To Pursue Your Happiness, Don’t Set Conditions

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

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4 July 2021

We have become the “everything at once” society.

The problem with such a perspective is that no one gets everything right away. We doom ourselves to infinite frustration, reduced to making our souls live full of hardships. The problem is the perspective, of course, but like all perspectives, it can change.

I’ve been writing novels for thirty years. But I never adopted the theory that you have to study the market to know what to write. I don’t experience the “everything at once” because I’m a man of the now old-fashioned customs of “not before you are ready.”

That’s why I waited nine years before sending my first novel: I wasn’t ready as a writer. I knew it. And I worked hard before presenting myself to publishers. When I did it eventually, it went well.

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I don’t deny it: I wanted my novels to be successful. Badly.

After my teenage, well before the advent of “the Secret,” I visualized my life as a world-famous writer. I gave ideal interviews and fantasized about the most bizarre situations: my imagination ran wild.

I was an Italian boy with no internet available yet, that is, free to be. I used to walk in the woods and loudly speak as if I had a crowded studio in front of me instead of hundreds of trees — a silent audience with infinite patience!

However, my inner drive wasn’t, nor has it ever been, fame for fame’s sake. Success was only the means to guarantee me the money I needed to live the life I dreamed of: a family, friends, and getting up every morning with a single task in front of me, storytelling.

Isn’t that a beautiful dream?

It used to be easier, but …

Writing didn’t win me over due to listening to some guru who told me with a toothy smile: “If I did it, you can too, man! Yeah! You can!” — or another of the tiresome catchphrases we hear nowadays.

Look, I’m not feeling enlightened. The truth is that in 1986 life was more straightforward: we were more isolated and, therefore, more used to pull strings. I understand this, and I feel sorry for today’s young people.

But the higher complexity cannot be an excuse. Also, the other side of the coin is the considerable amount of extra opportunities at hand.

Judge for yourself.

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At the age of fourteen, I started reading for real. I went from school assignments to books that I chose myself. Suddenly that indefinite and inexplicable thing in front of me filled me with wonder and made me dream.

I lived to read other people’s stories. At first, curiosity drove me. Then, growing up, it was the admiration for the skills of the authors. I knew nothing about the goals those women and men had achieved. For me, it was only the story that mattered.

This urge to tell stories is an entirely human demon: if you wake it up, you are possessed by it and end up willing to tell your stories sooner or later.

“Gimme a success big enough to allow me to live in dignity, and I’ll be happy,” I used to say. To many, I seemed deluded, more than a dreamer, while in reality, I was claiming who I was through my dream.

You don’t need approval to exist

I am a writer with or without the approval of others, just as you are whoever you are without anyone recognizing you. What others think doesn’t matter at all.

Unfortunately, the concept has passed: if you only benefit from what you do, what you do is worth nothing. Every time I run into someone who reiterates it, I tighten my lips, shake my head, and begin to say: “Oh, no … No, no, no.”

The expression of the self doesn’t acquire more or less value depending on what others think about it, let alone it seeks approval. It is you, not the others. They don’t have to accept your perspective for it to exist.

Who came up with this paradoxical theory?

And to prove what?

Or is it to sell?

The journey, not the destination, is what matters

I have already written a thousand times that what matters is the journey, not the destination. I repeat this because it is my personal, heartfelt, even painful experience.

If you want to consider it my catchphrase, I won’t take any offense.

The “everything at once” speaks of the destination, which is the part that doesn’t matter. Or it matters much, much less. The destination is impalpable; it doesn’t last long and soon leaves you in front of a new journey.

Are you sure you want to live all your life only to come to those moments?

I don’t even look favorably on the more profound theory according to which success — or the neighbor’s approval — serves to obtain “acceptance.” It is undoubtedly one truth. Sure enough, it makes much more sense than gurus advice. The drive exists, and I am not without it either.

I won’t teach human psychology since some do it with authority, and I won’t infringe on a field I don’t belong. Nonetheless, I consider that in many cases, the theory misses the mark.

Above all, we mustn’t get confused: one thing is the sense of belonging, another the constant need for approval.

Have we all become so childish? Approval is the primary drive of children, not adults. We should have grown up. Instead, what I see is another thing.

In life, it’s crucial not to be deceived. You cannot live hoping that the world will believe you when you are the first not to accept yourself.

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Today I read an article that struck me for its honesty and because I feel the subject. And I’m sorry to know that the author feels like a wreck, like many others indeed.

I’ve been working on speculation all my life. It’s no coincidence that I write speculative fiction: I embrace the breath, the challenge, the sensations, and the sense of wonder it contains. I feel like a pioneer. I explore the world around me to understand my inner worlds.

Do I write novels to sell them?

While I write, am I thinking that millions of readers will appreciate it?

I write speculative fiction in Italy, a country where this type of literature is considered rubbish, rather than second-rate — we are culturally retrograde, that’s it.

Why do I continue, then?

Because I believe in myself. Because writing (a novel) is a leap of faith in your ideas. You attach value to your perspective on the world and life. As a result, you express yourself at your best, most purely and qualitatively.

And the destination?

I don’t know. However, I learned the best way to experience the approach of the destination: making light of it. When you complete a project of yours, you give it out and continue on your way. And as you walk away, you collect what comes. Full stop.

Who tells stories tells stories. When he ends one, he begins a new one. The same is true for any artist. You cannot live by waiting for success: what a waste of energy and time!

I won’t use my time badly and so write what others want. Also, because, let me tell you, nobody knows what readers want. These are all speculations, even those planned.

There is only one type of speculation that “works” (sometimes): the one that pushes you to repeat what is already there, a sort of cloning of the newest and trendiest things. That increases the chances of getting to fame more than anything else.

Therefore, if there is a recipe for success, it is to dress up as someone else. Then the psychologists, with full knowledge of the facts, tell us that we are looking for acceptance. So my question for you is a direct consequence: what happens if the audience accepts your disguise?

Are you feeling good now?

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The big problem with wanting everything at once is that the gaze stares at the destination. In an artistic time frame, the destination is a moment, while the rest of the time is the journey.

So I feel you, wreck-feeling. But what I say to you is to fall forward. Get up. Be yourself, walk tall and find the mindset to enjoy what you do every day. That’s the only way to achieve recognition.

Or stop if you no longer have the strength. Surrender.

Be careful, though: if your way of being is to work on speculation, stopping doing it will not make you feel better. It could destroy you, instead.

What is the solution

Or is it an answer to a dilemma?

To start, accepting that the destination doesn’t matter would make a whole lot of a difference.

Writing gurus say it, but maybe they can’t get a clear idea across: “Nobody owes you anything.” The arrival at the destination isn’t guaranteed; that’s the point. Not just now. You may never reach it. So do yourself a favor and enjoy the ride.

“I accept life unconditionally. Most people ask for happiness on condition. Happiness can only be felt if you don’t set any condition.” — Artur Rubinstein