What do you do when you prefer not to
Or, instead, do you push on to get to the other side
If I just type a few words, something will appear.
Something appeared. It is inadequate.
If I just type a few more words, something else will appear.
Something else appeared. It is also inadequate.
If I just type…
Herman Melville’s story "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" is something I’d forgotten about since reading it for an English class at university. Bartleby, the focus of the story, changed his life by choosing not to do things, including:
having a life outside of the walls of his office
and then living
The reader never learns why Bartleby suddenly changes the course of his life. Is he sick? Is he depressed? Is he stubborn? Is he trying to seize agency where previously he had none? Is he protesting capitalism? We don’t know. All we can do is guess.
Every day we make choices about what we are going to do. Many of these choices are driven by habit and necessity in order to make a living and support our loved ones. Others choices are driven by the desire to improve our quality of life - or escape it, if only temporarily.
Every choice has consequences: positive, negative or neutral. This is also true when we make the choice not to act, which is, of course, a choice.
As I sat in my living room this evening, trying to focus on writing my weekly newsletter, I quite seriously contemplated sending out this week’s newsletter by having one sentence, simply saying “I prefer not to.” It was very tempting. I was struggling to get started with this newsletter and I would have been amused (for a few minutes) by sending out a cheeky newsletter.
But the truth is that I am far, far more afraid of not writing and publishing each week than I am of publishing mediocre prose. Even if I procrastinated all week and even if I’m up until midnight writing my essay, the show must go on. Even if it’s not perfect, even if it’s sparse… I need to write and publish the weekly essay. It’s my commitment to you, dear H.A.T.T.E.R.1 and it’s also a commitment to myself to keep on going, even if starting and writing feels hard on a particular day. We only move forward by continuing to show up and doing the work.
So Bartleby, you’re on your own this week. I prefer to write than not write. I prefer to exercise my imagination and my skills to write something. I prefer to type the words and publish them, even if the end result is inadequate. The train to Excellent makes a number of stops at Inadequate. The only way to get there is to pass through and that’s what I want to do today.
I prefer to.
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H.A.T.T.E.R = How About This Terribly Enthusiastic Reader