Sunday, June 22, 2014

Avast Ye Scurvy Dog!

So you want to be a pirate, eh? Interesting. Personally, I'd rather be part of the Justice League of America.
The origins of this discussion come from a widely distributed quote from the very famous Steve Jobs:

"Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?"

People like to march out that quote at every opportunity; mass mailing it to every friend, follower, and potential investor within reach. As it turns out, I am not a pirate. Not even close. The first indication came after I read that quote for the first time and thought to myself, Do pirates get health benefits? What about retirement contribution matching, paid vacation, and training subsidies?

Seriously, if I were a pirate there would be none of that (not initially at least), and I like all of that. I really, really do. Pirating looks like a lot of fun but I'm not so sure the behind-the-scenes view is nearly as glamorous. 

To paraphrase Steve Furtik, "Don't compare your behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel", or to quote another good one from W.H. Auden, “There's always another story. There's more than meets the eye.”

For every success there is a string of failures, sleepless nights, lost weekends, damaged relationships, and self sacrifices that are significantly less publicized. Are the rewards greater? Sure, but so are the risks, and some people (such as myself) just aren't cut out for it. 

I'm clearly taking the Jobs quote in the context of entrepreneurship, in the way it references joining the navy. I'm viewing this as analogous to working for a large, stuck up, follow-the-herd type company with lots of rules, regulations, and processes guiding their rules and regulations.

I prefer to let my real life be more like the navy and my imaginary life, the one filled with words, be more like a pirate. Certainly there is a literary parallel in here somewhere as well as you can tap any academic on the shoulder and ask for, and receive, a long list of books that follow the rules. 

Does this fact make these books boring or undesirable? To some, for sure, but not for everyone. What about all the books that are out there that don't follow the rules; the ones that break them at the turn of every page? Some may find them more interesting. Some may not be able to find the order among the chaos. 

Just as we can't have an economy with nothing but pirates we can't have libraries filled with books that break all the rules. At the same time, if every novel followed the same set of writing rules, and every character within them exhibited the same set of behaviours we'd have a lot less interesting libraries, don't you think? 

What's the first thing any successful writer will tell you about writing? Ignore all the rules. The really good writers will tell you to ignore them intelligently. What's important to realize is that whether you break them or not it's okay either way.

The world needs rules just as much as it needs rule breakers (intelligent or otherwise). It's what keeps us moving forward and yet somewhat organized at the same time. 

"In the world there must surely be of all sorts" - Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Sheldon translation, 1620)


~ Andrew


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