1. You can’t wait for ideal circumstances. If you do, you will be waiting forever. There will never be a perfect time to sit down and write, to have the hard conversations, to right the wrongs, to face the things you’re avoiding. There will never come a time wherein you’re completely inspired and able-minded and bodied and rested and have all the time you feel you could possibly need. The things that matter have to be inserted into the inconvenience, and the inconvenience of them is (somehow) what makes them matter most.
2. Not feeling inspired is sometimes (often times) a good thing. The thing about inspiration is that it most often (if not always) comes from adopting someone else’s narrative in your mind and wanting to replicate it as your own. You’re inspired because you’re creating something that you deem greater than yourself, a derivative of something you admire. You will find that if you begin when you’re entirely uninspired, what comes out is your voice, the base of the core of the truth of you, and even if it’s not as lovely and heartening and endearing as making something you think is great because someone else who made that thing you think is great, it feeds a deeper importance: to write what hasn’t been done before, make what hasn’t been made, face the fact that if you are afraid of your own voice, it’s probably what you need to be writing.
3. The real stuff is the stuff that works. People are far more perceptive of ingenuity than we often give them credit for. Some people’s work just reads as though they’re piecing together words and ideas that are nice but ultimately meaningless, and some people’s work comes from a deeper, less put-together but ultimately more compelling place, and that is what works. “Works” in the sense that it spreads; “works” in the sense that it connects the universality of us together through the simplest, most basic of means, whether it’s with words on a piece of paper, sentences on a screen, lines in a book, pieces of a poem, or anything in between.
4. The most beautiful art is the depiction of an honest journey in which one speaks to themselves and lets others overhear the conversation. You must constantly be wondering. Constantly reading, searching, traveling, thinking. Growing yourself, healing the unhealed parts of you, and writing your way through them and giving them to everybody else to follow along. You have to want to change yourself not to mimic the way of others, but to become most truly, uniquely your own.
5. Quality will always trump quantity. There’s no merit in writing a 100,000 word book if it’s 100,000 words of nonsense. There’s no bragging right in how long and hard you worked when all you have to show is a stack of paper that offers no real depth or perspective or insight or beauty or meaning. I’d rather write one sentence that speaks the truest truth that no other human could put words to beforehand and renounce writing for the rest of my life than spend forever only brushing the surface of what I’m capable of to create something external I can get approval and admiration for.
6. Be wary of your perception of “quality.” Be more wary of those who judge art based on their own opinions and fail to see that “good” art is subjective. I used to be bothered by the people who would say that one genre of music is “good” and another is “bad.” I did not understand the narrowness of their understanding. The essential purpose of any art is not to fit into one idea of what works. It’s to touch people far and wide and at every level of awareness and intelligence. There is no one “good” art because the most effective art is the kind that changes you and awakens you and shows you to yourself and helps you enjoy what you have and see the blessing in not having what you don’t. There is no one right way to communicate that to someone — there is only the act of communicating it.
7. Criticism is only as much of a bad thing as you are closed to really evaluating yourself. You have to get to the level of self-awareness and self-okay-ness where you don’t just brush off criticism because people with differing opinions, no matter how gracefully they express them or not, don’t matter, are beneath you. At the end of the day, criticism often offers far more than the people who nod in agreement do. I’m sometimes asked how I handle the daily criticism of simply working for the Internet, and a platform on the Internet that gets heat rather frequently. I tell them the truth: I read it, and I consider what the “mean” comments have to offer. I pay special attention to the ones that bother me most, they are calling to my attention something that is either true or that I fear is true. As the days and weeks and months and years of doing this go on, I grow in my own belief that what I do is the best I can do, but that I must always stay open to another opinion.
8. Stop waiting for permission. You’re never going to get permission to do things that are new and innovative and true and raw and beautiful. You just won’t. And even if you do, you cannot let your ability to create rest on the foundation that what you do has to be accepted by someone else. So often we seek to find that someone else agrees with us, that we’re backed by research and agreed with by writers and artists and philosophers and people wiser and greater than us, but that does not make room for us to create the new wave of awareness that can be researched and agreed with. Your ego is the only thing that needs permission. Let your inner self do the talking.
9. The only people who criticize “selling out,” or, more accurately, “wanting to do what you love but also eat” are often the ones who are not, and will never, be able to produce commercially successful material alongside their passion projects, and thus, they make the people who can feel bad about it. This is a hard truth. This is a real truth. This is something that is so deeply misunderstood and judged and creates tension and anxiety for so many artists who are made to feel bad about themselves even though they are the ones — literally — living their dreams. I can’t help but feel as though those two things are related. People want to see you do well, but never better than them. The real American Dream is a life of uninhibited passion and success from the passion. This Dream, however, is seldom realized, and if it is, it’s associated with poverty and other sacrifices you make for the sake of art. When no sacrifices need be made, when money and sustenance and art and love and life all mesh together into one big beautiful experience, the people who aren’t there (and deeply believe they never will be) will write it off as “less than all the greatness it seems.” It’s a transparent act of ego, and every writer/artist/person/human/being should be able to see through it at this point.
10. Everybody thinks they suck. Really. They do. And the real banger? They actually rule. [cw-mark]