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“Are you taking any steps to keep shit real?”

Dec 27, 2012

“Are you taking any steps to keep shit real?”

@twliterary sent me this great piece by Dave Eggers in 2000 addressing questions from a student at Harvard asking about his newfound success and “selling out.” It’s so good, hard for me not to just post the whole thing here. (Lo and behold, while searching my “selling out" tag, I found that I’ve posted this before.)

In one paragraph, he nails the whole authenticity racket:

[The] sellout manual serves only the lazy and small. Those who bestow sellouthood upon their former heroes are driven to do so by, first and foremost, the unshakable need to reduce. The average one of us - a taker-in of various and constant media, is absolutely overwhelmed - as he or she should be - with the sheer volume of artistic output in every conceivable medium given to the world every day - it is simply too much to begin to process or comprehend - and so we are forced to try to sort, to reduce. We designate, we label, we diminish, we create hierarchies and categories.

Then comes the rallying cry:

The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it’s corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I’ll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no’s you’ve said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say.

No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message.

There is a point in one’s life when one cares about selling out and not selling out. One worries whether or not wearing a certain shirt means that they are behind the curve or ahead of it, or that having certain music in one’s collection means that they are impressive, or unimpressive.

Thankfully, for some, this all passes. I am here to tell you that I have, a few years ago, found my way out of that thicket of comparison and relentless suspicion and judgment. And it is a nice feeling. Because, in the end, no one will ever give a shit who has kept shit ‘real’ except the two or three people, sitting in their apartments, bitter and self-devouring, who take it upon themselves to wonder about such things. The keeping real of shit matters to some people, but it does not matter to me. It’s fashion, and I don’t like fashion, because fashion does not matter.

What matters is that you do good work.

Filed under: authenticity

130 notes

  1. rramiel reblogged this from nogreatillusion
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  5. jdeadly reblogged this from austinkleon and added:
    I should probably say “no” more often. I probably need to say it more often if I ever want to accomplish some of the...
  6. ellaavance reblogged this from austinkleon
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  8. blissvdlv reblogged this from austinkleon and added:
    Interesting words about keeping it “real”
  9. missxx reblogged this from austinkleon
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