I had real work to do that morning, the morning I sat down and wrote what would turn out to be my most popular blog post ever. I had an article that I’d been working on for the past couples months, due by the end of the week. And in the great tradition of mediocre writers everywhere, I was procrastinating. “Want to grab a coffee?” I asked my husband, who still had a few minutes before he had to leave for work.
So we headed to Starbucks, where our barista was amazingly friendly and cheerful for 7 AM on a Monday morning. When we placed our order, she asked us how we felt about whipped cream (which was to say, did we want any?). I heard her use the same line on the next customer, too. There’s something admirable in that, I think. I worked as a barista and waitress for years, like any struggling unknown writer would, and there’s nothing more challenging than asking the same old questions over and over again, each time with sincerity, each time in search of a smile.
So I was in a good mood. I have real work to get done today, I thought to myself. Any day when I have a plan, a sense of direction and purpose — that day is a good day. So, good mood and caffeine in hand, I spent a few precious moments joking with my husband. Nothing life-shattering, mostly just about whatever was in the news. What was in the news that day turned out to be what my coffee was in: that damned red cup.
And when I got home, I sat down at my desk — and I almost didn’t write it, that crazy popular blog post. I thought, It’s just some silly joke, and sure Jeff laughed at it, but he laughs at all my jokes… I thought, I have real work to get done today…
I thought, Will this improve on the silence?
But then I remembered that on my daily schedule, written in big bold letters from 9 AM – 11 AM were the words:
FLEX TIME: BE CREATIVE
And I thought, If you don’t take a bit of time to have fun, you’ll go back to treating writing like a chore, and pretty soon you won’t be writing at all. So by 11 AM, there was the post, all shiny and new on my screen with the cursor still blinking in the morning light, and I was outside in the backyard in my stocking feet taking pictures of myself holding up a coffee cup in front of different backgrounds to get one that really made the red pop.
Two hours of work. No, two hours of playing around being silly and sarcastic. That was all it took.
It makes me a little bit embarrassed, honestly. On behalf of all those writers slaving away out there, pouring their hearts into posts that no one will read, precious contemplative musings not feverish enough to go viral. Those writers opening veins onto the page, seeking something true and real that won’t wither with time. Usually, I’m one of those kinds of writers. And it can be exhausting, trying to be honest in a world that has so thoroughly trained us to guard our every move behind layers sarcasm and irony and disdain. It can be excruciatingly lonely, trying to thrive in a society so wary of sincerity. That’s why I have two hours every Monday morning where I let myself say, “Fuck it,” and write something that makes me laugh, or weep, or blush, or pace the floorboards in a flurry of nerves, or sometimes all those things at once. Because if I don’t let myself have fun, life quickly becomes miserable and unmanageable.
At last count, I have about 25,000 new readers, fifteen new best friends, half a dozen people who claim to be in love with me, and at least one person who wants to worship me as a goddess. That’s how funny I was, at 9 AM on a foggy Monday morning.
No, actually — that’s how much people needed to laugh. That’s how sick we all are of this bullshit nonsense. You’re sick of it, too, I know. You’re sick of the internet outrage machine. You’re sick of controversy and condemnation. You reshare links to things you hate just to tell people you hate them, and somewhere inside, you hate yourself for doing it, because you know it’s useless. You’re sick of the noise and the fury, signifying nothing. You’re sick of a society that asks you to hold onto everything so tightly, with so much certainty and righteous indignation, that your fingers are curled into fists and you can’t remember the last time you gently traced the scars on another person’s skin as if they were something beautiful.
Just, take a moment and breathe. (You can even sing “Let It Go” to yourself, I won’t tell anyone.)
Now, where were we?
Oh yes: I know I only have your attention for a moment. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to having only one best friend, one person in love with me, one person who worships me as a goddess (and they’ll all be the same person). Tomorrow, I’ll be publishing an article I’ve been working on for two months, and I don’t think it’s very good and I might never be satisfied with it — and I’m grappling with that fear, the fear that the only good thing I ever wrote was a silly little parasite on your passing public outrage. And even if it made you laugh, how could that ever be enough? How long can laughter really last, in the face of all this noise?
So while I have your attention, I just want to tell you: You have real work to do. Amazing, creative, crazy wonderful work. Work that improves on the silence. Work that will slip us loose from our rage and give us permission to be human again, scars and all.
Trust me. It’ll be worth it.