Create like you’re dead.

Tombstone, 1989.

tombstone

I get a kick out of being an outsider constantly. It allows me to be creative.
Bill Hicks

For those who read this with any sort of regularity I realize the last two posts have been kind of serious. Don’t worry, I’m returning to the penis and fart jokes now.

South African Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer said “A serious person should try to write posthumously.” The recently departed writer Christopher Hitchens simplified that by saying “Write like you are dead.” I picked up this gem from a speech to the 2012 Whiting Award winners by Jeffrey Eugenides and recently published in The New Yorker. Dare I say it is sage advice for anyone who likes to beat people about the pupils and/or ears.

There is this fantasy that creating something from nothing is all fun and games. It’s not. Don’t get me wrong, few things provide as much satisfaction as completing something you’ve created. But to think that when I, or anyone, begins the process we are looking forward to the nagging sense of doubt and worthlessness is untrue. Yes, yes, of course there are people who really look forward to it but for so many others, like myself, it involves coordinating responsibilities and time to fit it in, the ever present sense of failure, the always lurking internal grammar gestapo and the genuine fear of offending someone, getting it wrong, hurting someones feelings or the worst offense of all…a typo. Dare I say, fuck it.

The reason we create is because we are naive and arrogant enough to think we have something to say. I remember the feeling I got when I finished my first cogent piece of writing. I remember the first time I heard strangers laugh at something I had written. The immediate feeling is relief directly followed by satisfaction and finally, anxiety. The worst part about completing something and putting it out there to be judged is that you realize “Shit, now I have to do that again.”

It’s the “that again” that is the tough part. Once you have had a taste of people enjoying your work, you will invariably want to repeat the process that led to the first two feelings of relief and satisfaction. It’s natural. Fuck that. You don’t want to repeat yourself and you should want to continue to push yourself. Now, the odds of anyone repeating themselves are pretty good and it’s OK. It’s bound to happen thematically. The odds of you repeating something that has already been done, almost inevitable. Forget about it. And the goal of being better than any and everyone? Foolish, just be yourself. You may already be better or you may never be better, it shouldn’t matter. The important thing is the action of doing and completing. Others will always judge.

So don’t get overwhelmed by outside stimuli or your own internal noise. Don’t let the fact that your parents may read, see or hear your work and recognize themselves in it, don’t let the fact that you created a character that is different from your ex in name only, don’t let the fact that your favorite song is “We Built This City” by Starship stop you from continuing on your own creative journey. For many of us, we begin with the very clear understanding it’s never gonna lead to anything. We simply feel we need to do it and there is a great deal of freedom in that. The only thing harder than the act of writing and/or creating something out of nothing is holding onto that freedom and be true to your creativity.

So please, create like you’re dead. We need you.

NEW YORKER ARTICLE

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