For 2 years I’ve been working in the mashup space of web design, writing, and small-scale entrepreneurship. I guess I’d call myself a creative person. But really I’m not — at least not as much as I should be. Let me explain.
I may never be a great writer. My name may never be positively compared to my literary heroes — Salinger, Kafka, Lewis. My books might be donated or given, but never purchased. Just like all the works I see in thrift stores. They’re all written by literary ancestors who spent too much time in reverie.
I know gifted writers who've quit writing. I know imaginative painters who've quit painting. I know boundary-pushing musicians who've quit making music. I know innovative photographers who've quit shooting. I know captivating storytellers who've quit telling stories. Instead they sit on their hands, and they sit on their gifts, and they let the world’s artifacts suffer.
I swear her fingers were once fire. Eyes too. When we touched her skin would melt mine. It only hurt for a second. There was a scar on her right index knuckle and it would dance when her hands wrestled with something humdrum. I would always stare too long.
Faulkner catches the corner of my eye and I can’t help but mumble, “Do people even care about you anymore?” Why would they? Faulkner isn’t a fight video on YouTube, or some BuzzFeed GIF listicle, or an Obama conspiracy theory on Facebook, or a blog post about how to become rich while sipping margaritas on the beach.
I was convinced my life was over at age 16. So I wrote and published 7 sad things on MySpace. Those 7 things were my first and last online writings for a decade. Now I’m older, wiser, and serious about writing again. Well…when I say “serious”, I just mean that writing something that I want to be pretty good at. At minimum, it’s something I feel like wrestling with for a while.
Him: “You know…you take yourself too seriously. You’re so worried about what people think of you.” Me: “What? Shut up dude.” (proving his point) We were 17 when he said that to me. We were walking into a Walmart on Halloween night. We were both dressed ridiculously…or normally…for a Halloween night.
It’s often a desire of mine to be left alone. I go entire days hoping and praying that strangers won’t try to talk to me. And because I carry around this energy, I usually get exactly what I want. I get left alone. My wife once told me that I’m not very approachable. I’m not sure what brought it up, but we had probably just left a social situation where I was obnoxiously distant. Being left alone shouldn’t be a desire of mine. It should be the opposite. I should want strangers to introduce themselves and share their lives with me.
I haven't written a song in 5 years. Back in 2010, I managed to write some songs, play a handful of shows, and release an EP with 3 of my best friends. It was exciting but a bit short lived. At some point I decided I wanted to be a serious adult who works on important things and uses his creativity more practically. So I kicked my songwriting habit, married the love of my life, learned how to design websites, and moved to a hip city.
I do too much existential thinking – always looking at the biggest of pictures while missing out on the details that are directly in front of me. Details like the way my wife's nose scrunches when she really laughs from the gut are the kind of details worth noting every time they happen. But the last clear mental snapshot I have of her doing that is from 4 years ago. This is odd because I know we've had some hearty laughs together since then.
I've discovered how to get the easy life. Here's how: Never change. Never challenge tradition. Never push for better work. Never read things that stretch the mind. Never take risks. It's always easier to keep doing what's comfortable. Comfortable is safe. Safe is easy. I'm not too excited about the easy life.
Roscoe is better at work than I am. Oh, right, you don't know Roscoe...enter Roscoe: A group of rat researchers place a small grey rat at the entrance of a maze. They call the rat "Roscoe". There's a delicious hunk of cheese at the center of the maze and Roscoe smells it immediately. He can't wait to go find it.
I once slept for 18 hours straight — more than once, actually. If I wasn’t sleeping for 18 hours, I was sleeping no less than 10-12 hours a day; 8 hours at night, plus sporadic naps whenever I could throughout the day. This started shortly after I graduated high school and lasted until I was 20. I like to refer to this period as my “2 lost years”.
I sobbed nonsense into a telephone while repeatedly punching myself in the right temple. The girl on the other end of the line had disconnected 10 minutes prior. That was just one of the unhealthy ways I dealt with my first broken heart. It was all very dramatic.
I once tried a one-legged squat and immediately fell over. I always thought a one-legged squat was just about good balance. I considered myself fairly coordinated. So it was surprising when I only got halfway into the squat before falling over and badly bruising my ego.
Most of the time I feel like an idiot. Because of my narcissism, I like to walk around acting like an genius who has only deep and insightful thoughts. But most of the time I feel like an idiot. If you'll indulge me, I'll explain.
Yesterday, I flipped off and cursed at 2 different drivers for following too close. I think I also did it the day before. I'll probably do it again today. I really hate when I’m unkind to others. But lately, as in this whole past year, I've noticed that I feel angry constantly.
Don't listen to me if I ever tell you that a certain coffee shop makes a better latte than another. I have a horrible sense of taste. So both lattes would taste identical to me. I'm probably just trying to impress you. Sorry.
There hasn't yet been a time when I chose to climb over the "decent enough" plateau to get to the "excellent" one. I'm working on changing that. I have a ton of respect for people who pursue excellence in their work. Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was one of those pursuers. Ever heard of him?
I was too focused on taking this photo instead of enjoying the moment. But it’s striking isn’t it? There's both violence and tranquility in those colors. Maybe we love sunsets because they’re pleasing to the eye. There has to be more to it though.
If you’re even slightly interested in starting your own business, I’d like to pass along some crucial wisdom that I was lucky enough to learn early on. And even though I still struggle to implement it at times, keeping this advice “top-of-mind" has helped me build a fairly steady freelance business.
Remember the heyday of CDs? There’s not much demand for them anymore, and they’re clearly on the way out. But there’s something interesting about CDs. Didn’t they kind of force you to stop and actually consider the music you were going to connect with on any given drive?
You're about 3 years old, sitting on the floor with a jumbled mess of pens, pencils, and markers. None of them match or came from the same box (it's possible your dad swiped them from his office). You've also got a few sheets of printer paper that you found under the computer desk, a ton of construction paper scraps from past projects, and a spiral notebook with your older brother's 4th grade homework on the first 10 pages. You're not thinking about a project scope and whether or not this time is billable. You're not thinking about what your colleagues are going to like or dislike about your piece. And you're not thinking about whether or not that blue is "on brand".
When I was 12, I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Thanks to bands like Foo Fighters, The White Stripes, Simple Plan (shut up), I became obsessed with the electric guitar. I held a meeting with my dad and informed him that I needed a guitar so I could be famous and make millions. I made sure to frame the request as an investment opportunity for him. He would obviously get the largest share of my fortune if he bought my first guitar.