Abraham Lincoln. Ernest Hemingway. Leo Tolstoy. Reese Witherspoon. Mark Twain. Robin Williams. David Foster Wallace. Evelyn Waugh. Owen Wilson. Edgar Degas. Angelina Jolie. Joseph Conrad. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Princess Di. Bob Dylan. Peter Gabriel. Ken Griffey, Junior. John Hamm. Audrey Hepburn. Hulk Hogan. Charlie Kaufman. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. David Bazan. John Lennon. Henri Matisse. Joni Mitchell. Marilyn Monroe. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. J.K. Rowling. John D. Rockefeller. Frank Sinatra. Sting. Kurt Vonnegut. Walt Whitman. Brian Wilson. Me.
Yay, yay, that's okay—you're in GREAT company!
So throw that depression into the art!
Use the pain! Channel it!
Paint a mural. Craft a screenplay
Write an extempore poem.
Sometimes it's extra hard, though. Sometimes, when I think about it a little too hard, I remember that I'm not David Foster Wallace or Kurt Vonnegut or Charlie Kaufman. Not even close. Not now, not ever. And so I wonder: if I'm never going to paint or write something transcendent—something that'll resound through the ages and bestow meaning and worth on my sad-sack of a life—well, what's the point in pushing back as hard as I can against the darkness (beyond the inherent value and beauty and joy of creation, and all that)?
Here's the advice I've been giving other people, and sometimes myself:
Slice life thin. Slice it so thin that all you have is this moment, right now.
There... now, how does that feel? Better, right? Because unless I'm in the middle of having my fingernails pulled out by pliers, right now is pretty much guaranteed to be a time chock full of beauty. And with all that beauty, how can I not feel even a little bit glad to be alive?
In this moment, right now, I feel the warmth of the laptop on my legs.
A laptop! I'm rich! I have a computer! Two, actually, and my son is on the desktop doing some sort of minecraft programming game, wearing headphones because my wife was sleeping in the other room. My wife! My beautiful, brilliant wife who is up now (with migraines, sure... but they won't kill her!), and my beautiful boy who is so kind and considerate and healthy and alive.
From outside, I hear my dad on his riding mower. He's alive and healthy! He just invited us to birthday lunch for my mom tomorrow, and although when he did I felt a sinking self-loathing for forgetting that it was my own mother's birthday (I'm so selfish! So self-absorbed!), it is nonetheless her birthday tomorrow. She, too is alive!
Through the nearby window I can see that the sky is a beautiful pale blue. The sun is shining, coaxing fresh green from the sleeping trees.
This is real! This is now! Forget about the smog-choked, dying planet and my inability to stop the fast-accelerating slide toward mass extinction! Forget that there's a maniac in the White House and millions more subtle, look-the-other-way maniacs in the ticky-tacky houses of America! Forget the bombs in their silos, waiting patiently for that glorious call to usefulness!
This is now. Life is great.
On Monday I will not drive to a soul-sucking job in retail hell. I'll most likely spend the day in Babylon, renovating houses that (usually) don't need it... but it's a flexible work schedule with coworkers I enjoy! I'm my own boss! When I'm not slapping a fresh coat of paint on Babylon, I spend my days researching and writing stories. Novels, shorts, screenplays—what an amazing way live!
Never mind that few people read my books and practically no one sees my screenplays. Never mind that I'm riding the poverty line so hard my teeth sometimes hurt (from all the grinding and clenching).
Today, in this moment, I have a roof overhead and food on my plate. Right now the technology that'll be trying to kill me after the impending Robopocalypse is just a useful tool, and Trump has not yet declared martial law.
Rejoice and narrow your vision way, way down... and see that the world is GOOD!