OK by now you’ve seen this article in The Onion and been like UGH TOO REAL. Yes! It is too real. It is painful and we recognize ourselves and the choices we have made in this article.
But I think the reason this article is painful is because culturally we define success in such a weird and outdated way. There’s this idea that if you’re not doing what you’re most passionate about all the time, you’re a failure. If you aren’t make a living at it, you’re a failure. If you’re not Stephen King or Christina Aguilera, you’re a failure. And I think we grew up in this kind of 50-year pop culture bubble where we saw many people becoming huge megastars, actors and singers and writers and whatever else. And part of the disconnect we have now about what we should pay for music and books and movies, and how these things should be funded, are tied up with these questions about what we owe to ourselves, and what we feel society & culture owe to us, and the media value we assign to certain “professions”.
I was having dinner with Mary-Kim the other night and we talked a lot about how much more successful as writers we would feel if we didn’t give a shit about our families and lives. I might have gotten farther faster as a writer if that’s all I ever did or thought about, but like, so what? Is that a good model for how a person should live their life? It’s not that I love my day job all the time, but it’s a thing that someone needs to be doing, same as a lot of people’s jobs. And it’s not like me and my job and my writing are completely separate and siloed aspects of my self. My creativity is a thing that comes out in my writing on the internet, in my parenting, and in the rejection letters I send as part of my day job. That’s kind of a success, right? Albeit not one that sells magazines or drives clicks.
Maybe it’s not useful to define one person as the garbage collector and one person as the singer. Maybe everyone is a lot of things. Maybe the self-obsessed celebrity artist culture isn’t that helpful or useful. Maybe eventually we get to a place where we see that books and music and art are created by us, people who have school and day jobs and other shit we care about. And we’re not rich celebrities, and we are all always being pulled in different directions, but we’re present and engaged with the people in our lives? And we value what we contribute as much as what we create? And we create things because want to, and not because we have expectations for what it will get us, or how it will cause society to value us? And we don’t berate and hate ourselves for the very human failure of having a lot of complicated shit to juggle in our lives? That might be kind of cool?