Advice columnist, author and critic Heather Havrilesky's latest book 'How to Be a Person in the World' is as captivating, tear-jerking and galvanizing as her popular Ask Polly columns. Here is a small collection of her thoughts on daily routines, forgetting the big picture, and believing in your work and yourself.
“My sudden ability to see attraction and rejection as a mere matter of appetite and taste and misinformation transformed my view of the world.”
“Other people will always appear to move with dedication and consequence. How else does a person behave when people are watching? We all pretend that our decisions and accomplishments took us in a straight line forward, decisively moving from one success to the next. We gloss over that year wasted looking at old photos or washing our hardwood floors over and over, wishing that we’d create something of consequence instead. We don’t mention the year we started and stopped three different screenplays or furiously typed out bad poetry at our go-nowhere temp jobs.”
“Writers have to start over every few years, honestly. And let’s not mince words, that aspect of the creative/writerly path is an UNMITIGATED FUCKING NIGHTMARE. And there are many low points in the trajectory to (limited) fame and (limited) fortune. Many, many low points. The great irony of being a creative, sensitive, talented love seeker is that you’re not always that well suited for such low points. Your brain likes to eat itself alive in a vacuum. You feel needy and unworthy. Having an office job of some sort is not the worst case scenario for such a person. Even as you half-ass your way through day after day, at least you’re not facedown on the carpet at home, feeling lonely and worthless and delusional.”
“I went through a long stage where I couldn’t get my editor to reply to a pitch anymore, so I just sat around freaking out all day long. You will have times like that, too. But don’t torment yourself by lamenting over the big picture of your career every goddamn day. Make concrete goals and meet them and power forward. When you can’t move forward with your work, go on a run or read a book, then try again afterwards.”
“All I can tell you is that the great artists I’ve read about have something in common: balance. They know what combinations of work and play feed them and make them better at what they do. Sure, some are solitary. But all of them give themselves what they need to succeed. They don’t work themselves into the ground every day and feel punished and isolated and alone, not usually. Usually they get up early, go on a walk, do some important thinking, work on their art for four hours straight, eat a nice lunch, work two more hours, read for an hour, go out with friends, and so on. They’ve refined their routines and have it all down to a science.”
“What I’m saying is that being an artist takes constant recalibration. As an artist and as an adult, you have to solve new puzzles every day. Successful artists have to keep rebalancing everything in their lives in order to stay inspired and energetic and fully alive. That’s true no matter what their circumstances are. And in my experience, being LESS busy doesn’t lead to making more/better art. Sometimes it can cause your gears to grind to a halt completely.”
“Will you get what you want? I don’t know, but if I were you, I would build it into my belief system. I WILL LIVE THE LIFE I WANT.”
“Don’t lament and worry endlessly. Don’t let yourself spin in circles over your dreary big picture. Resolve to do the best you can with what you have. Resolve to play a board game that only you can win. Every roll of the dice leads to another great outcome…”
“It sounds paradoxical, but uncertainty and vulnerability are your guides through this soggy life you’re living."
“Every morning, you will wake up and see that life is all about fumbling and accepting that you’re fumbling. It’s about saying nice things to yourself, even when you’re lazy, even when you’re lost. It’s about giving yourself the love you need in order to try—just try—so that someday you’ll have enough love to give a little to someone else.”