The most important words you will ever read

“There is nothing you have to do.” These words changed my life. When I was younger there were so many “shoulds.” Everybody faces responsibilities, needs to make money, has social and family ties – soon we get fed up, have no time or freedom, and feel trapped. The most important thing you can do for your writing, art or creativity is to stop doing all the shit that you don’t want to do. It’s hard at first. You need to learn to say “no.” You have to deal with people who misunderstand and think you’re lazy, antisocial or unpleasant. I’m finishing my PhD, with one book published and 3 more on the way, have started a couple of online businesses, and people still tell me I’m lazy and careless.

“There is nothing you have to do” also means you CAN do whatever you want. For no reason at all. You can’t do anything wrong. You can’t make mistakes. You can’t fail. Everything you are doing is perfect. Anything you choose to do is fine. So stop worrying about doing the “right” thing. Do what makes you happy. Do what you’re excited about. This isn’t, however, a promise that you will be successful. Many great artists and authors had social and financial trouble their whole lives, faced criticism, rejection and despair. But you wouldn’t call them failures, would you? (Though they didn’t see success in their lifetime, though their art never brought them stability or happiness, they suffered through things and produced great pieces of art or literature and are recognized around the world today as creative geniuses.)

But all things being equal, you might begin to notice what experiences you enjoy and want more of, and which ones you don’t. And then if you pay close attention to your actions, and the consequences they invite towards you, you can begin to make smarter choices; these days, with a few smart marketing efforts and excellent quality work, you should be able to make some money back – but keep in mind that if you don’t, you can always choose to make the choice to work hard at a job you don’t love or be poor but spend all your time creating. The full quote, below, ends with the phrase “However, it helps to understand that fire burns, and when it rains, the earth gets wet”: while you don’t have to be or do anything, you may want to improve your circumstances – if so, you need to understand how things work, cause and effect, and how to manipulate your experiences with planning and foresight.

“There is nothing you have to do.” There is really nothing you must be. And there is nothing you must do. There is really nothing you must have. And there is nothing you must know. There is really nothing you must become. However, it helps to understand that fire burns, and when it rains, the earth gets wet. Japanese Zen scroll

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