Anywhere but there

It’s unusual to not value money; it’s definitely counter-cultural, and those of us who aren’t greatly moved by the thought of cold hard cash tend to feel foolish and apologetic, as though not valuing money is a shameful secret.

When I was young I told our elderly neighbour I didn’t really need money. She thought that was hilarious, and years later I was in full agreement, having discovered the limiting realities of not-being-rich.

The need to make money and to make as much as you can while you still can, verges on secular dogma.  It’s the heart of our contemporary faith in the power of money; what Christians used to call ‘Mammon’ before the ‘prosperity gospel’ movement began telling people that God wanted us to be wealthy.

I put up with an awful farce of a job for two years because it would have been irresponsible and unreasonable to turn down relatively well-paid employment.  No matter how bad it got, I had to stick with it because turning down ‘good money’ for no good reason is anathema in this society.

It only occurred to me near the end of my employment that I wasn’t really suited to this religion of money.  I find money quite boring.  I’m not strongly motivated by it, and I resent the fact that those of us who are motivated by ideals rather than paychecks have been so marginalised that we end up thinking we are the problem.

I used to wish I could be more ‘business-minded’ so I could get along better in life, but my experience with business has shown me that it’s not any particular skill-set I’m lacking – there are plenty of people riding the coat-tails of big business without the distinction of any outstanding set of skills.  It’s not something I’m lacking, it’s something I have. What I have is an unwillingness to further compromise myself in order to get along.  I don’t love money enough to sacrifice my integrity for it, doing the kinds of bullshit jobs for which my studies in philosophy, history, politics, and my experience in bioethics ‘qualify’ me.  As the author of the ‘bullshit jobs’ essay, anthropologist David Graeber writes:

“There is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist?”

I wonder how many people realise that their jobs should not exist, or that substantial portions of their daily work serve no purpose and are of no real benefit to anyone?  It’s demoralising and demeaning to find oneself in such a position; but why do we endure it?

Part of the answer is cultural: we’ve been conditioned to think that we must have a career, be heading somewhere, be earning as much as we reasonably can for our age and station.  At the same time we can’t even imagine that there might be alternatives – alternatives that won’t see us worn ragged in some vain attempt at total self-sufficiency, or regretting our poverty at an advanced age when it is far too late to do anything about it.

The ‘all or nothing’ mentality is compounded by the cost of basic necessities, in particular the land that one might need in order to eke out an existence.  In Australia the cost of land anywhere in or near the major cities is prohibitive.  House prices have dramatically increased relative to wages, and most people opt for the established convention of seeking a substantial income to service an even more substantial mortgage.

The thought of leaving the major cities is tempting, but though the land may be cheaper, the cost in terms of family and friends makes the price even higher.  And there’s something a little perverse in sacrificing one’s most meaningful relationships to save money; that’s not the kind of victory I’m interested in.

I lost my job a few months ago, and have since been seriously examining and working towards the prospect of never again ending up in another ‘bullshit job’.  Looking back, I can see that my greatest weakness has been the ‘all or nothing’ mentality.  For example, I had previously ruled out the prospect of ‘making a living’ as a freelance writer, because I knew I couldn’t replace my previous income from the kind of writing I do.  In my mind it had to be a comparable income, or it wouldn’t be viable.

This attitude kept me from making even the simplest effort to calculate my family’s cost of living – our annual expenses on a weekly basis.  I had no idea how much money my wife and I needed to make in order to survive.

I’ve since discovered that what we need is a lot less than what I was making in my former job, because of a characteristic that has turned out to be our greatest strength in this new adventure: our lifestyle is not expensive.  We are willing to make sacrifices, but the fact is that we don’t even miss the things that others would regard as ‘sacrifices’.  Our ideals and our interests are heavily weighted toward knowledge and skills that we can acquire and develop on our own.  Our lives would undoubtedly be boring to most of the people trapped in the ‘rat race’ of consumer culture; and that is their handicap and our great advantage.

