How do I remain relevant in a world becoming more algorithmic and automated all the time? Identify, record and share real life with people. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, pay attention to the world and how it affects you and tell a story. Alexa can buy your groceries but she/it cannot tell you a story that’s true. Because she/it is not alive. At least not yet.
But the people who would listen to a story are hard to impress. It’s hard to impress people who wish to be superior to their former selves. These people are constantly searching with uncertain knowledge. They have conscientiously given themselves the lofty intent of constantly living which steals them for the task of self-improvement every day. They aim high.
An artist is someone who seeks to serve capsules of life to these people, helping them in their search for truth.
A writer recently wrote that he became terrified once he realized his art was no longer terrifying him, when he was no longer pushing boundaries–had become comfortable and skilled in what he was doing, so he pushed his own boundaries.
I can see how no longer being afraid would kill the passion for what you do. But no one should have to fear losing that passion. Because we only live so long and there are more boundaries to explore than we can find in a lifetime, ten lifetimes. Thank you, Tahisi Coates.
Why is it so important to embrace fear when you are creating? Because fear represents your truth. And fear changes with time, as you do. Life, Tennessee Williams said, is one “long goodbye.”
Fear is the direction I must travel in. When I start to feel lost, I must ask myself, what do I fear now, today? This is a sign-post telling you where you need to go. Not anger or bitterness, that is when your brain is overloaded. Too much of anything kills the engine running it. But subtle, targeted doses of concentrated fear is a guide.
What will people pay attention to in an algorithmic world? Action and dialogue. Things of that nature, are the only ways to convince people of the truth. You cannot tell anyone how to feel. You must show them.
No one lives the life they’ve imagined for themselves all of the time. We have glimpses, moments, but they are always fleeting and our imagination can make us ache for, and be unhappy about, times past or things we’ve anticipated that never came.
As a consumer of stories, I want to be reminded of what a life can be even when I’m not adhering to that version of life for myself.
The Value of Attachments
To be attached to life is normal, and it has a cost. Life ends. But nonetheless it’s normal.
As a writer, or a creator, or a designer, or engineer, or anyone, you are giving people the ability to be present with their attachments to life. An indulgence that helps them discover their fears, their truths. Creators help people to be present with their human attachments, with their physical attachments to life.
By being present, I mean they can see and observe it in the story and thereby be a witness to it, not being carried along by it in their own lives. This is real value, which means not only do people want it, but it’s what we need as well, it’s good for us.
When I’m reading good stuff, my brain glows in the dark. If I want to create this impact as a writer, I have to focus on something other than the words–on what is beneath the words, on the intent behind the words.
I am not offering words, just as the engineer is not offering blueprints but, rather, a path to the sky which will soon be built, or a mechanism for living life more efficiently. I am not selling a chore either–reading can be hard work. I’m offering a story. I’m offering truth.
The only story ever listened to is the one that tells the reader his own truth, otherwise it will be invisible to her, which is to say it will not exist for her.
If I can learn to keep this foremost in my mind—that stories allow us to be present with our truth—then I can actually help people. I can provide real value. Because life is so precious and serious to so many people all of the time.
To feel that for them is the passion behind your work.
This process of discovering how to do that, feels like a journey to the center of the earth. It feels like I can’t see anything and I’m having to feel my way through this viscous liquid where movement and vision is compromised to the point of futility.
I’m actually a blind man, feeling my way to freedom or nothing. I don’t know anything and I have to discover everything on my own. I know there are devices and books that can guide us. But sometimes, most of the time, we don’t even know what we don’t know, don’t even know what aids to reach for.
I know, only, that we are moved by stories that carry truth. You can feel truth in a story told well. Do the events have to be factually correct for it to be true? Of course not. Truth simply is.
Truth is what is with you now. If a story can help you be present with what is true in your life now, it will resonate with others. When I read The Red Badge of Courage I was a 12-year-old boy and I was a coward. I was made so aware of this that I shuddered and could not put the book down.
Now, a man, what am I afraid of? What is my truth? As a boy I was afraid of death because I didn’t think death was a reality. Sure, on the level of my brain, I understood I would die someday or the people I loved would. But I didn’t believe it. My truth was a belief in immortality. So, a story about a boy in battle and his attachment to life in battle was like seeing God.
Now, a man, I know and feel and breath my mortality in and out all the time. I feel it and fear it but I no longer believe in in its opposite. Immortality is not my truth. What, then, is my truth?
Like the boy who believed in immortality, and who was thereby mesmerized by mortality, the man who believes in his own relevance is terrified by the truth of his irrelevance.
Passion is where the fear is. Find your fear, find your passion, or vice versa. Passion is just a word for the part of life you cling to the most right now. This will change.
You are not your mind. You are deeper than that. I am deeper than what I know or what I’m told, or what I “learn” or what I hear, read, watch or bump into on the street or YouTube.
The truth is inside of your cells and is who you are now. That will change. But I’d better be listening to catch it. Or I’d better read a good story to see it.