When I left school, I wasn’t ashamed to show off my Slothropian hard-on to become an up-and-coming novelist (cue laugh track here). I left my New Jersey college (we’ll leave it anonymous out of “respect”) with blooming spots on my liver, a taste for psychedelic writing and living, a diploma book with no diploma in it (they were going to mail it to us) and aspirations to write the next great American novel. Psh! I’m sobbing already. Now I work in an office doing the exact opposite of what I want to do while half of the kids in my town overdose on prescription pain meds or become DJs with their parents’ money. Between my college loans bills giving me an ulcer, my job’s macabre dental insurance plan, and my inability to edit a novel that’s taken me three fucking years to write, objectively I’d say I’m about ready to give my two weeks (in all affairs) and become a fry cook at the Krusty Krab–Spongebob did it and he had a nice, spacious pineapple home with an ocean view all to himself.
America! Land of the free, home of the…run for your fucking life!
So what are we creative types to do these days? I’m not too sure anymore. With the Internet’s parasitic fangs sucking at the neck of publishing, the wet dreams of producing a novel (or any beloved kind of art) have flushed themselves down the metaphorical toilet, along with my willpower. And even if I could publish a novel, I’m sure people’s reactions would be, “Like, hello! How am I going to read when I have a whole series of overwritten television to watch?”
Let’s not forget spells of blockage and looming doubt, leaving us incapacitated, unmotivated, and creatively catatonic.
I almost feel bad for my parents. When I told them I wanted to become a professional writer, I should have come out and warned them about the inevitable drinking problems and self-loathing that come with that. But hey, at least I got a degree!
I often have these vivid fantasies about quitting everything–my job, commitments, family, friends, showering, and even writing–and heading to some random island in the South Pacific to become some alter ego I’ve created. I would take tourists scuba diving out on some rickety resort boat and I’d have long hair, faded tattoos, and maybe even a gold tooth or two. There would be holes in my old neon wetsuit that I never seem to take off, and the tourists will ask me if the bites are from sharks in the area. I’ll just snicker, look at them through my sunglasses, and ask them if they ever tried LSD as I turn their air tanks on. The horror in their faces would bubble up with bile and all-inclusive breakfasts as they’d begin to regret having trusted their lives underwater with what appears to be an absolute maniac with nothing left to throw in the air while screaming “fuck it.”
That type of life doesn’t seem too bad. At that point I’ll have ex-patrioted the country, so they can go suck on their big toes waiting for me to finish paying off my school loans. I’ll be in the middle of nowhere, living on a resort, photo-bombing families with my tan-lined ass crack just hanging out by the pool, just in frame of that would-be Christmas card.
What a glorious life!
I wrote this for the 10 to 15 percent of readers who read this website, who deal in the mire of shit and piss that is the creative, postgrad world. You’re not alone. Dredging the River Styx of our lives, in search for some sort of statement that is as close to perfection as we can attain is beyond taxing. Finding a well-paying job that aligns with our creative pursuits is more like ceremonial bloodletting.
In the three years I’ve been out of school, I may have melted my wax wings in a plummet to rock bottom on several occasions. But, this is the process I guess. Escapism can be life threatening. This is me, encouraging you to acknowledge it with the great American middle finger fully erect. I do know that nothing will set you free like the completed project outside of the drone of forced labor–one positive acknowledgement can outweigh an entire ocean of failure. If your efforts in your creative medium of choice seem worth the push, then please, push through. The blood loss in the end will only make you hungrier, and in some ways, stronger.
But if a life of reckless behavior and cashed-in dreams seems more appealing, and if suffering through countless bouts of failure and stress seems terrifying, then I also advise you to run with that. Run while you still can, because nothing crystallizes success in the minds of others like when the guy who had all the creative potential back in school shows up to the first class reunion with an escort named Pumpkin, Tupperware for catered leftovers, and a “fuck it” conversational response on reserve for the night.