On Choosing The Work

"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." -- T. Mann
Thomas Mann, b. June 6 1875

Nothing comes without sacrifice, we are told. It’s hard to be an artist of any type, let alone a goddamn writer. Writing, according to Hunter S. Thompson, is “the flip side of sex – it’s only good when it’s over.”

Writing is difficult, perhaps, because it is so deceptively simple. I recall a surprising early discovery in meditation: that even in a bare room wearing dull, comfortable clothes and tasked with nothing more than staring at the floor I was overwhelmed by the familiar voices of doubt. Indeed, the great insight of that afternoon was that by stripping away the rest of the world I could finally hear those voices as a fundamental part of my Self, and not as the Indelible Truth Of The World they purport to be. It was the beginning of an awakening to my Shadow self, that part of me which runs at my side, keeping pace, pushing me on and periodically pushing me down.

This Shadow self is our only true companion in life, so it is best we make peace with it. That voice of doubt will be there on my dying bed to tell me that I’m not dying right, that I’m making too big a deal of it and drawing too much attention to myself, that The Truth Is I am afraid of dying, as I am afraid of everything in life, as I Have Always Been and Will Always Be .

And it will be right. I will be scared. I’m scared of death, and aging, and all the loss that goes along with it. Every year we spend on Earth we lose a little more: another friendship gone, another lover lost, another parent dead. I am scared of loss. I’m scared of saying “no” to the right thing and “yes” to the wrong thing. My fear is often paralyzing and it is precisely that paralysis my Shadow urges.

Today I find strength in acknowledging this. I have no special talent, as they say – my skill is in the observation of myself, like Narcissus losing himself in the lake. And like Narcissus, I fear losing the world itself in my observation of it.

But nothing comes without sacrifice. The stone cannot be other than a stone. Today I embrace the work. Today I choose it.

1 Comment


  1. I teared up when I read this. Beautiful, and true. Miss you, Scales. 🙂

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