While searching for a particular Merlin sound bite on scaring yourself into stuff that I wanted to grab for my most recent newsletter1, I stumbled on this transcription of a different equally wonderful interview that Colin Marshall did with him.
There is such incredibly rich goodness in it, great, smart things we all know about how important it is to hoe your own row and be clear on what it is you want, but that we forget (again) until we’re reminded by someone whose cleverness is tinged with just the right amount of earnestness (or is it the other way around?). But the thing that got to me today was the part about how this quest is, at times (and for great long stretches of time), a lonely and expensive slog:
People who are like, “I wanted to be a doctor since I was five” or, “I always wanted to be a lawyer.” I have a lot of friends who became lawyers and hated it. There’s no reason to think that your own career in the arts or personal publishing is any different. Make sure it’s what you want to do. Make sure that you really have a lot to say about something, and that you have a giant amount of tolerance for, first of all, making no money , for it actually costing money for a while. If you want to do this stuff right, you’re going to have to hire lawyers and stuff. And it’s costly. It seems free because you can get a free blogger account, but ask anybody who’s trying to make this scale, and it takes dough.2 [italics mine]
I have no mouths to feed and incredibly low overhead (for Los Angeles, anyway). Between my own nervous squirreling away during the fat times and smart investments and even smarter not-investments and a bit of a legacy from my dad’s passing and, yes, the occasional gig I take even though I’m technically not for hire these days, I am good. Nay, better than good, I am in the most luxurious position I could be without being kept by someone or having what my friend Peter calls “Mailbox Money,” that stuff that makes working actors do a whoopee jig every time it shows up. And still, I am terrified about money most of the time.
Lately, I’ve run into an unusual number of people who are on the prowl for their Next Big Thing. I smiled knowingly at one person who’s currently suffering through Year One and had a moment of internal nervous recognition upon hearing another bemoan his rounding up on Year Three.
How long can it take to find your Next Big Thing? As long as it takes. Or whatever the answer is to that other one about one hand clapping.
What has been helping me through the crazy of late are the eminently sensible words of my first-shrink-slash-astrologer spoke to me recently: “Master the art of surrender.”
It is a message she’s served up to me many times over the years, in and outside of readings. Because I have a very particular, one might even say “controlling”, idea of how things should go and what I need. And who’s to say it’s all true? Am I such a genius that at 22, I foresaw future happiness in a life without children, without corporate prestige, without a primary relationship, and in a city every elder I ever respected had nothing but scorn for? No. Not even close. I didn’t even know I liked dogs for another 25 years, that’s how much I knew.
This, or something better. Hold a good thought, definitely have goals and intentions, but stay open to the awesome. Master the art of surrender. Live in the goddamn moment for a change, and for the best kind of change.
Because really, what do you know? And when did you know it for sure?
So I work on my tolerance for chaos and ambiguity. I see myself getting mad, but I sit in it a little less each time, and frankly, that I’m even noticing I’m angry is a gargantuan improvement. I have good days and I have bad days. But these days, even the bad days I’m starting to recognize as good days, because they are DAYS, baby.
They are DAYS…
1Subscribing is strictly optional, but if you like it here, you might want to subscribe to stuff I write about there. It’s a little more polished and a little more obviously useful. You can see for yourself by visiting the archives. Which, I’ll apologize for up front, are loading insanely slowly. The only downside of my move to Thesis.
2And then, when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, there is this:
It takes a lot of patience and it takes a lot of self-awareness to be open to the fact that you may become popular about something that you didn’t want to become popular about. At a certain point, you don’t get to pick that anymore.
Christ on a bike. What is the one thing more terrifying than working at something you’re making virtually no money at? The prospect of all that work paying off in a way you don’t even want. Finding that either you’ve propped the ladder up the wrong wall or someone moved it to another one while you were climbing. Yeesh!