Writing is like many things. It’s like people and relationships: you have a huge pile of it, but there are only a few works that truly stand out. The same goes for the relationships you go through or the people you encounter in your life. Not everyone is born great and very few become great – in the same way, not all writing begins great and few of it ends up being great.
But does it mean we should stop writing? Does it mean we shouldn’t try?
How can we tell the great writing from the bad writing? Well, all great writing comes from one place: the soul. It’s not extravagant words or fancy lines or colorful rhythms – it’s a speech from the heart. Everything true and pure often comes from there.
You’re going to hear a lot of speeches in your life. Political lies, employers or co-workers tearing into you, friends talking you in or out of things, people berating you….most of them will tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t try, they’ll say. Don’t reach into madness. Don’t change the colors we’ve set for you. Don’t look into your own lenses, don’t change a thing in the world.
They’ll talk. Most of it is crap and you’ll know it from the moment you’ll hear it. Then you’ll feel alone and beat down and sleep on it. You’ll feel you’re the only one who understands things the way you do, the only one who sees things in a way that’s unconventional and insane.
Well, don’t beat yourself too much on it, kid. Don’t shy away from your light or drown in darkness. Take the occasional drink but don’t overdo it if that’s not your thing. The world is filled with undiscovered corners and landscapes and you can be the one they’re promised to.
You can be that light, that phoenix soaring high and lighting the path of others just like you.
Because greatness doesn’t happen often. And when it does, it takes a while to appear and come through. It takes a bold soul to recognize it and emulate it.
Because when you’re all curled up under your sheets and you can’t sleep, when you’re thinking about all the monsters under your bed and outside your door, you’ll realize you can’t run forever. You’ll realize that’s the kind of madness you don’t want to live in.
And when you’ll wake up and look out your window, you’ll see the neighborhood cat still strutting on the sidewalk, climbing the neighbor’s fence and meowing through the evening.
Then the skies will clear up and the moon will shine on. You’ll see the city lights again, hear the roars of the busy streets and feel the high tides in the north. Then you’ll know the world is still as you left it. You’ll know the people who said they were going to change it didn’t mean a damn word of it. Because words can be cheap, just like people and other things. But words can also be golden and give meaning and purpose. So get them down on paper if you have to. Put them in fancy lines or colorful rhythms if you feel you must. And if you can’t do it without downing a few drinks, then drink. Purge your soul from the devils and demons in corporate suits and flashy ties.
Then be the change that haunted you during those lonely afternoons and restless nights.
Find music and poetry in the world again. Find art and lyrics within you. You’ll know when you do because the world will start to take a different shape. It will start to feel bizarre and weird and strange and unrecognizable. But it will feel more natural and more reasonable to you. All that’s shallow will have retreated and you will have stepped into the depth of the ocean. You will have conquered the waves and walked right into the waters. You will be in line with the great minds that aren’t mentioned in the scriptures.
But don’t stop there. A still and stiff world will only grow to be more and more morbid and mundane. It will begin to suck out all life from its inhabitants and turn living into a dull experience. Go further than your reach and further than your sight. Read the greats and write like them. Imitate the best musicians and recreate their art. You are the alchemist of your thoughts and the soul is your only drive.
And after you’ve achieved all this and you’re lying in your bed at night, soaking in the calm and quiet and bathing under the moonlight, you will no longer hear the meowing of the cat or the roar of the busy streets. You will no longer witness the city lights. And just then, you’ll have overcome the world and become untouchable. You will have joined an illustrious circle of visionaries and truth-seekers. Or as ordinary people call them, madmen. And you will drink and laugh and write with a never-ending sweet tune playing in your mind while others around you wonder with curiosity and amazement.