I used to live with the ephemeral dream of being a Writer with a capital W. At the root of that was my love of writing. Wrapped around that core however there was the idea and lifestyle of a writer. I had this idea of a solitary writer sitting in a sunny office with a huge vintage wooden desk spending all day writing profound things while gazing out the window onto a country landscape. Oh the freedom that would allow! To have the ability and the time to just fluidly pour all the wonderful contents from my brain onto a page and have people notice and admire me for it. But that dream is really all bullshit. It’s the kind of artificiality that Stephen King talks about in his book On Writing. The dream of a “sacred space” of solitude from which all manner of creations will come alive. That solitude and artificial distance from the distraction of the real world are imaginary. A writer is a person who writes. That’s it. And in order to write one needs to actually live life, not isolate themselves from the world. And I do that. I don’t even have to get published or paid to be a writer (though ideally I would be). I have ideas and philosophies and stories that I enjoy sharing with people. So I write them. And maybe only a few people ever read what I write. I would prefer more, but I have little control over that.
So I do what I do. Worrying about how I view myself (or how the world views me) in abstract terms of success and reaching milestones that the world tells me I should be chasing is a waste of time and energy. I have realized I’m not ambitious in the typical way. I don’t like being busy. I like having fulfilling and meaningful things to do. Sometimes that simply consists of listening to music while I read a book for two hours. In doing that I haven’t really accomplished anything. And over the last few years feeling that lack of accomplishment in reading meant that I tried not to “waste” time reading and as a result didn’t read as much. Now though I’ve realized the error in that way of thinking. It’s something that is worthwhile to me. A bunch of projects that keep me busy and that I can look back on and say “I did that” don’t mean a lot if they’re not something I feel strongly about.
When I hear people who our culture would consider successes talking about either the things they had to give up to get that success or how unfulfilling that checkmark is once they got it I realize that I don’t want to end up in their position. They made those journeys and have reported back from the end so we don’t all have to make those mistakes. There’s a quote from Jim Carrey in which he said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting to accomplish something. But it’s only worthwhile it if it genuinely makes you happy.
Too often we chase things we feel we are supposed to chase, being told that we’ll be happy when we get them, only to find out that those goals are meaningless and empty. I’m learning what kind of life I want to live. I’m also realizing that it’s not the endpoints that are important to the exclusion of all else. As cliché as it seems the journey to that point is just as, if not more important. That’s where we life our day to day lives. An endpoint is a single moment and it will pass just as fast as it arrived. Putting your faith in the endurance of a moment is a sure way to find only disappointment.
I have no desire to work 80 hours a week, even if it was writing and I was making a fortune doing it. I imagine that for some that is meaningful in a way, but it never will be for me. I love to write, but not to the exclusion of everything else. It’s balance that I’m after. I like people. It’s important to me to have time to enjoy the company of people I care about. Part of being a writer and simply a human being is wanting to be heard and understood. Being with other people, sharing thoughts back and forth, fulfills some of that need. Without other people any accomplishments would just be lonely and meaningless.
I didn’t move to LA or even Minneapolis like a lot of my friends in film school when I graduated. I had a life here. The sacrifices involved in moving and the end goals to which that would have been a start were not things I was interested in. There were times I felt regret at that decision, or just wondered what my life would have been like if I had. But I know that I made the right choice for what I want for my life. A faced paced career driven life with no time for the people I care about is not remotely appealing to me. I still have goals I’d like to achieve through writing and other forms of creative expression. Some of my unambitious ambitions are to keep writing, to eventually get paid for it, and to be doing the kind of writing I enjoy. But the way in which I’m really looking for fulfillment is a family to share my life with. I want a messy, chaotic, joy-filled life surrounded by people I love. It’s been a common theme with me lately in both my daily thoughts and my writing, but love is what’s important. In different ways that idea keeps getting punctuated in my life over and over. No amount of possessions or achievements will ever be fulfilling without love and people to share that love with. If I am ambitious about anything it’s about that.