“The reason why people can actually do so little with their free time is that the truncation of their imagination deprives them of the faculty which made the state of freedom pleasurable in the first place. People have been refused freedom, and its value belittled, for such a long time that now people no longer like it. They need the shallow entertainment, by means of which cultural conservatism patronizes and humiliates them, in order to summon up the strength for work, which is required of them under the arrangement of society which cultural conservatism defends. This is one good reason why people have remained chained to their work, and to a system which trains them for work, long after that system has ceased to require their labour.”Theodore Adorno
“… in media-rich human-built environments, my capacity to direct my attention in keeping with my purposes is often at odds with features of the environment that want to command my attention in keeping with purposes that are not my own. It is the difference between feeling challenged to rise to an occasion that ultimately yields an experience of competence and satisfaction, and feeling assaulted by an environment explicitly designed to thwart and exploit me.
Attention and attending are etymologically related to the Latin word attendere, which suggested among other things the idea of “stretching toward” something. I like this way of thinking about attention, not as a possession in limited supply, theoretically quantifiable, and ready to be exploited, but rather as a capacity to actively engage the world—to stretch ourselves toward it, to reach for it, to care for it, indeed, to tend it.
Right now, I’m inclined to put it this way: our dominant technologies excel at exploiting our attention while simultaneously eroding our capacity to attend to the world.”L.M. Sacasas, The Convivial Society, ‘Attending to the World’
In his book 12 Rules for Life Jordan Peterson introduces his fourth rule (‘Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today’):
It was easier for people to be good at something when more of us lived in small, rural communities. Someone could be homecoming queen. Someone else could be spelling-bee champion, Math whiz or basketball star. There were only one or two mechanics and a couple of teachers. In each of their domains, these local heroes had the opportunity to enjoy the serotonin-fuelled confidence of the victor […] If you’re one in a million now, but originated in modern New York, there’s twenty of you – and most of us now live in cities. What’s more, we have become digitally connected to the entire seven billion. Our hierarchies of accomplishment are now dizzyingly vertical.
No matter how good you are at something, or how you rank your accomplishments, there is someone out there who makes you look incompetent.
I think, generally speaking, a writer’s confidence is easily shaken. A dry day where the writing drips out of me even after hours of work can sow doubt in my mind that I may never again write fluently but I don’t often doubt myself as a writer when I see other writers getting published. I feel there’s plenty of room for everyone (or at least plenty of opportunity) and besides, despite how well they’re marketed, some books on the market are awful.
I think it’s easy to despair over one’s art when we live in a predominantly Capitalist society that seems to only value art in the context of the market. If I don’t have a book selling on the shelves is my writing worth less than someone else’s? My head says “maybe” but my heart says “no”.