The other night I was talking to a close friend about a whole passel of issues involving creativity, and one of the things that popped out was how easy it is to start second-guessing yourself — how easy it is to start contorting yourself into the position where you give people what you think they want (easy [allegedly]), instead of trying to figure out how to make them interested in what you do (much harder).
I put it like this: "When you give yourself creative freedom that doesn't think much about pleasing people, you learn that much more how to please yourself — and you also have that much more freedom to find an accommodation between pleasing yourself and pleasing others. If you start from the assumption that you have to please others first and foremost, you make yourself miserable and you produce trash to boot."
Nothing too special there, if you ask me. But what I came out with next stuck with both of us: "I wish more people were that much more thoroughly in touch with their irreplaceability."
You are most likely just as sick as I am of the whole you-are-an-individual mantra, one that society discovered only too late tends to create more narcissists or ego-debilitates than it does fully agented human beings. But, as with anything taken too far, there is a smidge of truth in there worth wiping free of the excess encrustations around it.
The proper way to get in touch with one's irrepaceability, I think, is to have it be an experience that humbles you, not one that aggrandizes you.
Two years ago, when I was nearly done with writing Flight of the Vajra, I found myself being offered a job I didn't want. It wasn't a question of skill; I could have done the job in my sleep with one ankle tied to one wrist. But it was something I could tell at a distance was just not interesting to me — and what's more, was something any number of other people could have done — again, in their sleep, etc. So I said no, and thanked the person asking, hung up, and turned back to my manuscript.
And at that moment I felt profoundly intimidated. I had gone from considering a job that anyone could do, to going back to work on something that absolutely no one else in the whole of creation could ever do. It wasn't a fun thing to think about; it was profoundly frightening. It scared my pants clean off and out the window.
Fortunately, by that point in my life, I'd already reached some manner of wisdom that let me do something with that terror, instead of just getting steamrolled into the pavement by it. It got me moving again, and the results are now there for all to read. (Please do, by the way. My wallet thanks you.)
There really isn't anyone like you out there — never could have been, never will be. This is something more people need to give their undivided attention and see for what it is. Not so they can pump up their egos, but so they can see what it is that only they can bring to the table. As Zen master Sawaki Kôdô Rôshi once said, "You can't even trade a single fart with the next guy."
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