Ever feel like this guy?
I am tired. Tired of my life and tired of my mind. I am an intelligent guy; I have a degree and should be making more of life. But, to be honest, I don’t have a clue what I want. In fact, I almost feel like I don’t want anything.
Last month, some of my friends participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) — including Korrektiv’s Rufus McCain, who recently quoted one of the little “pep-talk emails [he] received from famous writers encouraging [him] to finish [his] novel, which is stuck on page 2.”
The letter Rufus reprinted in his Nov 20th post is from Janet Fitch, who wrote about hitting a creative wall while writing White Oleander.
Luckily I was seeing an amazing therapist at the time. I explained I was afraid that if I chose route 6, then I would be eliminating all the other possible routes. What if route 15 was better? Or 3 1/2 ? So I hedged. I couldn’t commit. I was stuck. And she gave me the piece of advice which has saved my writing life over and over again, and I will give it to you, absolutely free of charge. She said, ‘I know it feels like you have all these options and when you make a decision, you lose a world of possibilities. But the reality is, until you make a decision, you have nothing at all.‘
Ah yes, the Amazing Therapist. The butt-kicking amazing therapist, who saves people’s lives even, by giving the same sensible advice that Every Wise Person you ever met also gives you, advice which you know perfectly well already but which, sadly, hasn’t helped you at all.
Because you’ve made a lot of decisions already, and too many of them have been wrong.
Enter Cary Tennis, who addresses our Poor Tired Guy quite differently:
To me you simply sound like the philosophical rebel — what we term these days a slacker.
Ah now. Here it comes – more butt-kicking. Right? But no…
Do you not realize that you are a member of the cultural opposition? … Perhaps that makes you the true misfit — one who does not even recognize it and would disavow it if asked.
… You are the solitary man without a country, without a home, wondering what’s wrong with you — because your protest is yet an inchoate thing, innate and unfocused. Your plight is thickened because your context is so thin — today you’re a rebel without a context! Is there still a Greenwich Village to flee to? Is there still a San Francisco where one can rent a cheap room above a bookstore without becoming a real estate agent or a software change agent or an FBI agent?
This is entirely wrong, Mr. Tennis. Celebrating the Slacker? What kind of crazy American work ethic is this?!?
What should be you doing if you are not on the job and have nowhere to be? Should you pick your toenails or eat some lasagna? Should you read an edifying book or stroll through the park? What should you do? … You live within this matrix [of who works, who doesn't, who gets paid a lot, who doesn't] and may wish for it to mean something, and indeed rules can be deduced …but at times, to the individual man caught in the tornado, the only thing it seems to be is random and insane.
That is why the philosophical rebel is so dear to us — because he alone has the courage to say, “I have no clue what this shit is.”
Good heavens. Is that courage or laziness? What possible value to society is such a stance?
Of what value to society is such a stance? … Most important, he is anathema to hoo-ha — he does not swallow the Kool-Aid or follow the company line; he does not jump when the Man says jump — he scarcely moves; he hardly hears the Man; he can hardly even see him; he has to squint. It’s his constitution to be cautious and to ask the relevant question Why? Which in our current situation we could use more of — if we in the West had been more skeptical, if there were among us more bantams in pine woods, we might not be so deep in shit as we are. …
Could it be that the voice of what you want is God’s voice? Could it be that what you want is what God wants? Could it be that you are eating and sleeping and fucking for God?
Erm, beg pardon… eating and WHAT?
Give yourself a break, my man. If you are depressed and have a drug problem or have a metabolic imbalance, then that’s some serious stuff and you need medical care. But if you simply lack ambition, I take my hat off to you. The world is way too full already of overly ambitious fucks elbowing us out of the way on the streetcar.
Oops! Let me just get something to clean up the milk coming out of my nose.
Almostgotit honestly doesn’t know what to make of this, and can’t say she’s quite as lacking in ambition as all of that. But she loves a good iconoclast and wonders if Cary Tennis might be on to something. What do you think, readers?
I’m Scattered and Have No Ambition By Cary Tennis (Salon.com)