We poor, marginalised and alienated idealists need to stop apologising for our ‘useless’ degrees, interests and ideals.  We need to drop the false ‘all or nothing’ dichotomy that pushes us towards soul-crushing employment in typically inane ‘bullshit jobs’.  We need to take some solace in the words of Pierre Ryckmans:

The successful man adapts himself to the world. The loser persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the loser.

In retrospect I’m glad I didn’t quit that BS job, because it took an experience of such ineptitude and banality to clarify and sharpen my vision of where I want to be, starting with “anywhere but there”.

 

Learning Chinese the eccentric way

calligraphy

In applied linguistics we were taught that the best way to learn a language is to use it.  How do you use a language? By making meaning.  Meaning-making is pretty much the opposite of memorising vocab lists and taking part in feeble and uninspiring scripted dialogues.

My ideal in learning Chinese has been to learn without making an effort to learn, to learn, as it were, by accident.

But the key to learning by accident is to have a need or a reason to make meaning in your would-be second tongue.  And while I have a number of reasons for wanting to be able to speak Chinese, I have little actual need for making meaning on a daily basis.

Thus far my best efforts have involved an obsessive degree of online searching for information relating to the martial art I practise.  I’ve learned quite a bit of incidental Chinese, can search online and perform fairly slow translations.  But although there’s a surprising amount of transferable vocabulary from martial arts to everyday use, I have to face the fact that this interest is no longer enough to drive my learning.

The next step in my eccentric plan has been to learn the lyrics to some memorable Chinese songs.  The vocab and grammar are generally more transferable, and if a song is good enough it’s hard not to sing along. What better approach to efficient language learning!

I’ve had this plan in mind for a number of years, but have been hamstrung by the limitations of popular Chinese music.  Aesthetic appeal is somewhat subjective, so let’s just say that Chinese pop tends to be quite homogenous, and neither syrupy/nostalgic ballads nor rap are my style.

However, I’ve recently discovered an excellent little tumblr site that chronicles a range of Chinese Indie music!  The odds of finding something interesting, memorable, and worth learning have dramatically increased.

First on the list is this track by 朴树/Pu Shu, titled 平凡之路/Ordinary Road.

I found both the song and the translation via fyeahchineseindie:

徘徊着的 在路上的 Those who are drifting down the road
你要走吗 via via Are you leaving now? via via
易碎的   骄傲着 Fragile and proud
那也曾是我的模样 That was how I once was.

沸腾着的    不安着的 Those who are passionate and restless
你要去哪 via via Where are you leaving for? via via
谜一样的  沉默着的 Like a mystery, and so sullen
故事  你真的   在听吗 Are you truly paying heed to the story?

我 曾经 跨过 山和大海 也穿过 人山 人海 I’ve crossed untold mountains and oceans, passed through crowds and crowds of people
我曾经拥有着一切 转眼都飘散如烟 Once, I had everything; but in the blink of an eye, it was all gone
我曾经 失落 失望 失掉 所有方向 Once, I was frustrated, desperate and lost
直到看见平凡才是唯一的答案 Until I saw the only answer has always been an ordinary road.

当你仍然 还在幻想 While you are still daydreaming
你的明天via via Your future via via
她会好吗 还是更烂 Will it better or get worse?
对我而言是另一天 To me it’s just another day

我曾经毁了我的一切 只想永远地离开 I once destroyed myself and wanted to leave forever
我曾经堕入无边黑暗 想挣扎无法自拔 I fell into an endless darkness, unable to save myself
我曾经像你像他像那野草野花 I used to be like you, like him, like wild flowers
绝望着 渴望着 哭着笑着平凡着 Full of despair and longing, crying, smiling and being ordinary

