts to go off the rails, just like I did: “You know what we call you? A blue flamer: You’re so eager to get to the finish line, you’ve got a bright blue flame shooting out of your ass… Just be patient: you’ll get there eventually.”
That quote has stuck with me ever since I started to slow down and think about my goals, which haven’t really changed. But what has changed is the way I approach the task of becoming a better writer. Being a better writer isn’t about how many times you’re willing to stay up until 4 am drinking coffee and writing (which I did a lot). It’s also not about sitting around on Instagram liking as many pages as possible, and trying to promote yourself through the mutual dicksuck of social media (although some of that is required). No: being a writer is about sitting down and asking yourself the hard questions: “Is this really what I want?” (Yes) “Am I taking the most efficient path to get there” (No) “Will I get there eventually?” (Yes). Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if they rushed it, they probably would have finished it a lot slower anyway.