QUESTION OF THE DAY: Is it maybe time to stop asking for permission?
One of the luckiest breaks of my life was to have been raised by an anti-authoritarian father. In many ways, my dad lived (and still lives) the normal, stable, respectable life of a good citizen. He is a Navy veteran who worked the same job for 30 years, has been married to the same woman for almost 50 years, has lived in the same house since 1973. But underneath that veneer of respectability, there lies a man who quietly does whatever the hell he wants. A man who has no respect for professionals or degrees. A man who, for better or worse, does not necessarily believe that you need permits in order to do work around your own property. A man who does not believe in experts, but in taking action for himself, no matter the result. A man who does not even really believe in doctors, but is very happy to let his seamstress wife stitch up an injury, if it saves the trip to the hospital. A man who decided he wanted to raise bees and Christmas trees, figured out how it was done, and became a beekeeper and a Christmas tree farmer — just through the decisive action of going for it.
And then there was my mother: A woman who believed that she could make, sew, grow, knit, paint, create anything she needed. She fed her entire family out of her massive garden, made all of our clothes, raised the goats who brought us milk, wallpapered her own living room. And also did not believe in seeking the opinion of experts, or being impressed by degrees, or bowing to the necessity of permits or certification.
They also did not believe in accumulating stuff that they did not need, or driving fancy cars to impress anyone, or dressing in a way that signified social status.
They were not hippies. They were definitely not punks, though I feel like there was something decided punk-rock about their willful resistance to consumer conformity. They were not artists, so to speak. They were simply really self-reliant people. And if they wanted something done, they just damn did it. Sometimes, admittedly, that stubbornness of theirs veered into the realm of slight social pathology, but mostly I think it was really cool.
Honestly, more than anything else, I think this example of quietly impudent self-action is where I got the idea to just go out in the world and be a writer. It never occurred to me to ask anybody whether I could be a writer. People in my family never asked anybody's permission to make or be the things that they wanted to create or become. It never occurred to me to go get a master's degree in creative writing. My mother did not have a master's degree in gardening, but she made a really bad ass garden.
You guys, we live in an age where professionalism has never been more respected. But I still don't really respect it. Especially when it comes to being any kind of an artist. I simply do not believe that you need a permission slip from the principal to live a creative life. Go online and look at the statistics for how many Nobel Prize-winning authors finished college. Then see how many of them even finished high school. You might be surprised. You know what they did? They just made their thing.
Don't wait for anybody in any position of authority to grant you some sort of certification to begin creating, inventing, producing.
Just do what my mom did when she commenced her garden: Get a shovel and start digging. Shovels are cheap. So is writing paper. So are watercolors. So is melody.
Start making your thing.
Today feels like a good day for it,