Ways To Stay Motivated In This Shit-Shellacked Era Of Epic Stupid

Everything is dumb right now.

From nose to tail, we have become the dumbest, saddest pig at the county fair. Historians will not refer to this period as THE DARK AGES, but rather, THE DUMB AGES. The greatest question I get, right now, is how to simply persist creating art and staying motivated and creative in this epoch of syphilitic dipshittery, so I thought I’d bop in here and try my hand at answering that.

1. Stop staring at the news and at social media. This is hard, because presently the news is a series of constantly crashing cars right outside your window. One after the next, bang, smash, crash. The symphony of shrieking metal is very, very hard to turn away from. In many eras, the news is only marginally relevant to you on a day to day basis but, to me it seems that ratio is going up, up, up. The healthcare debacle alone affects me, um, rather significantly. If I don’t have access to healthcare via health insurance, then this thing that I do gets a whole lot harder. Just the same, I gotta know to turn away from it. The news is a vampire. It’ll bleed you dry and leave you a desiccated husk on the carpet. You can look at it, but pick your times. Write or make art first, then go and stare into the unswerving gaze of Sauron himself.

2. Writing is an act of resistance. Art is an act of resistance. Shit, just living your life in the maelstrom is resistance. Here’s how you know when something is a act of resistance: would the Shitty People, the Petty Men with Axes, want you to do it? No? Then do it. They want you showing your belly. They want you to stop contributing your ideas. They want you to shut the fuck up. So, don’t. Don’t get sad. Get mad. Get fucking pissed. And then —

3. Put that piss and vinegar into the work. Pour it right in. Glug, glug, splish-splash.

4. Do some real resistance, too. Make your calls. Join a protest. Contribute some cash to an organization who will carry the fight in ways you cannot. Key point: do this after you’re done doing the thing you need to do. You know how the airlines tell you to put on your own mask first? Put on your own mask first. Make the words. Art the art. Eat that cheese. Pluck that banjo. Then when you are done for the day, get down to the acts of resistance major and minor.

5. Hey, also, just take care of yourself. These are dumb times and dumb times often call for tireless marathons of beer and donuts and naps — and definitely do those things from time to time! — but also, like, eat some fucking vegetables, get some exercise, get some rest. Trust me, I get it, pretty much every day I hit a period where I’m like, “The best thing I can do right now would be to drink whiskey until I stop recognizing the world,” but I don’t, because I have to stay sharp. I have to stay sharp to make stuff and to be ready for whatever this era of epic stupid is going to throw at me. Take care of your shit.

6. Don’t dismiss what you do. If you’re making the words dance or you’re snapping photos or drawing pictures, and you worry that what you’re doing is somehow shallow or insignificant, fuck that right in the banana-pipe. Even at the barebones level, entertainment has value. In times far worse than these, people needed to be entertained — not in a bread and circuses way, but in a way where, if you wanna regain some sanity and light in the middle of deep fuckery, then you need something fun. If you’re writing to entertain, I salute you. No shame in that. You’re awesome. Keep doing it.

7. But also don’t be afraid to go bigger. If your mode is to use the work to carry a greater message or elevate your ideas or to even just contextualize the bees and murder that are currently living in your heart, hey, do that. Do whatever you gotta. Just make stuff. It feels good. And we need you to do it.

8. Art has meaning. Obama talked about the books that made him who he was. Most world leaders are readers. There are reasons that a book like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is so popular right now — art leaves its mark, indelible and essential, and it helps us both understand what has come before, what will come again, and what’s happening right now. It gives context and inspiration. It challenges and us and can unfuck our heads — even as it sometimes fucks with our heads in equal measure.

9. Talk to others like you. Sometimes you just have to be with your people. Either to commiserate about current global shenanigans or, better yet, just to talk shop. Talking shop energizes me. The news enervates me. Find your people. And together, you find your way.

10. Remain cautiously, grimly optimistic. Optimism is hard. So fucking hard. Optimism is in itself an act of resistance. But optimism, as long as it’s not blind and naive, has value — and can inspires others to be the same. I’m not saying to simply assume that everything will be magically fine. But optimism paired with a bit of realism and a lot of effort can actually do a world of good. The world has gone wonky in the last year, but we still live in a far better time than most other times throughout history. We still have dogs and otters. We still have shitloads of ice cream. We still have options and a way out of the storm. We have art, too — ours, and others. Train your brain to look for good stuff. And even better, train your brain to look for ways to make things better — in small ways, in big ways. And then, most importantly, train your brain to make art. Think about words. Think in images. Distract yourself with your work. Be hopeful, if not about the world, then about what you can contribute to it. Make cool shit. The end.