向前走 就这么走 就算你被给过什么 Go forward, as you are, no matter what you’ve suffered
向前走 就这么走 就算你被夺走什么 Go forward, as you are, no matter what has been taken away from you.
向前走 就这么走 就算你会错过什么 Go forward, as you are, even if you might miss things down the road
向前走 就这么走 就算你会 Go forward, as you are, no matter what…(Repeating)

我曾经问遍整个世界 从来没得到答案 I once asked the whole world, but never received an answer.
我不过像你像他像那野草野花 I used to be like you, like him, like wild flowers
冥冥中这是我 唯一要走的路啊 In the darkness, this became my only road

时间无言 如此这般  Time flies, just like that
明天已在眼前 Tomorrow is just around the corner
风吹过的 路依然远 With the breeze blowing, there is a long way to go.
你的故事讲到了哪 Your story,  how much has been told?

*I took some liberties with the translations to preserve meaning

 

“In springtime the dragon is useless”

A good friend recently gave me a copy of a book called ‘The Hall of Uselessness‘ by Simon Leys, the pen name of the late Pierre Ryckmans, the renowned Belgian-Australian sinologist, literary critic, and writer.

The ‘uselessness’ theme is not incidental.  In his foreword the author quotes Zhuangzi:

“Everyone knows the usefulness of what is useful, but few know the usefulness of what is useless.”

In case there was any doubt, the first chapter ‘The Imitation of Our Lord Don Quixote’ demonstrates Ryckmans’ deep appreciation of useless:

“In his quest for immortal fame, Don Quixote suffered repeated defeats. Because he obstinately refused to adjust “the hugeness of his desire” to the “smallness of reality,” he was doomed to perpetual failure. Only a culture based upon “a religion of losers” could produce such a hero.

What we should remember, however, is this (if I may thus paraphrase Bernard Shaw): the successful man adapts himself to the world.  The loser persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the loser.”

I’m already into the second chapter, which includes an amusing private exchange between the author and the late Christopher Hitchens on the topic of Hitchens’ irreverent attack on Mother Theresa.

I’m especially looking forward to his chapter on G.K. Chesterton, amidst a wealth of other literary commentary; but I suspect the most intriguing section will prove to be the significant minority of the book dedicated to Ryckmans’ work as a sinologist, exploring Chinese political and literary culture from the misunderstood Confucius to contemporary political dissidents.

I’ll leave you with a poem from Tao Yuanming, quoted in Ryckmans’ essay on Chinese aesthetics:

I built my hut among people
And yet their noise does not disturb me
How is this possible, I ask you?
Solitude can be created by the mind, it is not a matter of distance.
Plucking Chrysanthemums at the foot of the hedge,
I gaze toward the faraway mountains.
At dusk the mountain air is beautiful,
When birds are returning.
Truth is at the heart of all this:
I wish to express it, yet find no words.

Thank you greatly for the gift Mark, I know I will enjoy it!

A richer life on a lower income

Step 1: My home-roasted coffee

I’ve often thought about becoming a professional freelance writer, but never thought I could earn enough to replace or even approach my previous income.

But what if I didn’t need to replace my previous income? What if I was to reject the financial imperative that says “make as much money as you can for as long as you can regardless of the cost”?

Because the cost has been pretty high. My experience of business has shown it to be a surprisingly shallow, unaccountable, egotistical and dysfunctional place, with an ethos inimical to the values and ideals I’ve cultivated for much of my life. Anecdotal evidence suggests my experience has not been unusual.

The cost of finding a similar role, of enduring further wasting of my skills and my time, makes the higher income look like a pretty bad deal. By contrast, the freedom and integrity of being a writer makes my much diminished income seem much more attractive.

I’m currently a part-time Phd Student, a part-time writer, and a part-time stay-at-home dad; and I’m adding to the mix a theme I’m calling ‘Richer on a lower income’: an idea that encompasses not only the sheer relief in transitioning from a pointless office job – one of David Graeber’s ‘Bullshit Jobs‘ – to a far more meaningful career, but also the various ways in which a lower income lifestyle turns out to be far richer than a higher income one that is constrained by the limitations of working life and the ultimately unsatisfying distractions of consumer culture.

