What’s My Problem?
I don’t know what it is with me and writing. Or probably I do know. I don’t know how to love others. I write to receive rather than to give. That seems like a real problem. Here’s a selection from Kierkegaard about his journey to become a writer. I resonate with it on many levels, and I hope you enjoy it.
It is now about four years ago that I got the notion of wanting to try my luck as an author. I remember it quite clearly; it was on a Sunday, yes, that’s it, a Sunday afternoon. I was seated as usual, out-of-doors at the cafe in the Frederiksberg Garden. …I had been a student for half a score of years. Although never lazy, all my activity nevertheless was like a glittering inactivity, a kind of occupation for which I still have a great partiality, and for which perhaps I even have a little genius. I read much, spent the remainder of the day idling and thinking, or thinking and idling, but that was all it came to….
So there I sat and smoked my cigar until I lapsed into thought. Among other thoughts I remember these: “You are going on,” I said to myself, “to become an old man, without being anything, and without really undertaking to do anything. On the other hand, wherever you look about you, in literature and in life, you see the celebrated names and figures, the precious and much heralded men who are coming into prominence and are much talked about, the many benefactors of the age who know how to benefit mankind by making life easier and easier, some by railways, others by omnibuses and steamboats, others by the telegraph, others by easily apprehended compendiums and short recitals of everything worth knowing, and finally the true benefactors of the age who make spiritual existence in virtue of thought easier and easier, yet more and more significant. And what are you doing?” Here my soliloquy was interrupted, for my cigar was smoked out and a new one had to be lit. So I smoked again, and then suddenly this thought flashed through my mind: “You must do something, but inasmuch as with your limited capacities it will become impossible to make anything easier than it has become, you must, with the same humanitarian enthusiasm as the others, undertake to make something harder.” This notion pleased me immensely, and at the same time it flattered me to think that I, like the rest of them, would be loved and esteemed by the whole community. For when all combine in every way to make everything easier, there remains only one possible danger, namely, that the ease becomes so great that it becomes altogether too great; then there is only one want left, though it is not yet a felt want, when people will want difficulty. Out of love for mankind, and out of despair at my embarrassing situation, seeing that I had accomplished nothing and was unable to make anything easier than it had already been made, and moved by a genuine interest in those who make everything easy, I conceived it as my task to create difficulties everywhere….
So then I am striving towards the exalted goal of being hailed with acclamation–unless possibly I am derided, or maybe crucified; for it is quite certain that every man who shouts bravo shouts also pereat, if not crucify, and that even without being untrue to his character, since on the contrary he remains true to himself–qua shouter. But even though my effort be misunderstood, I am convinced nevertheless that it is just as noble as that of the others. When at a banquet, where the guests have already overeaten, one person is concerned about bringing on new courses, another about having a vomitive at hand, it is perfectly true that only the first has interpreted correctly the requirement of the guests, but I wonder whether the other might also say that he is concerned about what the requirement might be.