Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nothing matters

Everybody gets angry but it's what you do with your anger that makes a difference in how it affects you and the people around you. It's all right to get angry. It's just an emotion after all, like love, fear, excitement, lust, etc. It's no worse or no better than any other emotion; it's just another emotion, and emotions are like power, neither positive or negative, neutral until you use them. Like everyone else, sometimes my emotions control me -- and then I get smart. Reading Ayn Rand reminds me of what is and isn't important. In this case, it's emotions.

Whether or not I publish another story or book or even get paid for my writing, I am first and foremost (and will always be) a writer because I write. I was a writer when I was eight years old creating stories and writing books based on the world around me and on the authors I read. I was a writer when I wrote essays and won prizes in my pre- and adolescence. I was a writer when I kept a diary and wrote in it every day. I was a writer when I stopped putting my thoughts on paper and kept them in my head like screenplays of dreams. I am still a writer and I will always be a writer as long as I continue to write. Nothing and no one can change that, not even being a successful writer whose stories and books are bought and published. Everything I do that pertains to writing makes me a writer -- even my dreams where characters use my unconscious state to their advantage and tell me where I'm wrong and right and where I need to go to make their stories real. Sometimes I forget and lose sight of these facts, allowing others to determine how I view myself when they attack out of anger and I become angry in turn.

Anger, like fear, comes from a feelings of inadequacy, jealousy and not wanting to be discovered as a fraud. Anger is a protection mechanism, a drive to fight or flee in order to maintain the status quo. In a metabolic and physiological sense, anger and fear serve important functions. They accelerate heart rate, fuel adrenalin secretion and provide the energy necessary to fuel the actions of fighting or running away. When anger and fear are turned inward they poison the waters like the seeping gases of a volcano unable to erupt and vent heat and gas to avoid total destruction. It's like putting a cork in an anus when you have explosive diarrhea; the result is never good and inevitably damages more than if it had been allowed to run -- metaphorically and actually. Pent up emotions, even love and lust, always create more problems when they're unleashed, especially for the one who's holding them in. Look around and you will see daily examples in every walk of life, and even in your own household. Controlling emotions instead of feeling them is never a good idea, which is not to say that dumping your feelings on whomever happens by is a good idea either. Emotions are meant to be felt and used in constructive ways, but they are meant to be felt and used.

In the past, I've allowed other people's opinions matter to me. They don't. The only things that matter are what I think of myself and what I achieve with my talents and skills as I learn and grow. It's hard not to allow negative opinions and the slings and arrows of jealous and angry people bent on protecting themselves to affect your life, but it can be done. And it should be what everyone does. It takes courage and turning a blind eye to ill-wishers, and that's not always easy. It gets easier with time and practice, like anything else worth doing and learning. In the end, nothing else matters.

It's nice to get a pat on the back from people who admire what you do and it can hurt -- if you allow it -- when others criticize and demean your work and you. Opinions are strictly subjective and are personal, but they don't have to be taken personally.

For instance, I read and review a lot of books. Some of them I don't like and feel are poorly written and I say so, but it is ultimately only my opinion. Others will disagree, including some of the authors. That's not the purpose of a review. A review is like sticking your toe in the water to check the temperature. If you have a fever, even warm water will feel cold. If you're freezing, cold water will feel warm. A review is one person's opinion and the fact that I get paid for my opinion doesn't change the fact that it's still just one opinion and is related wholly to my own experience, education and expertise. I don't understand some kinds of art, but that doesn't change their value or their intrinsic worth. The same is true for my detractors. Their opinion is completely subjective and based entirely on their own views and personality. In the end, the only thing that matters is the work, my work, and my vision and how I express that vision.

Roark tells Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead that he doesn't think of him even though Toohey has gone out of his way to destroy Roark's work in the public's eyes. Roark can't get work and no one in New York City will hire him even though he is undeniably a genius and the most talented and innovative architect around. Toohey revels in his power to destroy Roark's professional life, but Toohey only has the power Roar is willing to give him, and Roark doesn't give Toohey any power. Men and women who can think for themselves and are not slaves to Toohey and his kind go out of their way to find and employ Roark to build for them and eventually Roark is back in New York City with a thriving business at the top of his profession. He never gave in to Toohey and narrow-minded people who follow him in worshiping mediocrity.

Professionally or personally, genius and talent and ability will, like cream, rise to the top as long as fear and anger aren't allowed to gain a foothold. The person may not be liked or even accepted, but they do not exist for the masses or with the rest of those wallowing in mediocrity. Genius and talent, real talent, will not be denied.

Being liked is nice. Staying true to who and what you are is better. Using your gifts without regard to public or private opinion is all that matters.

I keep The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged on the shelf and I reread them every couple of years to remind myself that no one and nothing matters except the work -- for me, that's writing. What I have accomplished and continue to accomplish is out there for anyone with eyes and a mind to see and my work will stand the test of time. Fame and fortune are nice and bring with them comfort, but the real power comes from the work, the writing, and being who and what I am. As long as I keep that in mind, nothing anyone says or does can touch me or destroy me. Nothing else matters as long as I can write -- on paper, on a computer or even in my head. I write, therefore I am.

That is all. Disperse.

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