Start living today


“What do you want to do with your life?”

“I want to write.”

“What do you need to spend most of your time writing?”

“A place of my own, a good computer, and a job that will force me to get fresh air from time to time and provide me with enough money to cover my expenses. It shouldn’t take up too much of my time, though. I’d say no more than three or four hours a day.”

“When and where exactly do you intend to make this life your own?”

“I’d say in two or three years’ time when I’ve paid off my student loans and when I can establish myself in the Western Cape, or somewhere along the coast.”

“Describe your current situation.”

“An apartment in a city in southern Taiwan. I have a TV and a VCR, a computer, a good radio, some music, books and so on. I’m only working about ten hours per week for the school I have a contract with, but I’m also teaching at other schools. Actually, I only need to teach three or four hours a day to fulfil my obligations and cover my basic expenses.”

“What would you say stimulates your creativity?”

“The times when I’ve written the most and produced the kind of material I have a preference for have been times when I was bored – when I not only had a few hours every day to think and write but days and weeks of doing whatever I wanted. Of course, those times were unfortunately also when I had the least amount of money, when I couldn’t even afford proper cigarettes.”

“So, you have the apartment, the computer, the small luxuries that make life comfortable, and your work situation is such that you can have a lot more free time if you were willing to take the risk of exchanging fewer of your hours per day for cash, while still earning enough to pay your debt each month and live fairly well. What prevents you from now leading the life you hope to make a reality in maybe two or three years’ time?”

“Well, those student loans and the fact that I want to pay them off first. And then I’d want enough money to establish myself somewhere.”

“I can’t argue that it’s important to pay off your debt, but this thing that you want to establish yourself first and only then get busy writing, you know what that sounds like to me? It sounds like someone who’s looking for an excuse to not take the leap required today to begin the life they dream of.

“Why would such a man look for an excuse to not already take steps today to start living his ideal life, even if it’s so clearly within his reach? I’ll tell you why: Because he’s afraid. He’s afraid he’ll fail. He’s afraid of finding out he can’t really be a writer. He’s afraid he might have to admit to himself that he’s fake, a pretender at the gates of the Society of Authors and Thinking People. He’s afraid to pull at these gates only to see his efforts thrown back in his face as too insignificant for serious consideration. That he’ll be asked to look elsewhere for a home. That he shouldn’t pretend to be what he can never be.

“He’s afraid of finding out he’s nothing more than just an ordinary guy. That he will ultimately have to find his way back to the ‘real world’ with his tail between his legs, where he’d have to get a ‘real job’ like everyone else. He is afraid if he takes the leap and commits himself to the life of a full-time writer, he may discover his faith in his abilities was nothing but an illusion.

“He’s afraid he will realise that everything he’s always hoped he was, and what he can do and accomplish in life, is beyond his reach. That he overestimated himself. And if he fails in this grand ideal, he’ll have to admit that without his illusions he is so much less than he always hoped he would be.

So now he procrastinates. ‘Tomorrow,’ he says. ‘In two or three years when I can establish myself somewhere,’ he says.

“But what if he takes risks – like exchanging fewer of his hours for cash and spending more time writing every day, and he discovers there is substance, that his hope was not built on illusions? What if he discovers he not only finds the realisation of this ambition enjoyable and fulfilling, but that the financial risks he would take now may bring financial rewards on the long-term? Will he not then commemorate the day when he also finally said, ‘Tomorrow is too late for me’?

“What if this man … what have you got to lose but any illusions you may have? And don’t you have so much more to gain if you take this risk?

“I don’t have to tell you life is precious, and sometimes much shorter than you expected. That you have to exploit opportunities, like the situation in which you find yourself now. That you’re still relatively young, and if you have illusions about yourself to lose, you will only be a better person without them.”