The post begins: "When I was in my twenties, I thought I had to succeed right now. It's the myth of the twenty-something mind. When we're in our twenties, it's true we have much more energy and fuel than we'll have the rest of our lives. And the energy is important. It's the launching pad stage of life. But when we are in our twenties, we often make the same mistake: we set short term goals of becoming successful NOW. And those goals, even if we achieve them, tend to backfire. The trick is to start to succeed a LITTLE BIT now, but a LOT later. Here's the trick: if you set a goal of peaking at 65, you'll succeed at 25 and keep succeeding for the rest of your life. If you try to become the "it" writer, speaker, leader of the moment, you might be guilty of trying to become a fashionable leader. Don't fall for it. If you become the fashionable leader of the moment, you'll be gone as fast as bell-bottoms. The same people who praise you today will be distancing themselves from you tomorrow. Instead, try to peak as late in life as possible. What I mean by this is lead for the long haul. Peaking at 65 means you don't chase fashion trends or try to assess your personal worth by Twitter followers or how many people have read your latest book (or blog post). Peaking at 65 means doing excellent work over the long haul."
Miller has authored several New York Times best-sellers, starting with Blue Like Jazz. While not devoted to writers, the post does include the profession in the discussion. I read the comments that followed. Some from young people; others from older people who shared their experiences. A couple, though, stood out. In this context, "stood out" is, at best, euphemism.
The first commenter: "Advice to all people, not just those in your twenties: don't be a [VERY bad expletive deleted here] writer. The world needs fewer writers every day and so the compensation with the associated careers are dwindling. Be a scientist, an engineer, leave the philosophies to the people who don't mind going through the merry-go-round without getting paid or achieving progress. Anyone with a college degree can be a writer. [Really?] Don't make it your goal. [I cleaned up your comma splice here. No need to thank me.] Make it your cathartic relief, your ability to reflect, your time-waster. Just don't devote yourself to a dying profession."
Hmmm. Mr. Miller's post wasn't a call for all to become writers. But wait. There's more. Another young man added this: "Had to laugh at this one [the afore-mentioned comment] because it is so true on so many levels. I would tweak your idea and say that writing is hard and does not reward for most people because they all live out of the same boxed life. Everybody doing the same thing and experiencing the same hours, same music [Oh, I doubt that], same experiences...People are not interested in like content. I think that contributes greatly to the falling season of the industry. So I think you are right to a large degree! Change has to come from The Producers! You and me!"
Mel Brook's outstanding movie/play, The Producers, aside [now humming "Springtime for Hitler"], may we agree to disagree? I'm not opposed to success but I do think Mother Teresa was on to something when she wrote, "Live simply so that others can simply live." While I'm on a roll: not all are writers but neither are all wired to be financial gurus or engineers or scientists. AND I can name several writers who have been catalysts for change not only in society but in my personal life. Artists (photographers, painters, sculptors, et al). Musicians. Any many worked at several jobs to support their creative gifts.
Here's to evolution. On so many levels.
For poems are not words, after all,
but fires for the cold,
ropes let down to the lost,
something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.