Writers, Don’t Mind Your Mind

I work in a bookstore, so I come across a whole lot of books. Some of them I’m interested in, some of them I judge immediately, harshly, and generally, correctly, by their covers, and some of them I peruse innocently because maybe, just maybe, they’ll having something to say.

So it is that found myself opening Making Your Creative Mark. Let me share with you what I read:

Your first task as a creative person is to “mind your mind” and think thoughts that serve you. Doesn’t it make sense to speak to yourself in ways that help you create more deeply and more regularly, that allow you to detach more effectively from the everyday chaos of life…

At this point a deep rage overcame me, and I had to stop. 

Look, I don’t think the “out of control artiste” is a tenable model. Every college dude might want to be Kerouac, but Kerouac wasn’t all that good to begin with, and he died vomiting blood. So, you know, get over it, college dude.

But this idea that you just need to be positive in your brain parts and you’ll magic up some genius is just…inimical to life in reality. It’s another page of everything that’s wrong with TED talks, everything that’s wrong with the thinking-your-way-healthy, or -thin, or -happy movement. And the worst, to my mind, is that it’s telling you that the way to creative fulfillment is to only think the thoughts that are good for you.

Tell that to ANY FUCKING WRITER WHO WE HOLD AS CANON. Tell that to the bands you love, or the artists we hang in museums, to the composers whose music we still recognize after just a few bars more than a century after its inception.

Being a writer is about being observant. It’s about walking around with a notebook in your pocket so that when you see something that sticks out to you, or when you hear just the right words in your head, you can write it down to use it later. Sometimes that gets to be a butterfly or a sunset or a pretty face, but sometimes it’s a homeless guy standing in the middle of the street with his pants around his ankles, shit running down his naked thighs, and you, like everyone else, step around him, trying not to breath, trying not to see his shriveled cock, his rotten teeth, his glassy eyes. The writers who choose what they see and what they don’t see are starting with a huge fucking handicap, and if you’re doing that work inside of your own brain, if you’re refusing to see the thoughts that aren’t there to serve your personal betterment, you will write timid prose and safe stories, and you will never create anything that’s worth my very limited time.

And before you go saying, “well maybe he just means you shouldn’t doubt yourself or tell yourself you can’t do something or get distracted,” let me say: you should absolutely fucking doubt yourself. If you don’t doubt what you’re doing, you’re in real trouble. If you don’t have a voice telling you that it could be better, it will never get better. You will stagnate in your pool of safety and timidity and I hope your flesh molds and sloughs from your bones. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Yeah, fight distraction, great, but don’t go pretending that the solution to your shitty writing is positive thinking (disclaimer: my writing is shitty, I’m not better than you, I guarantee it).

Truth, especially in fiction, is never just one thing, it is never born from just thoughts that serve you, and it’s certainly never, ever “effective detachment from everyday chaos.”

I could go on, but I won’t, because my ranting is probably not worth YOUR very limited time.


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