#57: Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
This is actually the weird post that cuts through bullshit
The writing process is thrilling. Like the best adrenaline, endorphin, and serotonin, pumping drug that you can find, writing takes your mind on a journey through space and time, cutting through the filtered, people-pleasing, nod and smile, reality of daily life.
If you treat writing as such, writing becomes waaaay (that’s 4 a’s) easier.
Sasha Chapin was the first person, at least the first person who I heard this from, who framed writer’s block in this novel way. But as any artist knows, great artists steal, or in other words, as human beings, we are influenced by other people’s ideas, so uniqueness is rare. But uniqueness shouldn’t even be our goal because - it’s limiting. Don’t aim for unique, aim for being yourself. People who shoot for unique think that they are the next undiscovered genius - a Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. By the way, I need to point out that there are no female geniuses in this list. Why? It’s not like women haven’t achieved great things. Hmm..maybe it’s because men are the ones who create these lists of geniuses in the first place. Try Googling genius and you’ll find a laundry list of males on a laundry list of lists by males for males and for females who want to be more male so they can be lady bosses and subconsciously wreck revenge on the males who made those lists in the first place.
We are long past the days of genius. And we should also be long past the days of writer’s block. Because as Sasha Chapin puts it, writer’s block is the result of trying to be agreeable. It takes a lot of cognitive energy to sugar coat the words you say, or write. It takes energy to socially lubricate your communication with phrases like, “I think” or “in my opinion” or “I don’t know, this is just my experience.” People tend to hide behind these shields, when they preface an offensive comment with “in my opinion.” Don’t do that. It makes you seem like an opinionated, insulting schmuck.
So, what’s the catch? How can we express our views without coming across as opinionated, insulting schmucks? Well, for starters, some people simply are opinionated, insulting schmucks, and there’s nothing we can really do about it. In the past, people like that would get stoned or ostracized from their tribe. They’d have to go fend for themselves in the wild with wolves and bears.
That shit is scary. So over time we’ve developed these epigenetic traits in our DNA that help protect us from being ostracized and potentially eaten by wolves.
When most people write, epigenetics kicks in. They start thinking thoughts like, “Oh my god, what if I’m wrong? I’m not an expert.” (imposter syndrome) or “what if some people don’t like my writing?” (insecurity) or “what if I get mean comments from people telling me that I should stop writing?” (fear).
All of these things may happen. But you won’t die. The worst thing that happens is you get cancelled, but then you can just go and form a niche with other cancelled people and continue making your art for the people who do like it. The world is big. You won’t get eaten by a bear or freeze to death or run out of food. That’s why we invented McDonalds, which by the way now offers plant based burgers, because even cancelled people need to have healthy diets.
I wrote a whole other newsletter post before this one and spent like 3 hours writing it. I ended up scratching all of it because when I read it to myself it sounded boring. It wasn’t spicy enough. I wrote some stuff about how my husband and I have been working on a killer puzzle for 2+ months now and it’s still not done (hence the image above), and about the hero’s journey, and about storytelling, and about the film Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Like the best drug, I had to go on a journey before I could get to the transformational goodness. I’m not saying this post is transformational, I’m just saying it’s way better than my first iteration.
Okay, I guess the hero’s journey is kind of relevant here. It goes something like this:
A character starts out at point A, usually their home town.
Some event happens that calls them to adventure
They go on said adventure and experience tension, conflict, and challenge, point B.
They experience change, point C.
They return to their hometown, full-circle, point A, as a changed person and make a positive impact on the people they care about.
And fine, I guess some thoughts about Everything Everywhere All at Once are relevant too. Don’t worry, I won’t give away spoilers, but basically what I want to say about the film is that it’s awesome because it cuts through the bullshit of life and explores why we do the things we do and the impact that our actions have on ourselves and on society. The protagonist, a Chinese-American immigrant gets called out for living in her own head and in her bubble; for living in fear in the tiny prison that she constructed in her head; a jail cell that makes her anxious and frantic. It’s a journey of a movie, with no clear beginning, middle, or end. It’s weird and zany and also deeply philosophical but a pleasure to watch for super hero movie lovers and Disney lovers and Stanley Kubrick and Charlie Kaufman and Quentin Tarantino lovers…are these men on a genius filmmaking list somewhere??
I know I wrote a post last week and called it the weird post, but really, no, this is the weird post. And I’m cool with that. Weird is sexy. Normal is boring.
Have a great week, y’all! And as always, don’t forget to take care of yourselves. Go outside, spend time with loved ones, and get some hobbies. Puzzles and video games are a few good ideas for when you’re tired of reading and being pleasant all the time to everyone, everywhere, all at once.
What a cool weird post! :D
As a participant in Sasha Chapin’s workshop, I most heartily, and in the Chapin spirit, disagree.
About three-quarters of the way through your piece you squarely hit the nail on the head: “I wrote a whole other newsletter post before this one and spent like 3 hours writing it. I ended up scratching all of it because when I read it to myself it sounded boring. It wasn’t spicy enough.” Spicy = Sensationalist = Click Bait
Is that really your goal? You are a thoughtful writer, I read you for your ideas, not for spice. That’s what Twitter is for.
Which cycles back to Chapin. He comes off as an entitled white male who projects an abundance of testosterone.
He does not appear to value original thought, cannot back up his arguments with real world examples of how his
disagreeable technique has ever helped anyone or made the world a better place.
The writing process can be thrilling. It can also be a slog as you organise your thoughts and present them coherently.
Writing nasty is a quick, easy shot of adrenaline that fades quickly and you feel the need another shot to keep the high.
I'm curious - what do you make of this opinion piece?
P.S. I'd love to hear about the puzzle you are working on.