Sunday, 26 July 2009

How to become a poet

An acquaintance asks me for advice about how to become a poet. No problem, I can give you some clues, but please do take your heart medication before you read this through, since it contains some strong truths.

First, you have to realize that nobody cares about what you want to be, so don't go around complaining that you are misunderstood. Artistic sensitivity is fine, but please keep it to yourself, since there is already too much noise in the world.

Second, you should just start writing your poetry and do not ask anyone for permission. If you do happen to ask someone for permission, you most likely won't even get a response. Again, it's not that most people won't understand you, it's simply that they are too busy with their own lives.

Third, you have to develop a thick skin. This is a quintessential requirement for any artist, as it is for salesmen and lawyers. People will criticize your work for no reason, editors will correct the unique syntax that you have worked so hard to create, and bookshops will place your poetry books in the cooking section.

Fourth, you have to push your work around and try to find the small percentage of people who might like your poetry. No matter how good a poet you are, that percentage will always remain small, but remember that there are 6.7 billion people in the world. Even if only one person in a thousand likes your poetry, that still makes 6.7 million people.

I know that you are going to ask me when you will know for sure that you are a poet. This is an easy question for me to answer. You will know one day in the evening, after many years of taking daily steps towards your goal.

By that time, you might be already discouraged and ready to quit poetry altogether, but take heart. On that evening, you will be invited to a party by someone you barely know. You will attend in the hope, after so many years, of meeting a publisher who will really appreciate your work.

Ten minutes after you arrive at the party, your hope will vanish. Nobody will pay any attention to you and you will wonder if you have received the invitation by error. You will retire to a corner to sip your green tea in loneliness, but then, you will realize that two young women are staring at you from the opposite side of the room.

The two will cross the room and stand still a meter away from you. "Can we ask you a question?" one of them will say. "Sure," you will reply, wondering if they are mistaking you for someone else.

"We want to become a writers," they will continue. "Could you give us some advice about how to write a book?" At that point, you will frantically try to figure out a brilliant answer, something that will identify you as a successful poet.

You will look around the room, a little desperate, realizing that you have no good advice to offer. You will wish that someone would join the conversation and give you the answer, but of course, no one will.

As you mumble your piece of advice, you will feel embarrassed by your lack of ideas and imagination. "Writing a book is easy," you will say, "you just start at the beginning and finish at the end." Then you will blush, ashamed of having spoken out such triviality.

The two women will stare at you in silence for a long time and then exchange a satisfied look. "I told you he was a poet," one of them will comment in awe. "You were right," the other will concur. And at that moment, at that very moment, you will know yourself for sure.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Wolfgang Staudt under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

How to become a poet

An acquaintance asks me for advice about how to become a poet. No problem, I can give you some clues, but please do take your heart medication before you read this through, since it contains some strong truths.

First, you have to realize that nobody cares about what you want to be, so don't go around complaining that you are misunderstood. Artistic sensitivity is fine, but please keep it to yourself, since there is already too much noise in the world.

Second, you should just start writing your poetry and do not ask anyone for permission. If you do happen to ask someone for permission, you most likely won't even get a response. Again, it's not that most people won't understand you, it's simply that they are too busy with their own lives.

Third, you have to develop a thick skin. This is a quintessential requirement for any artist, as it is for salesmen and lawyers. People will criticize your work for no reason, editors will correct the unique syntax that you have worked so hard to create, and bookshops will place your poetry books in the cooking section.

Fourth, you have to push your work around and try to find the small percentage of people who might like your poetry. No matter how good a poet you are, that percentage will always remain small, but remember that there are 6.7 billion people in the world. Even if only one person in a thousand likes your poetry, that still makes 6.7 million people.

I know that you are going to ask me when you will know for sure that you are a poet. This is an easy question for me to answer. You will know one day in the evening, after many years of taking daily steps towards your goal.

By that time, you might be already discouraged and ready to quit poetry altogether, but take heart. On that evening, you will be invited to a party by someone you barely know. You will attend in the hope, after so many years, of meeting a publisher who will really appreciate your work.

Ten minutes after you arrive at the party, your hope will vanish. Nobody will pay any attention to you and you will wonder if you have received the invitation by error. You will retire to a corner to sip your green tea in loneliness, but then, you will realize that two young women are staring at you from the opposite side of the room.

The two will cross the room and stand still a meter away from you. "Can we ask you a question?" one of them will say. "Sure," you will reply, wondering if they are mistaking you for someone else.

"We want to become a writers," they will continue. "Could you give us some advice about how to write a book?" At that point, you will frantically try to figure out a brilliant answer, something that will identify you as a successful poet.

You will look around the room, a little desperate, realizing that you have no good advice to offer. You will wish that someone would join the conversation and give you the answer, but of course, no one will.

As you mumble your piece of advice, you will feel embarrassed by your lack of ideas and imagination. "Writing a book is easy," you will say, "you just start at the beginning and finish at the end." Then you will blush, ashamed of having spoken out such triviality.

The two women will stare at you in silence for a long time and then exchange a satisfied look. "I told you he was a poet," one of them will comment in awe. "You were right," the other will concur. And at that moment, at that very moment, you will know yourself for sure.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Wolfgang Staudt under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The key to unbreakable self-confidence

Self-confidence is the most admired character trait that actors play in movies. For most people, it dwarfs any other psychological or physical attribute in terms of desirability. What is the key to attaining self-assurance? Does it come from internal sources or from external validation?

Most advice given on the subject consists of isolated prescriptions without logic or context. Telling people to repeat in their head that they are capable and positive does not help much. Focusing on external aspects, such as clothing, might lead individuals to think that they lack fundamental value.

For two thousand years, the writings of philosophers have linked personal happiness to a feeling of certainty. The serenity that comes from trusting the future cannot be replaced by artificial beliefs.
Self-reliance is the consequence of following the essential principles of reality, namely:
  1. What happens in the world is determined by the law of cause and effect.
  2. Human beings possess the unique characteristic of being able to set their own goals.
  3. Consistent purposeful action is the decisive factor that shapes the future of an individual.
  4. Ambitious long-term goals can be achieved by means of relentless activity in the chosen field.
  5. Progress is a natural process driven by persistence, mistakes, learning, and refocusing.
Despite the impression that one might gain from watching films, self-assurance is not a supernatural quality that chance bestows on certain people. It is not an innate talent or physical capacity that only a few inherit, but the result of continuous personal growth. It takes substantial effort to develop and maintain self-reliance.

Lack of trust in the future is originated by the conviction that nothing can be done to improve one's situation. The size of problems and obstacles is exaggerated. Opportunities are overlooked. Alternatives are not explored. The impact of external forces is magnified beyond measurement.

The opposite process takes place when we acquire a healthy, rational view of the world. We become conscious of the fact that, primarily, our actions will define how our life turns out. We learn to deal with the undesirable aspects of reality by taking appropriate steps. We focus on steadfast activity rather than on elements that we cannot control.

Uninterrupted focus on one area allows accelerated learning. Incessant alertness permits to discover opportunities that remain invisible to most. Self-reliance is the result of implementing rational thinking through long-term undertakings. If you pursue worthy goals through consistent action, self-confidence is your natural due. Claim it.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Dan Queiroz under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]