I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life. One of my favorite things to do is read a biography about a famous writer, to hear the process they use and the story of how they got published.
What I am really doing is looking for a shortcut. I’m looking for some magic bullet, some secret sauce to teleport me to where I want to be.
We all do this in a thousand different ways. This is why we lie and cheat. We’re looking for a shortcut. We blame others and self-deceive. We love finding deals, downloading apps, and buying into promises about how close the end can be. The entire advertising industry is set up to reinforce our obsession with shortcuts and convince us to trade our money for the shortcut being offered.
There is a reason for all of this. We want to avoid suffering. We are trying to find a way around The Mood Curve, a way to leap over the pit of despair. We consume gadgets and concepts and institutions, all as a way to shortcut the pain. We have helicopter parents and lawnmower parents trying to clear the way for their kids.
Obviously, suffering is not something we should pursue. But there are really two kinds of suffering – evil that needs to be avoided and learning that needs to be embraced. It costs us something to grow. We develop intimacy and character through trials. Those lawnmower parents are trying to equip the circumstances for the kid rather than the kid for the circumstances.
There is a certain pain and frustration that comes from annoyance, from being stretched beyond ourselves. Like when we work out. We can’t build muscle or lose weight or develop character without some hard work and sore muscles. Our obsession with shortcuts is not short-circuiting our pain, but prolonging it. We are the most depressed, anxious, and technologically advanced society in the history of the world.
Our obsession with shortcuts is also a way we try to keep our expectations intact. Rather than deal with the reality of faulty expectations, we try to make sure our expectations are perfectly met. It’s another way of avoiding pain.
We think life will be better if we can control circumstances. Because by controlling circumstances, we can control their outcomes. We can control our emotions if we are always in circumstances that trigger joy. We can control our relationships if we are with someone who does exactly what we want all the time. We can control rejection and fear and the longing to be known. We can control it all.
The reason this is destroying us is because we grow through failed expectations. We grow through expressing and facing our fears not avoiding them. The Bible has a verse that says that perseverance produces character. We want character, and even perseverance, without the pain. How do we learn without acknowledging there is something we don’t know? How do we increase intimacy without exposing weakness?
We can’t. But we believe we can. We want so badly for that to be the case. There are three things we can control and our circumstances are not one of them. We are stalled, complacent, imprisoned by our obsession with shortcuts.
If I want to be a writer, I have to work hard and find my own way. The grind is necessary to be a person of grit. Tumult is necessary for tenacity. We cannot shortcut one without short-circuiting the other.