Lee Davy continues his confessions series with a piece on the importance of getting interested.
I’m in Brussels, in the smallest toilet in the world, reading the last page of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. There was a time when I would have gladly torn away the sheets and used them to wipe my ass. Times have changed. It’s taken me a year to finish. I’ve blisters on the tips of my fingers, my mandible aches and I have molted an entirely new self.
Strunk & White: it sounds very Bob Cratchett. I read somewhere that it’s the writer’s bible. That’s why I couldn’t finish it. It was too smart for me. I’m your burp the alphabet type of writer. This little black book was antithetical to me. Fear welled up inside each time I picked it up.
When it comes to being the best, there is an avariciousness about me. It’s a way of being that hits me in wavelets of emotion. It shakes me. I don’t like it. But it’s strong, sturdy and stupid. It’s not like a daisy chain necklace. It’s all rock and hammers. I can’t be the best if I have to be all Strunk & White.
I sometimes feel like I’m on unhallowed ground. I am not a trained writer. I didn’t do my time. I haven’t attended any courses. I don’t feed on the scraps that fall underneath the wings of any writing titans. Instead, I sit up in bed, bathing in electric light; pillow cushioning my spine and I write.
The book contains no cliffhangers. It’s not that type. It’s more chlorinated textbook than rapacious read. Each somnolent turn of the page can take you into a deeper sleep. The waves don’t crash in this place. It’s old hat, not backwards baseball cap.
The book ends with a few tips on writing style. I seem to break every rule. Either the way we consume and digest the written word has changed over the years, or I am just a shit eating dog of a writer. Either way I feel the frailty of fear wash over me again. I start to mutate. Then I stop.
I have a writing tip for readers of Strunk & White.
Interested in what?
If you want to be paid to write articles about American wrestlers who wear polka dot leotards, then get interested in it. If you want to write about hummingbirds, get interested in it. I’m pretty sure that J.R Tolkien wrote about Goblins because he was interested in it.
The surgeon will get interested in how the sternum opens, Burning Man virgins needs to be interested in decompression, and people who live on desert islands need to get interested in hammocks.
Unless you want the monolithic corporations of the world playing you like a puppet on a string, get interested. If you want a tranquil and beautiful life, get interested in tranquility. If you want to write about poker for a living then get interested in poker.
I haven’t been interested in poker lately. I know you have seen it in my work. I used to very proud of churning out work at a rate that nobody else in the industry could match, but that couldn’t be at the detriment of quality. I feel like I have broken that vow too many times in the past few months.
I like to write from the heart.
It’s authentic. It’s natural. My fingers dance around the keyboard with abandon. I don’t think. I get into a state of flow. It happens. Words appear in front of me and I don’t know where they’ve come from. My sweat reeks of inspiration. I feel at one with the world.
It also makes things easier.
I can get more shit done, at a quicker pace.
And isn’t this the problem?
How can we be interested in so many things, and still retain the ability to live harmoniously in the cul-de-sac of them all? Are we to become polymaths? Is it even possible? Where would we find all the time? Time is of the essence, but there is no essence. There is nothing except the rushing nature of getting shit done. The blurriness creating by the need to move onto the next thing.
And so it is.
And so it shall be.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Get interested in mindfulness. Get interested in meditation. Get interested in Eckhart Tolle. Get interested in doing one thing at a time. Line them up like coconuts in a shy and smash them down one after the other. Get interested in chewing each mouthful of food 50-times. Get interested in slowing that ass down. Get interested in the person lying beneath you. Get interested in walking. Get interested in the twirly-grey moustache on the old man’s face sitting in the corner of the Vietnamese restaurant where you have just eaten the best pho in the world.
A wise man once taught me a very important lesson.
“If you’re always writing for the heart, rather than the head, the passion gets watered down. Use a good mix of head and knowledge and then it makes the “from the heart” pieces that much more powerful.”
It was advice I received last week.
It’s still sinking in.
But I get it.
I needed to get interested in Strunk & White. I needed to get interested in research. I needed to get interested in people’s opinions other than mine.
I needed to get interested in my work.
And once again, I am.