essay

Nothing will come of nothing

KING LEAR: Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.

The quote above comes from King Lear (Act 1, Scene 1). Cordelia (his daughter) has just told him that she has nothing to add to get more of his kingdom. He is looking for flattery from his three daughters. The one who presents the best case for their overflowing — even if false — love for him will get the best share of what he current owns and down from there. Yet, Cordelia, his youngest and most honest daughter, has nothing to add to what he says. She cannot compare her love to anything, put her “heart into [her] mouth”. She cannot give him what he wants. And so, with her honest pronouncement of simple love, of faithfulness “According to my bond; nor more nor less”, she is cast aside. Says Lear in response: “[I] disclaim all my paternal care”, you are now “as a stranger to my heart and me” and “Hold thee, from this, for ever.”

By this point, I imagine you are asking yourself why I bothered to break down part of a scene from Shakespeare. The answer is this: “Nothing comes from nothing”. If you do nothing, you will get exactly that: nothing.

It’s easy for me to bemoan my current predicament. I could spend thousands of words whining about how unfair things are or how bad other people have treated me in the recent past. All of that is easy. I could spend yet another post complaining about how I frustrated I am with my university right now. I could point out (again) how they have screwed me over. But I’m — other than what I just wrote — not going to do that. For this post, I have something else in mind.

There is a question I have asked myself several times in the past. It’s this: “How much do you want it?” In other words, for whatever your passion is: how much are you willing to endure for it? For the things you love doing, what are you willing to put aside or even give up to achieve it? How much, in simple terms, do you want it?

Because it will cost something. The calculus of scheduling means losing something to achieve your functioning goal. To meet the line you drew, you must reach higher. To finish the race, you must put other worries out of your mind. Dedication is the key to the door of success.

It’s easy for me to throw platitudes out or point to motivational posters. “Look,” I could say. “That poster says ‘You can make it.'” But that too would be easy. To be an artist, to create art means sacrifice. It means saying no to some things in order to pursue what you love. It means ordering your priorities in such a way that the things your love always get time, even if it is only a few minutes each day.

That’s where, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize the truth is in the details. Some days, you may get to your writing. Some days, you might not get anything done at all. Life is messy. Life is not always fair. Life often sucks. Life though, above all else, is what you make of it.

When I set my goal of writing 1200 words a day back in May, I thought it was a little crazy. I even think that now — especially in light of the last two weeks. “When am I going to have time to do that? How will I make that goal every single day?”

But I did. For months at a time, I achieved that goal. I even made it into This Week in Videogame Blogging once. I still consider that an unexpected but welcome sign that I am making progress toward my goal of being a better writer.

It was rough at first though. Still is rough, to be honest. You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much writing lately. I have certainly noticed. It’s been on my mind. I check this blog on a daily basis even if I can’t always seem to find the time to sit down and write something to post. I see the traffic graphs. Right now, as I type this, it looks as if, from the single spike in traffic the other day, that the graph is giving me the middle finger. That is what I see as I type this.

But enough about me. Let’s look at you for a minute. What are your dreams and goals? When you were asked, when you were younger, what you wanted to be when you “grew up”, what did you answer? Have you achieved that? Do you still have those ambitions? Do you still have that drive toward the goal? Are you still hungry for whatever you were originally after?

I wrote, nearly a month ago now, about Leigh Alexander in the post “Be Like Leigh“. I mentioned that a creative writing professor once told me the following: “Write. Do it often. Do it even if you do not want to. And, above all, write about your passion.” Remember that? I do. I think maybe it’s time to change it some though. How about: “Find your passion. Do it often. Do it even if you do not want to. And, above all, follow your passion.

The English word “infatuation” breaks down into “the process of being/becoming stupid”. To be “infatuated with something” is to be ‘stupid’ about it, to think of only it. I’m not asking for that. That is but a single stop away from the town of Addiction. Let’s not be so hung up on what we are doing that nothing else matters, but so excited about getting to work on something that our excitement makes us be ‘stupid’. In talking about what we love to do, we should be nearly giddy.

Cordelia was honest in how she felt. She could not give King Lear what he wanted to hear, false passion about himself. Don’t lie about your passion. If what you are not working on is your passion, that’s fine. Find something that is. Take up painting, writing or creation in some other form.

It’s never about being the best. Right now, right this second, it’s about just doing. National Novel Writing Month is about giving writers — especially new writers — a chance to catch a passion for the work. Take that model. Find something you want to try. And then do it.

Want to know three simple steps toward achieving your goal? Do something. Do it better the next time. Repeat.

Are you doing anything right now? When people ask, do you say “I do it according to my “bond; nor more nor less”? It’s time to follow the King Lear approach. Let’s get a little bit crazy about our passions. We’re not looking for — at least not me — to disown our relatives or anything, just being committed to finding the time we need for the projects we love.

I wrote today. Maybe I won’t write tomorrow. That’s fine. But I need to be looking for moments when I can in the future.

That’s 1200 words. Your turn. “Speak again.”