In practice it means pushing back against a strictly consumerist way of life, producing more and consuming less. It means learning to live on a significantly smaller income, but being open to different streams of income rather than being tied to a single wage.

As time goes on I’ll be updating you on the experiences and data, the sacrifices and the achievements as we see what life can look like when we step away from pointless conventions and follow our ideals.

Stuck in my head

In the literature on temperaments I’ve read that melancholics seem to be less coordinated, less ‘at home’ in their bodies, and more prone to illness and minor ailments.

Even before I came across the temperament theory, I’d concluded that as someone who thinks a great deal, spending so much time “in my head” upsets things like balance, coordination, proprioception, and my awareness of minor aches and pains, tension, thirst, and bad posture.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I spend nearly every waking moment thinking. And while I’ve tried various methods to ‘quiet’ my mind in line with generic meditation advice, I think that such advice is not necessarily appropriate for a melancholic idealist philosopher.

After all, I’m not just thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner. My mind is inquiring, analysing, speculating, and critiquing. My mind composes speeches, stories, articles and even conversations; it welcomes inspiring new ideas and elaborates on intriguing problems and dilemmas. It’s always working, and while it can be exhausting, I feel I’ve found the right kinds of creative directions for this mental energy.

So while I used to think this constant thinking was excessive and needed to be shut down, I now see it as a skill and a creative process that needed to be trained, disciplined, and given appropriate work to do.

Nonetheless, there are times when being so ‘head-centred’ becomes too much, and I’ve found over the years that it’s possible to shift the focus away from thoughts and towards other aspects of embodied awareness, such as the aforementioned proprioception, breathing, or just the feel of my feet on the floor. But more important is the sense of dimming the focus on my thoughts, of deciding that my thoughts are not important for the time being, and I won’t miss anything by letting go of them for a while.

We talk about lowering our centre of gravity, but this is more like lowering the centre of awareness. As strange as it sounds, it has an immediate impact on perception, making everything around me seem a little more real and substantial. It’s as though being focused on one’s thoughts and dwelling in abstraction leaves the world feeling somewhat unreal.

The world of thoughts is a valuable one, but this conflict between thinking and being troubles me. It leaves me wondering what a true balance would look like; am I really overdoing the thinking, and is it undermining my health in ways of which I am oblivious? If you’ve ever had the experience of getting up from a computer desk after hours craning over a keyboard, you’ll understand that we can easily lose touch with bodily discomfort when engrossed in mental activity. How much more so if we spend most of each waking day lost in thought?

That’s a telling idiom after all: no one ever claims to find themselves in thought. Am I, a thinker, more myself when I am thinking? Or am I just someone who’s gotten used to losing himself in entertaining, instructive, ever-more-engaging thoughts?

“Follow your blisters”

There’s an apocryphal account that Joseph Campbell, the scholar of comparative religion and mythology and originator of the ‘follow your bliss’ saying, was unhappy with the hedonistic misinterpretation of his theme, and exclaimed:

I should have said ‘Follow your blisters.’

The original quote was apparently a reference to the Vedantic concept of Saccidananda: the threefold attributes of Brahman as ‘being’, ‘consciousness’, and ‘bliss’; not, it seems, an injunction to pursue freelance writing, or become a professional baker of cupcakes because that’s where you feel happiest.

Nonetheless, that’s how most people seem to understand it: do what makes you happiest and the path will open, and there are plenty of stories of successful people who took a chance based on doing what they loved.

But Campbell’s follow-up is equally apposite, because the whole point about doing what you love is that you are able to throw yourself into it more fully, to derive meaning from it, and therefore stand a better chance of excelling at it.

Take writing, for example: I’ve put more effort into two months of writing than I did in six to nine months of regular paid employment. It’s not that I shirked my responsibilities, just that initiative was not encouraged, and the work we were given was rather tedious and mediocre.

