“The skills that got you where you are will not take you where you want to go.”
A long time ago, I dreamt of living off my writing. I wished to be free from the 9-to-5, to be free from a boss or a corporation, and, more importantly, to be free from the world so that I could live on some plot of land, away from everything, and write whenever, whatever, and about whomever I wanted. Paid quite handsomely, I could focus on delving into the soul-searching task of questioning my own self in this existence through literary fiction that inspired me as a young reader—the moral dialogues and conflicts of the mind written by Dostoevsky; the breadth of the human character written by Tolstoy; the tapestry of human language and human complexity written by Joyce, Faulkner, and Woolf; the vulnerability of Bishop. Everything I produced would be best-selling yet artfully, tastefully unique. I’d walk the thin line between popular and niche, serving as a writer of literary significance and merit, gaining not only the admiration of millions of fans but also the respect of my colleagues, mentors, and elder statesmen and stateswomen of my field.
There’s nothing wrong with this dream. This is a young person’s dream, and no matter how arrogant sometimes, all dreams catapult careers. My particular dream’s intentions were good, but its method of execution was selfish, and, most importantly, had planted in it the seed of its own destruction—isolation. I say seed because it is this very isolation which one must plant in order to become a writer at all. As a beginner, you need isolation from the busy world, from negative or sometimes indifferent people, and from a million distractions.
When I began, I created stories in my isolation, ate and drank in isolation, and lived in isolation. And for nearly fifteen years, I’d grown and flourished in isolation, and so isolation I would always have.
But one spoils in this kind of place, don’t they? It’s a harmful reverberation of one’s own solitary voice instead of a creative reverberation from and with others. But I didn’t know that. I thought I could do the whole thing by myself. Sure enough, the words which once sprung from my mind began to fade as soon as I’d read them. Shut up in my own little world, my spirit, my mind, and my body wore down. I was tired, old, depleted. Looking for inspiration from old literary dreams, myths, and champions that had once spurred me on, I realized that they were not there to steer me from this life, but to keep me in it. These were the very men and women who once inspired; and either from historical accuracy or legend, I saw them as wounded poets, writers, and philosophers dying slowly in large, indifferent cities, driven to either drink, drugs, or depression, which were the true badges of creativity, their suffering the only kind of work that would lead to true art.
When one stays in this kind of isolation, one will wither, slump, and die the death of a thousand wounds. I was there, suffering in isolation for my art, possessing a rotting ego of self-satisfaction. No longer had I creative space, I had creative desolation. No longer had I solace, I had imprisonment. No longer was I writing in a room, I was typing in a cell.
I’d found isolation when I found reading. Tucked away from the busyness of people, the shouting and the ruckus, reading a book was a place I could go in my mind through my imagination. I’d never experienced anything like it and have not ever since. Reading excited and thrilled me, it scared and shocked me. Voices and descriptions, places and actions–reading had it all. Reading still for me is a holy, magical experience. From these words, great visions appear to you, moving you to so many emotions and even actions. I wanted to be Encyclopedia Brown and Ramona, I wanted to be Captin Ahab and Aloysha Karamazov. Even in a crowd of commuters on the train, I am alone with that story or poem and it is alone with me, representing my connection with something higher. When I walk into a bookstore, I am walking into an airport where I have a ticket to go anywhere I wish in the universe and beyond. When I walk into a library, I’m stepping into a sacred cathedral. I loved reading so passionately and so fervently that I became a writer. Now I want to be Stephen King or Neil Gaiman.
This isolation was so essential to me, so how could I abandon it?
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
All it takes is one simple decision.
Several years ago, I decided to begin a writing routine in the morning. Before this, I’d only written when I felt like it, on either days off from my full-time bartending job or in the morning or night when it suited me. I was knee-deep working on finishing my first novel, and at the rate I was going, it would take me the rest of my life to write it. Writing in the morning was the only time I had.
I began. I’m not a morning person, so every time I woke up was a battle. In the beginning, I didn’t get up on time, and I felt like garbage all day because I didn’t get my writing done. But slowly, I made the effort, forcing myself sometimes. And when I did do it those first times? The high was amazing! I learned to feed off that high.
From there, everything began to change. Little by little, I made changes to my life that would protect and secure my writing time. Because I was getting up early, I had to go to bed at a decent time. Staying out drinking and eating late became a thing of the past, and what I was drinking and eating became essential. I wasn’t perfect after that, far from it. But it’s how our failures that teach us the most sometimes. It’s all a work in progress.
I continued. I took up meditation and learned tricks to calm my overactive and anxious mind. Fueled by my original dream of literary fulfillment and success, I studied, watched videos, and read books on everything that involved my time, attention, mindset, and health, and how I could be a better writer by being a better human being. The latest in this journey is my steps toward vulnerabilty and compassion, a post I’ll be writing in the future.
Which brings me to you. Sharing with you is the next step of my journey. Litertature Adjacent used to be a site dedicated to all things in my life that influence ME. But since I’ve gotten my system in place (another subject I’ll be covering down a little later in a post), I’ve realized that the most important things that influence my writing are the adjacents, and that I need to share all of what I’ve learned and will continue to learn about this process with YOU.
You may be clinging to old habits like I was that stifled your creativity. You may not care about your health, just as long as you get the words down, and you’re so passionate and loving a person that you’re willing to die for those words. Or you may be writing things that don’t come from a place of honest feeling, but of a place of hollow need.
And it’s about the history, methods, and models of our art form that needs to be reformed too. We need to leave behind us the examples, myths, legends, and champions of literature where a person was required to be injured, alone, depressed, and unhealthy in order to create something beautiful and artistic. Let’s create new myths driven by human energy, creativity, and curiosity. Let’s create rituals of health, community, positivity, and love. Let’s build it together. We can return to that place that began it all for us, to that child-like feeling of curiosity and magic, to the realm of creativity. Creativity was what I’d found in my isolation so long ago–which, now that I think of it, wasn’t isolation at all, but solace. It begins in solace, your writing life, which I’d made into isolation. I didn’t care about all the things that went into my writing, but now I do, and so for good, let me banish isolation and welcome back solace. After all, you can possess a feeling of solace wherever you go.
And so. Welcome to the new Literature Adjacent!
Let this be the stepping off point. This is a new bend in the path for me, and I want you to be a part of it, we don’t have to go it alone. As I learn, so will you. New sites, new adventures, new people and places, and most of all, new experiences. ALL of this will fuel my writing as well as yours.
Make the first decision to re-vision your dream and work to make it happen.