Letters For My Sons

Month: March 2015

Sam Will Do What It Takes

My friend Samuel is on the verge of divorce.  The twenty year weight of self-owned business stress and three kids has driven his relationship to the edge.  He’s had a nervous breakdown several years ago from working too hard, and now the guillotine is about to fall on his relationship.

It’s funny to me how a man’s life seems to run on autopilot sometimes, and drives him to the goals he really wants for himself, despite his best conscious attempts to cut the arteries of his ambitions.  In the case of Sam’s nervous breakdown, he created a life for himself that wore him down.  He knew in the cockles of his kidneys that it was unsustainable, and that he was driving towards an impenetrable brick and mortar wall.  He couldn’t consciously stop, so his body stopped for him.  A schism occurred because of the abyss between what he should do, and what he wanted to do.

All Sam wants is a farm.  He wants animals and sweet green grass.  He wants to milk his Jersey cow and slaughter his Wyandotte chickens after he’s stolen their eggs.  He wants to eat his own home grown pork belly in his farmhouse kitchen and look out onto some acres with the mist rising through the eucalypts in the cool of the morning.

But, as he says, he can’t.

Why not?

“Cos I can’t.”

But he is.  Despite his own best efforts to stop himself, he is driving his own life towards his dream.  His wife won’t come to the table to support him, so although he does not want to leave her, he almost certainly will.  If a man wants something bad enough, if he literally cannot survive without the things he wants, he will do what it takes to win his own life.

The Editor: Destroyer and Creative Genius

I hated myself.  I could not think of anything positive.  I even told a friend of mine: “I have nothing within me that is in any way interesting at all.”

I was no one, and I had nothing to offer anyone.  Perhaps others could see something of worth, but not me.  I looked into dark mirrors of leeches and slime.

The Editor is the force inside that keeps you from thinking things.  He is the one that helps you forget when you need to, and prevents the thoughts that make you feel good or bad depending on your habits.  He is actually quite a useful force to get in touch with, but to find him you have to be very subtle.

My Editor was a very fickle character.

He was created during toddler- and childhood when your parents and teachers told you to stop thinking certain things, and to “forget about that thought.”  He was amplified during primary school when the only answer allowed was the right one, and it had to be your first answer.  This is where many boys give up on school, as their alternate answers don’t fit into the scheme, and their personal Editors come to full force to quell creativity.

My Editor started forgetting the good things about myself and emphasised the bad.

During school, extra-curricular expression is also forbidden, so any non-teacher-led discussion that surrounds the core subject and perhaps leads into it quickly has the fire extinguisher suffocating it.

As an adult, one of the Editor’s prime functions is to tell you that your work is shit.  That what you are doing just doesn’t work.  This is excellent psychological programming, particularly when you are nearing the complete work and are seeking perfection.  This however should be some ways along the timeline of work.  What can be galling, and also very hard to catch is the editing the Editor does when starting a new project.

Look at any professional artist.  When they start on a new work there is no editing.  They just go for it.  There are huge scribbles that make no sense to you or I.  They throw paint and pencil onto paper, just making lines and nonsense.  This is the removal of the Editor.

Creating nonsense removes the need to make sense and thus allows for deeper movement into the part of the mind that allows creativity, intelligence and connections. Check out this video of incredible sculptor Albert Paley.  At 11.20 you get a glimpse of how he begins his creations.



When I begin to write, the Editor is at full power.  I have to turn him off in order to get anything at all onto paper.  In my first drafts, I have learnt to just write whatever.  There are no rules.  Often I dispense with grammar and punctuation just to get ideas onto the computer.  If I spend too much time editing then the ideas become lost.  They end up in dreamland where I struggle like hell to fish them out.  I often just keep writing nonsense until the ideas come out again.  The delete button is almost never used during this stage.  I just write whatever comes into my head and I can edit it later on.  I think of this as the unfiltered stage.  If I filter too much then some of the good ideas will get caught in that net as well as the bad grammar punctuation and ideas.  That’s what drafting is all about.

This idea came from reading Drawing on the Right Side Of the Brain.  In this excellent book the author teaches how to switch off the left rational side of the brain by delving into ridiculous and pointless complexity.  The left brain becomes so confused, bored or annoyed that it turns off.  This switch of hemispheres is experienced as a quieting of the internal voice, and a move toward flow.

Because I need the left brain to function in a letter and word-arranging environment, I don’t want to switch it off entirely when writing.  I instead baffle it with waffle, just writing nonsense for two or three hundred words if I’m having a tough morning.  It’s quite funny to watch the internal voice struggling to come to terms with the poor grammar and punctuation.  I often find myself with the mouse cursor trying to improve spelling or word flow, and have to quietly berate the Editor for being such an intrusive asshole.


The Editor, when mastered, helps the move to creative genius.  When I discovered my Editor, I found the way to turn my self-loathing into a promise of a better life.  I no longer hate myself, and if I did, I’d edit it away.

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