But because I love writing, I can put in comparatively huge amounts of effort and it feels like nothing. The effort still takes a physical and mental toll, but love of the work leaves me strangely oblivious to it, until I start wondering why I can no longer form sentences and my eyes feel like they’re filled with fine sawdust.

The fact is that Campbell’s transcendent Upanishadic triad of ‘being, consciousness, bliss’ and the more mundane idea of doing what you love do converge. In doing what you love, practising your art and your skill, pursuing something of the utmost meaning, you do in fact approach an experience of transcendence that accelerates and deepens your efforts. You love it all the more because it takes you beyond yourself, and brings you back with an even greater determination to transform this mundane reality, ordinary life, into something far more special, blisters and all.

More to life

Melancholics are motivated by a sense that there must be more to life.

More than what is on offer, more than what is accepted within the range of ‘normal’ or ‘ordinary’ life.  For me this sense translated into a fascination with mysticism, and I spent my late teenage years and my early years at university reading every strange philosophical and esoteric religious text I could get my hands on.  I steadily worked my way through the relevant section of the university library: Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Daoism, Vedanta, Sikhism, Sufism, Christian mysticism – Orthodox, Catholic and Heterodox.

I was looking for something particular in each of these books, and found in them the outlines of a methodology or set of guidelines that promised – in varying terminology – a better way of being, a solution to life’s existential conflicts, and freedom from the oppressive weight of everyday reality.

These texts each pointed to an objective albeit transcendent reality;  something beyond mundane human experience, yet immanent everywhere just beneath the surface.

The consistent message of these various mystics is that this transcendent reality is more real, more true, than our daily lives, and that to find true virtue, peace, and happiness we ought to turn our attention to this transcendent reality and diminish our reliance on and preoccupation with mundane reality.

Ethics and morality fits into this schema largely because excessive desires for worldly things are incompatible with an appreciation for the transcendent reality.  At the same time, there is a salutary aspect to this transcendent reality, suggesting a relationship between it and a balanced, virtuous life.

But the problem with this transcendent reality is that it is, from a worldly perspective, utterly useless; more useless than the virtue with which it is associated; more useless than the sages, philosophers and saints who devoted themselves to it.  It is too great to be useful, too rich to meet any particular human need.  In that sense, you can get by without it. It won’t make you money, it won’t help you find food, it won’t convince others to lavish you with praise and adulation.

It is precisely because of its uselessness, its being beyond use, that it is worth attending to.  We cannot employ it for a purpose, in fact it takes away our purpose and makes our worldly aims seem utterly petty and trivial, yet because of this it is worthy to shape and develop us.  In a world that is overwhelmed with utility, purpose, and occupation, this transcendent reality seems as empty and clear as the sky.  That is why it ought to be our foundation and our goal, that is why it alone can be the burden that enlightens rather than weighing down.

The ethics of management

I have a friend who is considering studying philosophy next year, and I once would have told him to do something useful and interesting like….anything that pays money and isn’t fundamentally hateful.

But “I need money” is not an ideal motivation for pursuing a vocational path, and in light of what I’ve since learned about melancholic idealists, pursuing a less-than-ideal motive is psychologically and spiritually self-destructive.

Look at me: I stuck with a weird and uncertain job for two years because it was the sensible thing to do, leaving only when my ‘superiors’ had completed their task of making my and my colleagues’ roles entirely redundant.  It wasn’t a good position to be in, though I learned a great deal about the inanity of corporate culture and can now list on my CV under ‘achievements’: “gained a healthy and fully justified contempt for management practices in the corporate not-for-profit sector.”