How do you stay motivated in this cauldron of shit-soup we call a world?

(Also, thanks to everyone who came by and commented yesterday. Rest assured, the blog ain’t going anywhere, and shall remain at normal operations, probably until I die of beer and donuts.)

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Also, hey, here, have this: I’ll put my Mega-Ultra-Book-Bundle on sale, 50% off with coupon code MAKECOOLSTUFF. It’s got eight writing books and two novels, so ten books for ten bucks. Go grabby grabby if you so choose.

201 comments

  • I try to start each day working on the book, listening to classical music and not answering the phone. It doesn’t always work but when it does, I feel better! I often feel like the character in A Thousand Clowns, I want to hang out my second story window and scream warnings and admonitions to all who pass by. But then I live in a single story house and my neighbors know me too well to pay any heed to my screams! Ah, joy!

  • My recommendation? Play with children. They are the most honest, creative, intuitive, grounded, forgiving little humans we have. I learn from them, every day.

    • I fully agree with you on this.. If I start feeling down in anyway or need inspiration, all I have to do is look at my daughter or do something with her and it’s like an instant cure all..! If everyone would take notes on how children are instead of acting like childish entitled brats, then the world would be a better place..

  • Thank you for the laughs. Laughing is good. I disagree that it is hard to stay optimistic. Deep work with oneself is always available, improvement is always possible, and that drives a fundamental optimism. I do Feldenkrais Lessons everyday; they make optimism part of my foundation.

    • For me that experience is faith, not optimism … it feels like an important distinction. I think of optimism as cheeriness + denial, but faith can look into the abyss.

  • Spend some time in the sweet nature we have left..take pictures or make pictures or write about it, the living creatures that our domesticated trash havent obscured or eradicated. There is still some precious in our sad existance, celebrate it while you can and leave behind art that will appreciated by youngsters that might not have the chance to see it.

  • Good post. Me, I just shut my mental blinds and turn my eyes inward and make stuff. I tell myself people do appreciate what I do, and what I do makes me happy, too. Then, when I’m done, I open up the blinds, look out the window and go, “Damn.”

  • when we hide from it, evil takes full control without our help, and it still is evil. So, we need to fix this, share your garden with your neighbours and say hello to strangers. I do that, but they all say the same thing to me, and I have to show how that is true and there is a lot more to pay attention to… No help left but our own, it is sad

  • Ha ha ha I’m reading this excellent post and get interrupted with a total shit show of chaos. I’m now in countdown mode for the rest of this year. May it go with god…but go. And not let the door hit it on the way out.

  • Love the post and glad that someone shared it on social media and that I saw it…I think, if taken in smaller doses, social media is ok…but then again, I got rid of most, if not all that supported Jabba the Trump.

  • Umm, about the comment about playing with children? I have a 7 yo granddaughter. I have conversations with her about things she feels we need to discuss. The last one? “Gramma, when do we vote for a new President?”, “In 2020, about 3 1/2 years.” “OMG, I can’t LIVE THAT LONG WITH HIM!” So, even kids understand.

  • July 1, 2017 at 10:21 AM // Reply

    I may be over 60, but I still feel like a child and talk in funny ways to my cats and just sort of shout out to the world with innocence and purity every morning! Always start out the day connecting to my inner power, which is my generator and my guide for the rest of the day (via a specific half-hour practice that ANYONE can do). This includes 10 minutes of powerful intentions I have for the world and for my family.Then I communicate joyfully (if appropriate) with everyone I meet and try to uplift them in some simple way and basically do whatever comes naturally because I am in touch with my inner nature. I NEVER WATCH THE NEWS because half of it is pure manipulative bullshit, but I do keep in touch tangentially. I am a powerful optimist and plan to be one for the rest of my days. I write heart-felt letters about issues that I imagine the perpetrators actually reading and listening to, and I throw in an image of them actually changing in some way. WHY NOT? We have this power, and we must USE it! The stupidity is so blatant, and the evil so wicked, it is almost like a cosmic joke: When are humans going to state the obvious and change their predicament?

  • I teach a class at our local college called How to Stay Positive in Difficult Transitional Times. I think I am adding this to the required reading. Genius! It’s important to laugh every day. Thanks for today’s belly laugh!

