She was like a character out of a storybook. The scary witch. Her hair disheveled and she always wore black and smelled like cigarettes.
When I asked her for feedback on the fifth draft of my thesis, she said that I couldn’t use one of the books I’d chosen.
“I get that you love it. We have the books that we love and the books that are The Canon. You can’t use the books you love in your thesis.”
The world renown-professor-witch was trying to teach me something but all I heard was, “Snob snob, snobby snob snob.” I wanted to be a snob too, so I pushed my anger and resentment (and truly, hurt) as far down as it would go and internalized what she was saying:
It doesn’t matter if the work touches someone, it matters that it’s great.
Well, that’s a big stinkin’ pile of shit.
Do you watch your favorite TV show because you’re taken with the cinematography and mastery of the craft?
You watch it because you like it.
It distracts you from the fact that you hate your job or your husband or whatever reality you’d rather not confront. Or maybe it’s that the actors are good looking and the story is compelling. Or maybe you love it because it’s terrible? Like Taco Bell.
Whatever the reason, you like it because you like it. Not because it’s great.
I don’t like Bieber because he’s a great musician. It’s because I can’t stop dancing every time Despacito comes on and – wait – why am I explaining myself to you? I like it because I like it.
If you’re aiming for The Canon, you’ll never get any work done.
You’re not Hemingway. You’ll never be Hemingway way. Stop trying to be Hemingway.
And this is great news because Hemingway was a miserable fucker. So were the rest of em. Fitzgerald was a shit, Newton was insane, Einstein was a selfish cheating piece of poop. Pick a genre and the story is the same. They were all miserable.
What’s so great about The Canon if it means you have to be nuts and only appreciated by a few snobs who smell like cigarettes and exist to make college seniors feel badly about their lack of talent?
What goes through your mind when you see a person in terrible shape running a marathon?
The same thing that we all think: “Well, shit, what’s my excuse?”
That’s why you must produce.
You cannot judge what someone else will get out of your work. It might be that my writing is just bad enough for you to go, “Well, shit, if Margo can do it, what’s my excuse?”
And that’s good enough for me.
What’s holding you back from doing your work?