My time in that role taught me two things about philosophy:

Firstly, philosophy is totally beyond the scope of most people, including otherwise intelligent or seemingly successful corporate types.  Not beyond them by nature, but beyond them by training, inclination, and perhaps by temperament.  For most people, engaging in philosophy would be a real struggle.  They might struggle to appreciate the point or the purpose, they might struggle to understand the necessary distinctions and subtleties, and they may well struggle with the sheer practical demands of having to read a great deal and think a great deal.

Secondly, I learned that something like a corporate not-for-profit actually needs philosophy, and ethics in particular. But they get along fine without philosophy, if by ‘fine’ we mean something better than criminal incompetence but so short of the ideal that any actual idealists within their ranks will inevitably adopt a defeated and cynical attitude.  What passes for idealism in such an environment is actually the motivated self-belief and personal ‘marketing’ of key choleric (ambitious) individuals; the kinds who generate enthusiasm that is entirely directed toward their own career goals, and whom underlings learn to fear for their self-interested domineering.  A best-case-scenario is that an ambitious corporate choleric will pursue self-interest through an intelligent and genuinely beneficial scheme, delivering real improvements while enhancing their own career.  Unfortunately not all cholerics are intelligent enough to achieve such a ‘win-win’ outcome.  Other, less enlightened cholerics will simply lie, exaggerate, and play politics with Machiavellian intent if not intelligence.

This is the basic difference between a choleric and a melancholic: a melancholic will look at the unethical behaviour of various employees and say “this is not how it is meant to be”.  A choleric will make the same observation but add “and I’m the one to change it”.  A corporate choleric will go one step further, latching onto ‘business ethics’ as the Next Big Thing, and using it to promote his or her own position within the organisation, replete with powerpoint presentations, posters, wristbands and other corporate merchandise, and perhaps a business-wide ‘be ethical’ day where everyone makes a special effort to do something ethical and tell everyone about it.

The relationship between a manager and her team is fundamentally an ethical one.  The need for an ethical perspective is clear when a manager lies, deceives, or otherwise undermines her team for the sake of her own career or under the auspices of her superiors.  Indeed, a corporate culture or ethos that requires its managers not merely withhold information but actively lie to their subordinates, is unethical and hence dysfunctional.  All the effort, time and money invested in trite and manipulative management theories and techniques, unscientific personality type indicators such as the Myers-Briggs, and corporate propaganda such as values statements and clever slogans, would be better spent inducting the organisation into a basic set of ethical principles.  All the superficial management tricks are belied the moment a superior treats a subordinate unethically without repercussion or justice from within the organisation.  An organisation that cannot do right by its employees may survive, but it will never reach the heights portrayed in its own propaganda or PR.  And in nevertheless persisting with a positive image that it cannot or will not strive to fulfill, it will continue to cultivate cynicism, distrust, and contempt among its employees.

Philosophy could fix this, but unfortunately philosophy and ethics are not deemed useful in such an environment.  A corporation will not open itself to philosophy and ethics unless it has an appreciation for the benefits these disciplines can bring.  Yet corporations are ruled by individuals who have gotten where they are in part because they have not dedicated themselves to philosophy and ethics, but have sought personal profit and career advancement over all.  The tragedy is that any adoption of ethical principles would require ‘buy in’ from precisely the kinds of people who regard lying and scheming as necessary – not even necessary evils, but simply necessary to the achievement of their personal aims.

As Socrates recounts in the first book of Plato’s Republic, when he and Glaucon are imposed upon by a group:

“May there not be the alternative, I said, that we may persuade you to let us go?
But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you? he said.
Certainly not, replied Glaucon.
Then we are not going to listen; of that you may be assured. ”

 

 

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

I recently posted the following comment in response to my article on gender equality at Mercatornet.

I’m reposting it here because the substance is generic: you can’t have a dialogue where only one person is willing to do the heavy lifting.

 

It’s unfortunate that an article on gender equality, violence against women, and the need for intelligent critique that doesn’t degrade into prejudice has met with comments arguing that the theme of ‘violence against women’ is some kind of bigoted campaign to stigmatise men, that the best available sources of information and methodologies can simply be disregarded as ‘lies’ in favour of ‘common sense’ and personal experience, or that violence against women is merely a subset of violence in general, for which women are somehow largely to blame.