  • As a nation we might not be as dumb as we appear. I’m a chess coach, and currently there is a robust, nationwide scholastic chess community. Science Olympiads and robotics clubs are found in many – albeit mostly – suburban schools. Bookstores are still going strong, and so is Amazon, which sell reams of non-fiction titles. The internet provides raw data at an overwhelming, spellbinding pace, perhaps faster than any group of humans in world history can conceivably keep apace with. Our country has ivy league universities, CalTech, the Mayo Clinic, and MIT. Donald Trump did not get elected by a popular majority, and freakishly, even some of his supporters are *not* stupid.

    No, the problem is not that the United States of America suffers from widespread idiocy, which would be an all too facile diagnostic trope, akin to invoking “the good ol’ days,” which we all know weren’t. If Americans somehow became dumber over the past handful of decades, our economy would be lackluster, our technological innovation stagnant, and we would not boast the lion’s share of Nobel Prize winners that we do. Instead, our problem is a moral and philosophical problem. It is a problem of perspective, which in the words of Bruce Sterling, “is worth 20 IQ points.”

    It is not stupid people who believe society should be organized upon racial lines; nor is it stupid people who actually believe that the “market” can function without moral consequences. I am reminded that the highest ranking Nazis all had respectable IQ’s. Some of the worst crimes ever perpetuated by human beings was by smart people! Intelligence is an advantage, and it makes life interesting, but give me one “good” person over a purely intelligent person any day. I have to agree with C.S. Lewis that, “The world does not need more talented people. It needs deeper people.”

  • Point #1 is key. Turn off big media and social media. Much of what is written in MSM is written for emotional impact and contains very little factual data. When you read something that has an impact on you, look for data. Is there any or is it just a narrative? Look for more stories that corroborate that point of view. Do they have any factual data or are they just repeating the same narrative?

    “just the facts ma’am” It worked for Joe. It makes sense.

  • July 1, 2017 at 9:05 PM // Reply

    Sharing a friend’s comment — and wishing I’d had these thoughts:

    I respectfully ask you to re-consider publicizing the word “dumb” as synonymous with “stupid”.

    Used that way, “dumb” is ableist in the extreme. And insults all deaf and hard of hearing people—like me!

    Dumb accurately means “unable to speak”. And describes many deaf folks who struggle/fail to make voice sounds hearing people can recognize as “intelligent”.

    Hence, the ugly practice of ridiculing deaf and hard of hearing folks, again, like me!

    We are not stupid. We cannot hear, at all, or well.

    Plz consider posting this to your listserve. I would be interested to see if any acknowledge how our language embeds our prejudices.

    And victimizes folks who cannot defend themselves—like me!
    * * * *
    My apologies. Really. And Stupid IS a better word.

    • I agree 100% with the use of dumb being ableist, but want to point out that “stupid” is also an ableist term that mocks those with intellectual disabilities. People with ID are often amazingly caring and wonderful folks! It’s better to replace those terms with words like “hateful”, “thoughtless”, “cruel”, “terrible”, “bigotedr”, “selfish”, or whatever it is we’re trying to really say.

      To the author, thank you so much for responding positively to Diana’s comment, that was really refreshing to see. <3

  • July 1, 2017 at 10:28 PM // Reply

    i love up my cat. grow flowers in pots. walk among trees. write to and for my friends. listen to and make music. i find that i can only read the headlines, and even that is too much sometimes. the emperor has no clothes, and he is a traitor. we must all point it out, each and every day, until everyone can see it.

  • I am unrepentantly optimistic that this shit sandwich we’ve been handed will turn into the most delicious [insert your favorite] sandwich ever. Stay fucking positive!

  • Sorry, I didn’t answer your question I was too busy sharing your post. Long ago I walked away from MSM. I don’t read ANYTHING until I am through with my CREATIVE day… I deliberately write what I am grateful for at least twice a day — and if the world is shit I can still be grateful for husband (a keeper), cats, and strawberries. I stay out of Sauron’s Eye except when it counts, meaning I don’t post thousands of posts of crap news about those I hate but save it for an occasion when it can do some good. I have no more stupid friends… I have stupid relatives and thoughtful people who disagree with me, but no stupid friends.

  • I enjoy the back and forth of political debate. I get angry with one side and encouraged with the other. I do feel very sad with the state of the planet and human kind’s disregard of it’s value and delicacy. When I create, I create another world of peace, beauty and magic. That is how I stay inspired.

