Once, an old man tried to convince me to write news reports for a living. Even though he knew I wanted to write creatively. He said that Hemingway was a reporter before he was a novelist.
I told him I wouldn’t do that because news reporting was boring. For that matter, Hemingway is boring, too. His style, inherited from news reporting, had less to do with creative genius and more to do with lack of writing ability:
“Sometimes in the dark we heard the troops marching under the window and guns going past pulled by motor-tractors. There was much traffic at night and many mules on the roads with boxes of ammunition on each side of their pack-saddles and gray motor trucks that carried men, and other trucks with loads covered with canvas that moved slower in the traffic. There were big guns too that passed in the day drawn by tractors, the long barrels of the guns covered with green branches and green leafy branches and vines laid over the tractors. To the north we could look across a valley and see a forest of chestnut trees and behind it another mountain on this side of the river.”
Great, so there are some soldiers and there’s some branches and tractors. Yawn. I wouldn’t be that surprised if sheer boredom with his own work was the real reason Hemingway shot himself in the face.
When I said that news reporting was boring, the old man’s reply was the most appalling thing I’d heard in quite some time: “Life is boring.” And then he proceeded to explain that teaching his own class was mostly boring, and that most people were mostly bored with their jobs and with life. He said this with an air of a wise mentor telling the young kid how it is. Essentially, I’m bored and I want everyone else to be bored with me. Well, no thanks.
The usual speech is that, while you might want to do something non-boring with your life, very few people get to do anything like that, and sooner or later you’re going to have to settle down and spend all day most days doing something incredibly boring and worthless. Any desire to spend your time on your passions is a sign of immaturity. Dreams are for chumps, and bills must be paid.
But I think it’s less about maturity and more about priorities. For as “impractical” as many dreams seem, there are often practical steps to getting there. It’s just that the steps are difficult and success is not guaranteed. For many of us, it comes down to: do you want to pursue stability at the expense of your passion, or do you want to pursue your passion at the expense of (perceived) stability? And I’m not knocking the former choice, especially if you’ve got others to provide for. But it is a legitimate choice.
Next time someone tells me that I should embrace a boring life, I’ll say what I was thinking that day: Life isn’t boring. Your life is boring. You’re boring. And if you want my life to be as boring as yours, then I never want advice from you again.
(If it wasn’t already obvious, I’m currently incredibly bored and frustrated and miles away from a career that makes me happy. Prayers are appreciated.)