I have spent some hours searching for valid sources of information and statistics in the hope that we could engage in rational discussion; I have even provided evidence such as statistics on the numbers of children in single-parent households, which my interlocutor claimed was being censored as some kind of conspiracy or plot by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Demonstration of concrete evidence such as the disparity in intimate partner homicide for men versus women was met with silence. To recap for other readers, the National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report states:
“Consistent with previous NHMP annual reports, females were overrepresented as victims in intimate partner homicide (n=89; 73% of intimate partner homicides),”
http://www.aic.gov.au/media_li…

Page 11 of the VicHealth report linked to in the first line of my article shows that in general, men and women are almost equally likely to suffer violence, yet the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are men:

“In 2012, 42% of persons (aged 18 years and over) had experienced
violence since the age of 15 years by a male perpetrator, compared with
12% who had experienced violence by a female perpetrator (ABS 2013b).
While
men are also more likely to be the victims of violence than are women
(ABS 2013b), the difference is not large. In 2012, 49% of men aged 18
years and over reported that they had experienced violence since the age
of 15, compared with 41% of women. Most of the violence experienced by
men is accounted for by physical assault, with men being less likely
than women to be subject to sexual violence. Since the age of 15, 4.5%
of men reported experiencing sexual violence, compared with 19% of women
(ABS 2013b).”

If your response to such data is to fear that this is part of some plot to stigmatise men, and hence you denigrate the integrity of the survey, the methodology, and the institutions behind them without valid evidence or a rationale on which to base such accusations, then there is little hope of rational dialogue.

If, on the other hand, you humbly submit to follow the evidence wherever it leads with a critical but inquiring mind, then you can say with some integrity “veritas lux mea”, which is a much more noble path.

Readers will have to forgive me for not following up with further research to engage with the various claims being made in comments. But the fact is that if people are genuinely looking for the truth they shouldn’t need me to do all the heavy lifting for them.

What does it take to be a writer?

My goal at this stage is to make enough money from my writing that I don’t have to return to the kind of absurd job I just left.

That might sound like an impossible goal, or at least a very difficult one, but at this stage merely ‘surviving’ as a writer is highly preferable to the kind of situation I was in previously.  If I could earn half of my previous income from writing, I would consider myself very fortunate.  If I could earn a quarter, my family could survive comfortably.

Whether that is plausible, or sustainable in the long term remains to be seen.

Here’s what I’ve achieved so far:

In a little over a month I’ve spent more than 80 hours working on articles.  That’s just over 3.5 solid hours of work each weekday.

I’ve written 10 viable articles, 5 of which have been published so far.  Including drafts, I’ve written more than 20,000 words.

This doesn’t include research time, general reading time, and all the other things I spend my time on, such as my Phd, and changing dirty nappies.

It’s a huge amount of work, and I find I have to keep reminding myself how much I’ve done so I don’t wander around wondering why I feel so fatigued.

I’ve been rejected several times, and while it’s disappointing, the greater frustration lies in not being able to keep working.  A successfully published article brings me a great deal of energy and enthusiasm.  It confirms that I’m on the right track, and motivates me to write more.

It’s important not to get too dejected when the work slows down.  There are always other things to do, like reading and study to expand your knowledge and enrich your understanding. Even though being unable to progress leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it’s important to do something productive, even if it’s just taking a walk or relaxing with friends.

At the same time, dissatisfaction is part of what motivates writers, or at least it motivates me as a writer.  I write in part because I am dissatisfied or perplexed or frustrated by aspects of life that aren’t what they ought to be.  Writing is a way of trying to bring down to earth a more ideal vision of how the world could be.  It’s rarely that explicit, but there’s always some glimmer of excitement and joy at the possibility latent in the language.