Last night I got an email from my friend Ben telling me to keep writing my pieces.
I don’t need to tell you that it meant a lot. Obviously it meant a lot. But it meant more for arriving at a particularly ripe moment – I felt like shit last night and I had no idea why. I don’t know about you, but I can handle the feeling shit. It’s the not knowing why that really winds me up.
Anyway, to try and get out of this funk, I got into bed and put my headphones on and listened to the 50th anniversary remix edition of Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones at full blast. A bit later I checked my email and saw what Ben had sent me. Well, I don’t know if it was You Got The Silver, or Ben’s email, but I welled up, and all was right again, for a while. But Ben’s email made me think of a similar message my friend Miles sent me about five years ago.
That morning in 2015 I awoke possessed by a Dæmon that visits every now and then. It fills me with nervous energy and drives me to spill my guts onto a page and share it with the world. It had been building for a few weeks – it doesn’t start off as a Dæmon, but as a niggling feeling of ennui – and I was paying the price for ignoring it.
I cancelled my band’s rehearsal – I don’t remember what my excuse was – and walked to Starbucks on Ecclesall Road with my laptop in my brown hunting bag and typed furiously. When it was done, I shared it to Facebook. It was about 1000 words long, but the general theme was “Death is coming. Follow your bliss.” I don’t change. Five minutes later, I got a text from Miles saying something along the lines of “Ol, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” And I welled up just like I welled up last night, just like I well up any time somebody tells me to keep going.
Because the most encouraging thing you can hear as a creator is not how great you are, or how you’re going to be huge one day… it’s to be told to keep going. To keep doing what you do.
When somebody tells me I’m a good writer, I don’t know what to do with it. I appreciate it, but I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean when I say that it makes me feel the same way I feel when I’m standing in front of a birthday cake and everybody is singing Happy Birthday to me – I’m flattered, but I don’t know where to look.
But when somebody tells me to keep going, that’s all they need to say. In those two words – KEEP GOING – they have communicated far more than any other praise or feedback would have. They might not even think very much of what I’ve done so far – I don’t either, most of the time – but they are praising the mere fact that I keep showing up. Praising the effort, rather than the results. Praising the part that I had something to do with.
The main thing I’ve gained after the past few months of posting something every day is an ever-increasing detachment to the quality and the ultimate reception of each individual day’s work. The longer I go, the less each piece I publish matters to me. Of course, I want each one to say something, and I want each one to feel as right as possible the moment I click “publish”, but the truth is that I really have only one ambition – to stay in the game.
You see, I’m figuring this shit out in front of a live audience. So to me, not being booed off the stage is a good day. But to be explicitly instructed to keep going? That, my friend, is the ultimate compliment.
Thank you for lending me your eyes.