The most impulsive writer you know
Being impulsive and impatient isn't great. Unless it is?
No. 94: The most impulsive writer you know
One tendency that’s held true over my 27 years is impulsiveness. Ask my parents, my friends, my fiancé. They’ll confirm this unfortunate fact in a tone similar to the one they’d probably use if you asked, “Is it true Matt has only weeks to live?”
Yeah. Sad, right?
When I want something, I want it bad. I want it now. I want it yesterday.
The funny thing is, before I wanted that thing? It’s as if it didn’t exist. I was perfectly happy and contented without a care in the world. All that I had was all that I needed. I was gliding toward something like nirvana, attachment free.
Then some thing, some concept, some ideal catches my eye.
Let me tell you. This takes a toll on the mind. It’s not exactly pleasant to go from at-peace to in-a-chaotic-mental-frenzy as my brain tries countless solutions for How to Get Certain Thing. It happens even though I know all the mantras, the Buddhist teachings, the anti-desire manifestos.
Material possessions weigh you down, anchoring you to your baser nature.
Desire is all-consuming. The more you have, the more you want.
Physical wealth oils the cycle of Samsara. Spiritual wealth ends the cycle of Samsara.
Doesn’t matter. My impulsive mind persists. But my impulsiveness isn’t always directed at material objects.
Though I’m fond of calling myself a recovering materialist—a title I think any somewhat conscientious American can claim—I don’t want a lot. Books, food, your occasional gizmo, stuff to improve my house, etc. That’s mostly it. Overall, I’d say my materialistic impulses are generally under control.
Except for when they’re not.
Enter last week, when I decided to foray into the used vehicle market for the nine-millionth time. I was hoping to land a car in a trade-only deal for my motorcycle, specifically a Mazda MX-5 from the early 1990s. (The fact that I own a motorcycle is also damning evidence of my impulsiveness.)
It started casually enough. My normal and relaxed train of thought chugged along as I snapped a picture of the bike and listed it online. If I got a bite on the listing, awesome. If not, so what.
I should’ve known it wouldn’t end there. The train quickly picked up speed.
My deep love and appreciation for the MX-5 saturated. I’ve owned two in the past, one in high school, one post-college, and the memories started to crop up. They are fun, fast, tiny roadsters, more go-kart than car. I thought of the good times I’ve had driving them, the adventures Grace and I used to go on in my silver two-seater, the minor modifications I could make.
Next day I lost an entire morning of writing to sending pictures of the motorcycle to every local MX-5 listing I could find. Worse, I pretty much stopped reading my books because all I could think about was getting rid of the motorcycle and parking a car in its place. I rode an hour each way through life-threatening traffic to explore a potential trade. The guy neglected to tell me the car was a worthless rust bucket. I still let him take the bike for a spin.
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At this point? Inner peace, gone. Soul, tattered by shallow desire. My impulsiveness had kicked into fifth gear but was not immediately satiable because I was hoping for a trade. It was taking over everything.
Then one morning while checking new listings like a good addict, I saw a newly listed MX-5 and messaged the owner. The guy would trade, he said, but needed some cash to sweeten the deal. This was not my original plan but—
Take my money.
I got the car and gave him the bike plus some cash.
My impulsiveness sometimes sucks.
But before this write-up spirals any further downward, I’d like to note that this same impulsiveness is also surprisingly effective. It got me the car, although at the cost of my sanity. But when applied to non-material things like writing well, going for your dream job, attaining spiritual peace? My impulsiveness, and impulsiveness in general, arguably has more positives than negatives.
Because isn’t overthinking the opposite of being impulsive, if we stretch the definition a bit?
And can’t overthinking also sometimes suck?
Consider, for example, how an impulsive degenerate like yours truly approaches writing, an activity that requires slow, methodical effort and actively resists empty mindedness and instant gratification.
Early on, I let impulse rule when I wrote. If I wanted to write a great story, I simply pounded keys until the thing was done and called it a day. I wanted a story, and there it was. Problem was, it wasn’t great or even good really.
Because I lean towards acting on impulse, I noticed quickly that writing resisted my petulant demands. Impulse alone wasn’t going to cut it like it had for so many other pursuits. If I was unable to finish in a day, a week, or even a month, the solution was not crumple up into a ball and cry, but to keep going, aiming for small victories. That had to be enough. Because if it wasn’t, nothing would get done.
With these ground rules set, my impulsive nature could then, and only then, be used as an advantage. So long as I was willing to tenderly re-write and edit a quickly written story, impulse was helpful by allowing me to get the thing out of my head.
And there was another benefit of having the brain of a lizard.
My twitchy mind can’t cope with any writing perceived to be boring, excessive, overly flowery, long winded, or unnecessary.
Call it impulsiveness, call it impatience, call it having the attention span of a Golden Retriever. Or call it efficiency.
I seek to write and read stuff that cuts your head off.
I want my readers to be hooked from start to finish, not turning the pages zombie-like for some hopeful payoff. (And I want the same when I read.)
I want to mercilessly pin my reader to the wall, grabbing them by the collar and giving them no chance to wriggle free until I’m done with my performance.
I can achieve this, or know when I’m not, by following and trusting my impulsive and impatient tendencies.
At times they lead me astray. But other times? They lead me right where I want to go. If I can’t be instantly gratified on the story level or even the paragraph level, I can be on the sentence level. And hopefully, this makes for sentences, paragraphs, and ultimately stories that bring joy to readers without detours, without delay.
Unless, of course, there are readers out there more impulsive and more impatient than I am.
Somehow, I doubt it. ♦
VIEW: My impulsively-acquired MX-5, which I love.