- Do what thrills you.
- Do what frightens you.
- Do what cries out for you.
For me, these apply particularly to what I try to write or how I try to write it, and more generally to art and motivations for creative work. But they also make more reasonable guidelines for life than I think most would dare to suspect—at least, as corrections to following usual, conformist, comfortable ways of life. (No one feels the need to write those down. No one wakes up thinking about them.)
Here are a few more:
- Do substantial things that will stand.
- Do challenging things that require learning how.
- Do new things that you haven’t done before.
They call for discipline and craft as much as following your passions. But once again, it seems to me they have a great deal more to offer as daily advice than most would suspect—especially as correctives to the everyday compromises we may be inclined to make.
These rules have addressed what and how and a little bit of why. But these are the real reasons to do them:
- Building strength, courage, resilience, and confidence in your ability
- Taking pride in originality, skill, and significance of your work
- Experiencing profundity, satisfaction, and joy
They may not make money, or earn any definite material gains. I can’t guarantee they will provide a predictable living. I certainly can’t promise they will induce other people to value and reward you, although people might respect you more.
But once again, it seems to me the unwritten rules of what to do and what you’re doing it for are quite common enough. Who really needs to write those down?