I had to be forced into a place where I simply did not give a fuck in order to find out what I was really capable of… What elevates someone’s work from “technically excellent” to “truly great” is the extent to which you feel like you’re seeing them live their truth, be fully themselves… Jason Scott, the historian and digital archivist, told me at Webstock that a fitting epitaph for his headstone would be: “He gave a crap. He didn’t give a fuck.
This has been my mantra for the last couple months. I’ve finally settled into a professional atmosphere that engages my creative passions while also being totally okay with the reality that perhaps nothing I write for myself, like The Worst Writer Ever or any of my other writing projects, might see the end goal I would like. That’s not the reason I do them, because for me this kind of writing has been something I’ve engaged in on a daily basis since I was thirteen.
Recently, I was going through my old notebooks from NYC, college, high school, and some of the old typewriter manuscripts from before we had a computer. (I KNOW! I didn’t have one until half way through eighth grade). I’m trying to organize all of my papers in a similar manner to Gay Talese’s system and what I realized was how comics helped shaped me as a writer, and how long I’ve been engaging in writing. Since I was twelve! Twenty years I’ve been handwriting and journaling like this. Perhaps I was a creative life blogger from before the Internet. Maybe this is as far as I’ll get as a writer.
Then I came upon this quote written in one of my high school journals, I cringe at its teenage cliched pensiveness, but: “The second you stop caring about something is when it works out.” And it’s true. I think when you stop giving a fuck about the end game of something and just keep working on the details, and working on it eventually that thing will work out. It may be twenty years from now or next year. I do not give a fuck. It’s not why I do it.
I don’t have a lot of advice to give. The one thing I would say to a young writer who wanted counsel is to be patient. Time, which is your enemy in almost everything in this life, is your friend in writing. It is. If you can relax into time, not fight it, not fret at its passing, you will become better. You probably won’t be very good at the beginning, but you will become better, and eventually you may actually become good. But it doesn’t help to be afraid of time, or to measure yourself against prodigies like Conrad or Crane or Rimbaud. There’s always going to be somebody who did it better than you, faster than you, and you don’t want to make comparisons that will discourage you in your work. In fact, most fiction writers tend to graybeard their way into their best work.
I’ve come to believe that really, truly, this is the best writing advice I’ve ever read. Taking your time and not having to rely on writing as your solitary career helps create distance and transparency in your writing life. I’m not saying quit, but have it become a daily part of your life and just let it exist and when you’re happy with it—whenever that is—put it out there. See what people say, and be open to growth.