  • Negative mean comments as such from GB Miller are the things I need to avoid. That is what pollutes my space and necessitates the urgent need for nature, music, kittens and babies.

  • Please don’t write, “organizations who…”. Rather write, “organizations which…”. I believe when corporations were given some of the same rights as human beings we ceded some very subtle territory. Organizations, institutions, corporations, etc are not human beings who live and breathe and give birth. These things exist to manipulate – for better or worse – the folks who built them for the purposes of profit, glory or good. Which = it, who = he or she. It makes a difference.

  • July 3, 2017 at 7:46 AM // Reply

    If you’re lucky enough to have a bit of garden, put your hands in the dirt. Breathe. Appreciate the green. Feel grateful. Feel re-energized and get back to resisting.

  • OMG I love this man ! ALSO: GARDEN !! It’s so therapeutic and it cleans up a bit of the world. Eliminate all grass and grow veggies in your front yard !!! ALSO TO BK WEST, thank you for caring about grammar, as we are becoming an increasingly illeterate population. Ultimately a nation is judged by its culture and ours is becoming increasingly vulgar, ignorant and violent. An entire generation is growing up hujnchbacked over video games of killing, unable to interact verbally face to face & unable to speak correct English. Yes it IS the national language. What do you think the Constitution was written in,? And THEY are going to run the world ? I don’t think so.. Go, play in the dirt and grow something delicious for your family..

  • July 3, 2017 at 10:21 AM // Reply

    A note about taking your eyes off of this “trainwreck outside your window” True that constant unrelenting stress is horrible, but we can’t afford to close our eyes for very long. In Nazi Germany, intellectuals and generally reasonable people thought “everyone will come to their senses and end this madness”. intellectuals and reasonable people (who are dangerous because they can actually think) were the first ones they came for.

  • Thank you!!! Going to dig back into the writing today, thanks to you. I sing in a peace choir. We did two flash mobs yesterday. It was fabulous and joyous and invigorating. I’m jazzed to make music and art and pass along this positive vibe. And btw, I absolutely love that you have given me some new cuss words to work into my daily conversation!

  • July 4, 2017 at 9:48 AM // Reply

    Love this. Already was doing most of this. I would add one more item to this list: love. Love even more fiercely than you did before. Commit absolutely to protecting those you love. And love radically, by which I mean try to love even those who disagree with you. Don’t let them turn you into a hater. Be angry. Argue. But refuse to hate.

  • July 5, 2017 at 9:48 AM // Reply

    Yes! I teach school, indoctrinating young minds to try to be smarter than their parents or the current big stupid playing out before their eyes. There is nothing like a perceptive 14 year old to keep you on your toes and honest about your bullshit.

  • Yeah, at the moment I’m not sure if this is the depths of the stupid or if this is just the beginning.

    Also, please feel free to say “fuck” all you want.

  • Thanks for the plainspeak! I’ve had to step away from the inundation of daily insults to our dignity and safety under the orange administration (and all those vile people it has drawn out of the woodwork), just to recover myself a bit. Now maybe I can get back to this damn dissertation that’s been languishing since, oh, November.

  • July 5, 2017 at 8:39 PM // Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this therapy session! A visual artist, who among other things had done political cartoons for my local newspaper for 12 years, I was absolutely knocked on my ass by this past election season, beginning with Bernie Sanders getting shafted by the DNC, and on past January. I had no drive to create; I walked past the doorway of my studio room going “meh.” Spring, with everything growing and blooming and singing reminded me that Nature moves on, regardless of what humans do or don’t; I looked up my photos in the computer and began to draw out and paint the ideas that they had inspired when I first took them; and found myself slip into full creativity again.
    The paintings that resulted are now in a grouping on the living room wall (after first being taken to a printer to be made into cards and prints that a local gallery sells). My husband noticed the new wall arrangement one evening and said,”You create life!” Living well and true to oneself is the best form of subversion in a dominant society of cruelty, willful ignorance, and death—and until the Nazgul haul me away, I intend to keep on doing it!

  • Every older generation thinks the younger one is made of fools. Every adult generation has it’s members who think the world is going to hell real fast and the End is Near. While it is necessary for people to shout about injustices and to point out whos being ridiculous, I think society functions on a pendulum and currently it’s reaching a peak and will soon swing back the other way. In the mean time, I do my thing in my small part of the world, check BBC for news, and carry on. I am, however, thankful for people like you who loudly point out the stuff that needs to be yelled at.

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